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Effects of Building Location and Isolation on Local Ant Species

Julianne Renner
College of Arts and Sciences
Freed Hardeman University
158 East Main Street
Henderson, Tennessee 38340
In this study, I assessed the effect of urbanization on ant species on the Freed Hardeman
University campus in Henderson, Tennessee. I examined the effect of the distance between the
ant hills and the nearest building, the type of ants found inhabiting the mounds, and the effect of
the landscape that the mounds were located on. I conducted the study by creating a map,
surveying the campus, and plotting the approximate location of the ant mounds found. I then
used statistical analyses such as mean, median, and mode to evaluate the data. I found that on
average the Camponotus pennsylvanicus ant hills were more closely located by buildings, but
were second to Monomorium minimum in terms of number of mounds found in a vegetated area.
The species Monomorium minimum was more commonly found in the vegetated areas, but was
further from buildings than Camponotus pennsylvanicus. Solenopsis invicta were found to be the
farthest distance from buildings, and were evenly split between vegetated habitats and urbanized
Key words: inhabiting, vegetated, urbanization, mean, plotting, trafficked

Over the years the human population has continued to rapidly increase, thus increasing
urbanization. With this rise in urbanization, we have begun to observe its negative impacts on the
environment. Disturbances such as habitat fragmentation, temperature increase, trampling, air
quality, species invasion, and many others are factors of urbanization that affect native
vertebrates and invertebrates. Of these, habitat fragmentation and species invasion have the
greatest effect on ecological habitats, and share three things in common: first, studies show
invasion occurs in mostly human-trafficked areas; second, disturbances such as these area are
found to shape such environments; and third, that these disturbances are human driven [3]. As it
grows increasingly difficult to stop these habitat invasions, we must study the direct and indirect
effects of the disturbances in order to prevent them from happening in the future. The
relationship between urban areas and their native species must be understood in order to maintain
a healthy balance between the natural and urban environments.
Ants are important indicators of the effects of these disturbances for a number of reasons:
they are abundant in many habitats, they occupy higher trophic levels, and are easy to sample
[5]. I examined the effect of urbanization on ants through the proximity of ant mounds to
buildings, and the effect of said distance on the type of ants occupying the mound, and the type
of land surrounding the mounds. I posed the following questions: (1) Is there a bias towards
building their mounds father away from buildings rather than nearer? (2) Do they prefer grassy,
vegetated areas in contrast to highly trafficked areas such as roads and sidewalks? (3) Are there
any specific characteristics that explain such preferences? I hypothesized that the greater the
distance an ant mound was from a building or highly trafficked area, the more likely the ant
species would be fire ants, and the more likely the mound would be located at a highly vegetated

My study was conducted on the Freed Hardeman University campus in Henderson,
Tennessee. I examined the areas around buildings including dorms, the dining hall, classrooms,
and all other campus areas, encompassing an area of approximately 0.2 square kilometers. I
printed out a graphic map of the campus on which I could plot the ant mounds. I then created a
scale to place over the map in order to accurately measure the areas and distances. The scale was
composed of 1 by 1 inch squares that represented 60 by 60 foot squares on campus. After the
map was created, I surveyed the campus and located as many ant mounds as possible, and plotted
their approximate location on the map. I then found the averages, medians, and modes of the
distances, sizes, and types in order to test for biases and correlations between factors.
I found that there were mainly three different types of ants: Solenopsis invicta (fire ants),
Monomorium minimum (smaller black ants), and Camponotus pennsylvanicus (large black
carpenter ants). I found 64 total ant mounds; 41 Monomorium minimum, 21 Camponotus
pennsylvanicus, and 2 Solenopsis invicta. The average distance from the nearest building for all
of the ants combined was 34.7258 ft., the median was 34 ft., and the modes were 8, 10, and 13 ft.
Of the Solenopsis mounds, 40.3226% were between 0 and 24 ft. away from the nearest building,
30.6452% of ant mounds were located between 25 and 49 ft. from the nearest building,
20.9677% of ant mounds were located between 50 and 75 ft. from the nearest building, and
8.0645% of ant mounds were located 75 ft. or greater from the nearest building.

