Ant Identification

What are ants?

Ants live together in large colonies, which means when these pests decide to invade yard or home, they do so in very large, difficult to control numbers. These unwanted intruders find their way onto our properties while searching for nesting sites and food. After a few ants wander onto your property and discover a food source, they leave a pheromone trail that allows members of the colony to find and gather food.

Ants divide the colony members into different groups, each with their own job to help make the colony successful. Queens have only one job, which is to lay eggs. The male ant’s sole responsibility is to mate with the queen. All workers are sterile females tasked with taking on most of the colony’s duties — feeding the larvae, foraging for food, maintaining the nest, and defense.

carpenter ants up close

In our area, the most common species of ants we run into include:

Acrobat Ants

  • Color: Light brown to black, sometimes multicolored
  • Shape: Long, segmented; heart-shaped abdomen
  • Size: 1/16-1/8 inch long
  • Region: All
  • Habits: Acrobat ants typically feed on honeydew, a sugary waste excreted by aphids and mealybugs, but they also eat live and dead insects including termite swarmers. When disturbed, these ants commonly raise their abdomen above their thorax and head, like an acrobat.
  • Threats: Acrobat ants may bite when threatened. In some species, workers may emit an unpleasant odor when disturbed. These ants can also pose a risk to properties. Occasionally, acrobat ants will strip the insulation from electrical or telephone wires, which can cause short circuits.
  • Prevention: To prevent acrobat ants, make sure that your property and home are void of things that may attract them to it, and that your home is being properly maintained. Seal cracks to prevent ants from entering your home. Store food properly in airtight containers, and don’t leave food on counters. Eliminate sources of standing water outside and keep tree branches and shrubbery well-trimmed and away from the house.

Argentine Ants

  • Color: Light to dark brown and shiny
  • Shape: Segmented; oval
  • Size: 1/16 – 1/4 inch long
  • Region: Found mostly in the southern U.S., California, and Hawaii
  • Habits: Usually found in wet environments near a food source, Argentine ants prefer eating sweets such as honeydew but will eat almost anything including meats, eggs, oils and fats. When seeking shelter indoors they are often found near water pipes, sinks or potted plants. These colonies can grow to huge sizes, growing to cover several miles.
  • Threats: These ants pose no health threat, but they should be avoided as they can contaminate food.
  • Prevention: Seal any cracks or openings around the exterior of your house. Eliminate any standing water on your property. Do not store firewood and building materials next to you home. Argentine ants like to build nests in moist wood. Keep tree branches and other plants cut back from the house.

Carpenter Ants

  • Color: Black, red, or a combination
  • Shape: Segmented; oval
  • Size: 1/4 – 3/4 inch long
  • Region: Found throughout the U.S., especially in the North
  • Habits: Needing a constant water source to survive, carpenter ants typically attack wood that is or has been wet. They typically enter buildings through cracks around doors and windows, holes in a structure meant for wires, or through wet, damaged wood. Carpenter ants get their name because they excavate wood in order to build their nests. Their excavation results in smooth tunnels inside the wood.
  • Threats: Carpenter ants damage wood though their nest building which, over time, can cause serious structural damage to a property.
  • Prevention: Eliminate sources of moisture or standing water on your property. Fill any gaps or cracks on the outside of your home with silicone caulk. Make sure that firewood and building materials are not stored next to you home. Keep tree branches and other plants cut back from the house. Sometimes pests use these branches to get into your home.

Crazy Ants

  • Color: Dark brown to black with a gray sheen
  • Shape: Segmented; extremely long legs and antennae
  • Size: 1/16 – 1/8 inch long
  • Region: Found throughout the U.S.
  • Habits: Crazy ants feed primarily on live and dead insects, seeds, fruits, and honeydew. They enter homes in the autumn of after rainfall because both conditions reduce their supply of honeydew. Inside, these ants nest underneath floors or carpeting, in potted plants and in wall voids. Outdoors, their shallow nests are commonly found in soil under objects or next to foundations. Crazy ants can nest in both dry and moist habitats. Crazy ants get their common name from the workers’ habit of running in an erratic, jerky manner when searching for food.
  • Threats: These ants pose no health threat, but they should be avoided as they can contaminate food.
  • Prevention: Trim vegetation away from you home. This will help prevent their pathways inside. Clean up spills and crumbs on counter tops and kitchen floors. Seal any cracks or openings around the exterior of your house. Eliminate any standing water on your property. Do not store firewood and building materials next to your home.

