Ants can create severe problems in homes. But not all species of ants are harmful. Identifying harmful ant species is essential, so you know what kind of ants have infested your home. This guide will help you identify the common ants so you can take the appropriate pest control strategies.
1. Thief ant (Solenopsis molesta)
Thief ants are found in most parts of the US. The name of the ants is derived from their habit of stealing pupae and larvae from other colonies. These ants generally feed on greasy foods and also food items containing lots of proteins such as meats, nuts, cheese, nuts, and peanut butter.
Worker thief ants dark brown and tend to be 1/16-inches long. The ants have a 10-segmented antenna and a small stinger. A colony can have up to thousands of workers and two or more queens. Nests of the thief ants are commonly located in woodwork, tiny crevices, and masonry. The ants generally make new nests during the summers.
Thief ants are considered dangerous to health. The ants forage on rats, dead insects, and rodents. They can contaminate food and transmit serious diseases. These insects can transmit poultry tapeworm to humans. The nests are located close to other ants’ nests, and they will steal the larvae and food. Most of these ants eat food rich in protein. The ants also crave sweet food items and forage on animal carcasses.
2. Red ant (Myrmica rubra)
Red ants are also commonly found in the US. The species is native to Europe but spread to other parts of the world. Red ants have a red body and slightly darker color on the top. Worker red ants vary in sizes ranging from 0.15 to 0.19 inches.
The ants have two nodes and have straight spikes at the backs with an elongated head. The forehead line of the ants goes up to the upper regions of the antennae. Workers and queens appear similar. You can easily mistake the queen for a worker. However, queen red ants have a larger abdomen and thorax.
There are two kinds of queens. One queen is large as compared to the workers. The smaller queen is of the same size as the workers and is called the microrubras. The species form nests outside during the warm summer months. The ants may build nests in lawns, gardens, and shrubbery. During winter months, the ants may establish a colony inside the house near water heaters, under bathtubs, and other moist areas.
Red ants, also known as European fire ants, are aggressive. The ants have a sting that creates a painful sensation. These ants are considered a nuisance in most northeastern states in the US.
The ants are invasive and commonly found in New York, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Vermont. While the ants don’t harbor diseases, they cause inconvenience preventing the house owners from enjoying their properties. They are a real nuisance for business owners, hotels, and hospitals.
3. Dark rover ants (Brachymyrmex patagonicus)
Dark rover ants are small species of ants that tend to be just 0.06 inches long. The ants have brownish-yellow antennae and pale mandibles and tarsi. These ants have broad heads and large eyes. The ants are generally found in areas near people’s houses, in parking lots and under objects.
The ants are mostly found in Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi. The ants are also reported in Texas, Nevada, Arizona, Arkansas, and South Carolina.
Dark rover ants have a preference for sweets. While the ants don’t have a painful sting, laboratory studies have shown that the ants can transmit diseases such as E.Coli.
4. Crazy ant (Paratrechina longicornis)
Crazy ants are named due to the jerky, fast movements. The ants tend to hitch-hike aboard bags and cars to reach new places. The queen can take a ride on just almost any vehicle from cargo ships to airplanes to establish new colonies.
Worker crazy ants usually are between 0.08 to 0.11 inches in size. The ants are not picky about the nesting sites. However, they pick colonies in dry or moist areas. In the outdoors, the nests are in the soil, plants, garage, and mulch. Attractive indoor areas for crazy ants include wall voids, houseplants, and under the carpets.
While crazy ants don’t have stings, they can move erratically when distributed. Similar species of this ant include the robust crazy ant (Nylanderia bourbonia) and Caribbean crazy ant (Nylanderia pubens). The species are considered invasive and spread to many cities and towns in different stages. Distributing the red ants more sporadic in the Northern colder states and can only thrive inside.
Crazy ants can destroy other ant species. The ants’ acid coatings prevent them from red fire ants. While a reduction in fire ants is a good thing, these ants also hurt other ant species that can have a devastating impact on the ecology. Most of these ants can be a great nuisance to homeowners. In rural lands, the ants can destroy livestock, poultry, and agriculture. The ants can also short out electrical equipment in urban areas. These ants are dangerous in schools, nursing homes, and hospitals as they can cover entire floors.