For Monomorium minimum, the average distance from the nearest building was 37.1667
ft., the mode was 10 ft., and the median distance was 42 ft. Of these mounds, 38.0952% were
located between 0 and 24 ft. from the nearest building, 26.1905% of the ant mounds were located
between 25 and 49 ft. from the nearest building, 28.5714% of the ant mounds were located
between 50 and 74 ft. from the nearest building, and 7.1429% of the ant mounds were located 75
ft. or greater from the nearest building.
For Camponotus pennsylvanicus, the average distance from the nearest building was
29.1111 ft., and the median distance was 25 ft. Of these mounds, 50% were located between 0
and 24 ft. from the nearest building, 38.8889% of the ant mounds were located between 25 and
49 ft., 5.5556% of the ant mounds were found between 50 and 74 ft. from the nearest building,
and 5.5556% of the ant mounds were found 75 ft. or greater from the nearest building.
The data concerning Solenopsis invicta ants was limited because I only found two
mounds for this species. One mound was 36 ft. from the nearest building, and the other was 92 ft.
and the average distance was 64 ft.
When examining the state of the land on which the ant mounds were located, I found that
22 (34.375%) of the ant hills were found without any buildings, sidewalks, roads, or any other
human-crafted disturbance within a 20 ft. radius, and were accompanied by grass, shrubs, trees,
and other various plants. Of those 22, 15 (68.1818%) of the mounds found within a 20 ft. radius
were of the species Monomorium minimum , 6 (27.2727%) were of the species Camponotus
pennsylvanicus, and 1 (4.5454%) was species Solenopsis invicta Buren. The remaining 65.625%
of the ant mounds were not isolated by grass or trees, and were in close proximity to sidewalks
and roads.

The data revealed that the species that was the closest proximity to buildings is the
Camponotus pennsylvanicus, with an average distance of 29.1111 ft. Monomorium minimum on
average had the second nearest distances from buildings, with 37.1667 ft., and lastly Solenopsis
invicta was farthest away with 64 ft. These results conflict with a study done by Katherine
Fitzgerald on invasive argentine ants, in which the ants were found colonizing highly urbanized
areas [1]. Fitzgeralds results also correspond with a study done by Joseph King and Walter
Tschinkel, in which Solenopsis invicta thrived in areas with the most disturbances [3]. Assessing
these results, evidence demonstrates that the species Camponotus pennsylvanicus was able to
thrive in highly urbanized environments not only because they had the shortest average distance
from buildings, but they also had the highest percentage of mounds between 0 and 25 ft. from the
nearest building. Although these results support my original hypothesis, the lack of fire ant
mounds in the area may have provided skewed results.
From the studies of the vegetation surrounding the mounds, I found that 34.375% of the
hills were found to be isolated from human traffic. Of those isolated mounds, the species
Monomorium minimum were the most abundant. The remaining 65.625% of the ant mounds
were found among sidewalks, roads, and other man-made disturbances. I found that many of
these mounds were in between cracks on the sidewalk, or covering the small space between the
sidewalk and the grass. These results contradict with my hypotheses, as I predicted that the
Solenopsis invicta ants would be most commonly found in spacious, vegetated areas. Despite the
lack of data, there is still evidence that these ants are present in crowded areas abundant with

disturbances created by man. Along with the fact that the species Monomorium minimum was the
most populous isolated species, I found my hypothesis to be inaccurate.

This study, and many other studies have demonstrated that ants are able to survive and
thrive even in highly urban areas. Their ability to use resources and adapt to their environment
makes it possible for them to continue to survive even when their natural habitats have been
disturbed, invaded, or destroyed. Though their resilience is promising, other effects of
urbanization that were not demonstrated in my study and the studies mentioned are habitat
fragmentation, which can often cause species invasion. These species dominate the native ants,
and prevent them from populating, and also can force them out of their habitat [5]. Thus, studies
must continue to be conducted in order to maintain biodiversity, to utilize more extensive urban
planning, and to understand the, although indirect, very detrimental effects of the continuation of
urbanization [4].

1. Fitzgerald, K., & Gordon, D. (2012). Effects of Vegetation Cover, Presence of a Native Ant
Species, and Human Disturbance on Colonization by Argentine Ants. Conservation Biology,
26(3), 525-538. Retrieved October 1, 2014, from
2. Holway, D., & Suarez, A. (2006). Homogenization of ant communities in mediterranean
California: The effects of urbanization and invasion. Biological Conservation, 127, 319-326.
Retrieved October 1, 2014, from
3. King, J., & Tschinkel, W. (2008). Experimental evidence that human impacts drive fire ant
invasions and ecological change. PNAS, 105(51), 20339-20343. Retrieved October 1, 2014,
4. Niemel, J. (1999). Ecology and urban planning. Biodiversity & Conservation, 8(1), 119-131.
Retrieved November 1, 2014, from
5. Yamaguchi, T. (2004). Influence of urbanization on ant distribution in parks of Tokyo and
Chiba City, Japan I. Analysis of ant species richness. 19(2), 209-216. Retrieved October 1, 2014,

Time Log
Time spent searching for ants:
-October 15: 2 hours
-October 22: 2 hours
-October 25: 3 hours
-November 7: 2 hours
-November 8: 3 hours
Time spent creating map and scale
-November 6: 2 hours
-November 7: 2 hours
Time spent on calculations:
-November 12: 3 hours
Time spent researching and finding references
-October 7: 2 hours
-November 10: 2 hours