Ants 101Missy Henriksen
Thursday, September 6, 2012
A Guide to Identifying Common Ant Species
There is one houseguest that no one wants, but nearly everyone
gets – ants! A recent
survey conducted by the National Pest Management Association (NPMA)
revealed that this pest is
everywhere. In fact, ants have been deemed the #1 nuisance pest
With more than 700 species in the United States, it's not
surprising that ants can quickly become a source of disgust,
frustration and concern for homeowners. Unfortunately, most people
don’t realize that this pest can also pose health and property
risks – from food contamination to costly property
Luckily, there are many ways to effectively reduce the potential
development of a major ant infestation.
To prevent these unwelcome visitors from invading your home,
eliminate moisture or standing water near the home by repairing
leaking hose bibs and other supply lines, downspouts, drain lines
and air conditioner condensate lines. Also, keep tree branches and
other plants cut back from the house, as ants often use these
branches to get into your home.
Homeowners must pay close attention to signs of an infestation
and take action if ants are found. The first step to eliminating an
infestation is to identify the ant species, which will help
determine the necessary course of treatment. However, this can be a
challenge for someone without proper training. You should contact a pest control
professional to assist with the pest problem, but you can also
use this guide to help determine the ant species:
- Appearance: Argentine ants are dark brown and
between 1/16-1/4 inch in size.
- Region: This species is found mainly
throughout the southeastern United States.
- Habitat: Argentine ant colonies are located in
wet environments near a food source.
- Threat: Argentine ants do not pose a health
threat, but they can contaminate food and excrete a musty odor when
- Appearance: Carpenter ants are usually reddish
black in color and 5/8 inch in size.
- Region: This species is located throughout the
United States, but is most common in cool, damp climates found in
the northern part of the country.
- Habitat: Carpenter ants build their nests
outdoors in various wood sources and frequently enter buildings
through damaged wood, cracks around doors and windows, or holes in
a structure meant for wires. They will also crawl along shrubs or
tree limbs that touch a structure far above the ground.
- Threat: Carpenter ants can cause severe
property damage as they tunnel through wood to build nests.
However, the extent and cost the damage usually depends on the
number of nests inside the structure and how long they've been
- Appearance: Caribbean crazy ants get their
common name from the worker's habit of running in an erratic, jerky
manner when searching for food. Crazy ants are dark brown to black
in color with a gray sheen. They range from 1/16-1/8 inch in
- Region: Crazy ants are found throughout the
United States as this species is highly adaptable to both dry and
- Habitat: Crazy ants tend to enter homes in the
autumn or after rainfall because both conditions reduce the supply
of honeydew – their main food source. Inside, these ants usually
nest underneath floors or carpeting. Outdoors, the nests are
shallow and commonly found in soil under objects or next to
- Threat: These ants do not pose a health
threat, but if they gain entry to a structure, they can become a
- Appearance: Odorous house ants are dark brown
to black in color and range in size from 1/16-1/8 inch.
- Region: This species is found in all regions
of the United States.
- Habitat: Typically living for several years,
odorous house ants are known to make their homes in exposed soil.
They also nest in walls cracks and under floors inside homes.
- Threat: These ants do not pose a public health
risk or cause structural damage to buildings, but they can
contaminate food and should be avoided. In addition, they give off
a rotten coconut-like smell when crushed, which is why they are
known as “odorous” ants.
- Appearance: Pavement ants are darkish brown to
black in color and are about 1/8 inch long.
- Region: This species is found throughout the
- Habitat: Pavement ants get their name because
they make their nests in or under cracks in pavement. They can
infest structures by entering through holes in the concrete.
- Threat: These black pavement ants do not pose
a public health risk, but they can contaminate food and should be
- Appearance: Fire ants are dark reddish brown
in color and range from 1/8-3/8 inch long.
- Region: This species is found in the southern
United States from Maryland to Texas, California and New
- Habitat: Red imported fire ants build their
nest mounds outdoors in landscape areas or near a structural
foundation. They can also gain entry to a building through holes or
cracks in the exterior structure.
- Threat: Red imported fire antsattack with a
painful sting when their nests are disturbed. The sting often
results in a raised welt that becomes a white pustule. Anyone
allergic to insect stings will react more severely.
Ants are social insects that live in large colonies, so what may
seem like a small infestation can quickly become a major pest
problem for homeowners. If you suspect an ant infestation, don’t
wait to take action. An infestation will continue to grow without
proper treatment. Rather, be sure to contact a licensed pest
professional to assist in proper identification and treatment
of the species.