5. Carpenter ants (Camponotus)
Carpenter ants are one of the largest species of ants. The ants can infest buildings creating a lot of inconvenience to the house owners. These ants are considered dangerous structural pests as they can damage the house structure when making nests.
The sizes of the carpenter ants range from 0.2 inches to 0.5 inches. The ants don’t eat wood like termites. They excavate the wood build nests. Typically, carpenter ants build nests outside the houses. However, some carpenter ants build nests inside the house, particularly in the bathroom and kitchen. The ants prefer to make houses near the source of moisture, especially on the roof. Homes made of wood are especially at risk of carpenter ant infestation.
Outside the house, carpenter ants make houses in the lumber and trees. Most ants are not aggressive but will sting when they perceive a threat to the nest. Outside, these ants feed on different food sources containing sugar and protein. The ants also feed on a sweet liquid called honeydew produced by scale insects and aphids. Inside the house, the ants eat a lot of food items, including sugar, honey, syrup, jelly, meats, sweets, and pet food.
Carpenter ants remove food to create tunnels and galleries for nesting. These ants forage for food after sunset an up till midnight. The ants can travel hundreds of yards to search for food items. These ants can enter the house and go back to the nests carrying food items. The carpenter ants can also create satellite nests near the food source. They bring food back and forth between different satellite nests and the main nests.
While carpenter ants don’t spread diseases, the ants can damage the structure of the house. They can also make nests in wooden furniture items. If they select your home like a nest, contact a licensed pest control agency to remove the pests from home.
6. Asian needle ant (Brachyponera chinensis)
Asian needle ant is a species of ant native to Japan and other eastern Asian countries. The ants are also found in different parts of the US, where they represent a threat to the native species.
Worker Asian needle ants are about 0.19 inches long. Worker ants are a brown-blank body with one node and orange mandibles. The worker needle ants nest outdoors in places with high moisture. They make nests in shaded areas outside.
The species are not aggressive but will sting when trapped in clothes or comes in contact with human skin. The sting of the Asian needle ants is painful. Sometimes, the sting can cause swelling. Some people may also experience an allergic reaction when stung by the ant. Cases have been reported where the sting of the Asian needle caused anaphylactic shock.
Asian needle ants look for new places to build a nest during the months between July and August. The ants are most commonly present in the states of Georgia, Alabama, North and South Carolina, Virginia, and Tennessee.
The infestation of Asian needle ants poses different threats. The sting of the ants is venomous that creates a lot of pain like a honey bee sting. Sometimes, the sting can create a severe allergic reaction. The ant is found scavenging food in the cafeteria and kitchen. The ant infestation can pose a grave threat to many businesses, including hotels, schools, nursing homes, and restaurants. Getting stung by the bees will create a wrong impression on the customers.
Last, Asian needle ants are a threat to the ecology. The ant can reduce many species of ants that play a role in the spread of the seeds. Removal of the native ant species by the Asian needle ants can be destructive.
7. Field ant (Formica)
Field ants are so named due to their tendency to make nests outside. The ants are known by many other names such as wood ants and thatching ants. The worker field ants range in size from 0.15 inches to 0.3 inches. The species of ant have one node and different colors ranging from mixed red and yellow-brown to brown and black colors.
Nests of the field ants are commonly found in open areas in deadwood, soil, or lawn. These ants rarely make nests inside the houses. The ants swarm out of the colonies during the late summer months. These ants generally feed on the honeydew released from plant-sucking insects like bugs, aphids, and scale insects. Some species of field ants, such as the silky ants, will collect a group of aphids to get an ample supply of honeydews. Other types of field ants scavenge and eat meat.
Field ants don’t have a painful sting. The ants can spray formic acid that causes only slight pain. These ants are mostly found in the Midwest and Northeastern parts of the US. The ants are not considered a pest since they usually don’t make a home inside the house.
8. Argentine ant (Linepithema humile)
Argentine Ants are native to South America. The ants are small in size ranging from 0.08 to 0.11 inches. The color of the ants varies from dark to light brown. The ants build nests in many places during the winters. During the summer months, the ants create nests in shady areas. Inside the house, these ants commonly build nests in gaps, such as between wall insulation.
The worker ants emit a strange odor when someone steps on them. These ants can’t sting, but the smell is obnoxious. The ants are found in Hawaii, California, and the southeastern US.
The ants lay a trail of extensive transport networks through which they transfer food items. The transport networks are connected directly to the nests. These ants eat animal proteins and hemipteran secretions. They form massive colonies that spread over thousands of kilometers and contain millions of nests and billions of worker ants.
Argentine ants are aggressive and destroy other ant colonies. These ants eat and eradicate pests such as termites and cockroaches. The ants are not a problem for most homeowners. But they can be a nuisance when they come inside in search of food. These ants are also a devastating pest in agricultural lands that have caused significant economic damage. The species of ants have also caused significant ecological damage due to eliminating native ant species.
9. Acrobat ants (Crematogaster)
Acrobat Ants are named for their ability to lift the abdomen over the head and thorax. The ants perform the acrobatic ants when they perceive a threat. Worker ants lift the body similar to a Scorpio when threatened. The ants appear to tumble when they run with the abdomen in the air due to which they are called acrobat ant.
Worker ants have two nodes and vary in sizes from 0.09 inches to 0.11 inches. The ants color varies from black and red-black to brown. The ant usually nests outside the house in wooded areas. Sometimes, the ants build the nest in foam panel insulation. These ants rarely make nests indoors. But the ants are aggressive and represent a threat to other ant species.
Acrobat ants are generally found in Eastern parts of the US. As compared to other ant species, the ants are only a slight nuisance. But they can bite when the colony is threatened. These ants require moisture, so the ant’s nest inside the house may be due to a water leak. The insects travel in lines from the food source to the nests. These ants create mating swarms during the summer seasons. The number of acrobat ants can seem alarming as they come out abruptly during the mating seasons.
10. Odorous house ants (Tapinoma sessile)
Odorous house ants are a common sight in homes in many parts of the US. The ants can enter the home during the rainy season as they escape the flooding of the nest due to heavy rains. The ants are tiny at about 0.09 inches in size, but they are fast. These ants tend to travel in lines. When threatened, these ants release an odor that smells like rotten coconuts.
The ants build nests in the gaps on the floor and walls. These build nests near to the source of moisture, usually in the kitchen. The ants prefer meats and sweet food items. They can enter the house through openings or cracks in the foundation around windows and doors.
Odorous house ants don’t represent a health risk. The ants also cause no structural damage. However, these ants can contaminate food. The odorous scents secreted by the ants are obnoxious.
11. Pavement ants (Tetramorium caespitum)
Pavements ants generally build the nests around gaps in pavements. These ants can also infest house structures by building a nest in the concrete holes. The ants are brownish-black with pale-colored legs.
The pavements ants vary in sizes from 0.1 to 0.16 inches. You can see the ants with wings during early summer or spring. The ants crawl on the floor, searching for food items such as bread crumbs, doughnut, meat, and other food items. The ant is one of the most common in the US. The ants are generally found in the mid-western, southern, Atlantic coastal regions, and the West Coast.
A colony generally has about 5,000 ants. But some colonies have over 30,000 pavement ants. The colony may have more than one queen. The ants multiply quickly to become a large colony. While pavement ants typically build nests within gaps in the pavement, these ants can also build nests in holes in insulation and woodwork.
Pavements ants are not destructive when they infiltrate the home. These ants don’t destroy building materials or woodwork. However, many ants can be a great nuisance. The colonies are difficult to locate inside. Only a professional pest control firm can identify and get rid of the colony using special techniques.
The ants enter a home in large numbers. These ants will eat most types of food and insects. But mostly these ants prefer meat and greasy food items. The best way to discourage these ants is to keep the food items sealed. Keeping the kitchen spotlessly clean will prevent the ants from infesting the house.
Pavement ants are not aggressive as compared to other species. While these ants can bite when threatened, the sting is not painful. The bite of the ants is weak and can’t penetrate the skin of humans. Some people develop a slight rash when bitten by the ants.
12. Pharaoh ant (Monomorium pharaonis)
Pharaoh ant is named due to a myth these ants were one plague during the times of ancient Egypt. The ants are commonly found all over the world. These ants have the notorious distinction of being one of the most difficult household pests to control.
Worker Pharaoh ants are typically 0.06 inches in size. The ants have pale reddish or yellowish body color with a dark-colored abdomen. These ants have a 12-segmented antenna and a three-segmented club. The ants have a rounded profile with a stinger.
The ants build their nests in humid areas of the house near the water sources. These ants are commonly found in commercial buildings. They are mainly a concern for hospitals as they can enter the wounds of the patients, tubes, and IV bottles.
Pharaoh ants represent a significant health risk. These ants carry dozens of harmful bacteria that can lead to severe diseases. The nests of the ants are difficult to find as it is commonly hidden behind baseboards and voids. These ants can survive traditional pest control methods. The ants are a significant nuisance as they can form colonies throughout the building. These ants are a significant threat not only due to the risk of contamination but also spoiling laboratory items. The ants have been reported to infest recombinant DNA labs creating extensive damages.
13. Sugar ant (Camponotus consobrinus)
Sugar ants are named due to the feeding habit of eating mostly sugary items. These ants are usually seen in bathrooms and kitchen. The ants are also attracted to moist areas. Any rooms inside the house with high moisture, such as kitchen or bathroom sinks, are the ideal breeding ground of these ants.
Inside the house, sugar ants mostly feed on maple syrup, honey, and agave nectar. The ants have become a significant pest in areas in the Pacific Northwest, including Oregon and Washington. These ants are also found in moist cities such as Portland and Seattle that receive lots of rain. The ants rarely have a painful sting, but the sting of larger species can be painful.
14. Harvester ant (Pogonomyrmex barbatus)
Harvester ants have reddish orange color. Some ants also have a dark brown color. The ants are similar in size to long hair. These ants are native to states in the Southwestern US. The ants often fly toward high spots when swarming, such as on top of a building.
The favorite food of harvester ants includes grasses due to which they got their name. These ants rarely infest the houses. The build nests outdoors. The nests are typically located about 15 feet deep in the ground. The entrance hole varies from 1 to 35 feet in diameter.
While harvester ants are not a health risk, they can be a big nuisance when around the house. The ants can deliver a painful sting that can lead to severe allergic reactions. These ants are aggressive and viciously bite when attacked.
15. Black house ant (Ochetellus)
Black house ants are a common household nuisance. The ants are brownish-black in color. The size of the ants varies from 0.07 to 0.12 inches. The ants generally scavenge in gardens and kitchens. They also eat animal excrement that increases the risk of spreading diseases such as salmonella.
Black house ants generally make large nests with complex tunnels. They mostly build nests outside in decaying woods. But the ants can also create nests inside the house in cracks in floors or walls.
What is the difference between ants and termites?
Some ant species appear similar to termites. Knowing the differences will help you determine what you are dealing with inside the house.
Ants differ from termites due to their distinctly segmented body with a thin waist. But termites have mostly uniform bodies with a broad waist.
Wings of ants are also different than termites. As compared to termite wings, ant wings are relatively smaller but proportionate to its body. Both termites and ants have four wings. However, the wings of ants are more substantial in the front as compared to in the back. Termite wings are more uniform in shape.
You can also differentiate ants from termites by looking at the antennae. The antennae of ants are curved while the termite’s antennae look straight. Most ants swarm during the summers. Termites generally swarm during the spring.
Ants have been around for millions of years. You cannot eliminate these little creatures from around your house. However, you can take pest control measures to limit their infestation. While buying household insecticides may seem to be a more convenient and cheaper method, it won’t result in safe and effective pest control.
Consider hiring pest control companies to get rid of an ant infestation at home effectively. A registered pest control company knows how to control pests safely. The company uses strategies that will minimize plant and pet exposure to harmful insecticides.