Odorous House Ants

  • Color: Brown to black
  • Shape: Segmented; oval
  • Size: 1/16 – 1/8 inch long
  • Region: Found throughout the U.S.
  • Habits: Odorous house ants like to eat sweets, especially honeydew. When inside your home, they are likely to nest near moisture sources, such as in wall voids near hot water pipes, beneath leaky fixtures in bathrooms, under kitchen or bathroom sinks and also in wood damaged by termites. Outside, they are often found in exposed soil or under stacks of firewood, lumber or bricks. The odorous house ant gets its name from the strong, rotten coconut-like smell it gives off when crushed.
  • Threats: These ants pose no health threat, but they should be avoided as they can contaminate food.
  • Prevention: Clean up spills and crumbs on counter tops and kitchen floors. Seal any cracks or openings around the exterior of your house. Eliminate any standing water on your property. Do not store firewood and building materials next to you home. Keep tree branches and other plants cut back from the house.

Pavement Ants

  • Color: Dark brown to blackish
  • Shape: Segmented; oval
  • Size: 1/16 – 1/8 inch long
  • Region: Found throughout the eastern half of the U.S., California, and Washington
  • Habits: Pavement ants will eat almost anything, including other insects. Indoors, they are likely to be found in ground-level masonry walls of foundations. They enter building through cracks in the slab and walls. Outside, Pavement ants typically nest under stones, pavement cracks and next to buildings.
  • Threats: These ants pose no health threat, but they should be avoided as they can contaminate food. In extreme cases, they can cause sidewalks and other like structures to sink due to soil excavation.
  • Prevention: Clean up spills and crumbs on counter tops and kitchen floors. Seal any cracks or openings around the exterior of your house. Seal cracks and opening around the outside of your house, especially where utility pipes and lines enter. Eliminate any standing water on your property. Do not store firewood and building materials next to you home. Keep tree branches and other plants cut back from the house.

Pharaoh Ants

  • Color: Body usually pale, varying from yellowish to reddish with abdomen often darker to black
  • Shape: Monomorphic with segmented body
  • Size: 1/16 inch
  • Region: All
  • Habits: Colonies of Pharaoh ants tend to be large, with workers numbering in the thousands. If disturbed, members of the colony will migrate to new locations to establish several new colonies through a process called budding. Pharaoh ants feed on a variety of food sources including sweets, oils and proteins. They will also eat other dead insects. They nest in warm, humid areas near food and water sources. Nests are usually located in inaccessible areas such as wall voids, behind baseboards, in furniture and under floors. These ants often use electrical and telephone wires as a highway system to travel through walls and between floorboards.
  • Threats: Pharaoh ants have been implicated in the spread of more than a dozen disease pathogens including salmonella and Streptococcus pyogenes. They are notorious for being a major nuisance in hospitals where they can enter wounds, enter IV bottles and can sometimes even seek moisture from the mouths of sleeping patients.
  • Prevention: Seal all possible points of entry to your home. Ensure that food is stored properly in airtight containers, and do not leave food on the counter. Eliminate sources of standing water outside and use a dehumidifier indoors to prevent moisture buildup. Store firewood at least 20 feet away from the house. These pests are known to bud off and create additional colonies if not treated correctly to begin with. Keep tree branches and shrubbery well-trimmed and away from the house.

Red Important Fire Ants

  • Color: Dark reddish-brown
  • Shape: Segmented; oval
  • Size: 1/16 – 1/4 inch long
  • Region: Found in the Southeastern U.S., from Virginia to Texas, as well as California and New Mexico.
  • Habits: Red imported fire ants typically nest in soil near structural foundations or in landscaping. These ants build large mound nests that are flattened and irregular in shape, and are between two and four square feet in size. While usually nesting outdoors, these ants can gain access to building through HVAC systems and AC units. They also are attracted to nesting in electrical junction boxes and gas and water meters. In some cases, they can short out the electrical boxes.
  • Threats: Fire ants will bite and sting humans who disturb a nest. The sting of these ants is painful and will often result in a raised welt that becomes a white pustule. Often, a person will be stung by many ants and those with allergies to insects will react more severely. Their stings can be fatal in large numbers.
  • Prevention: Try to avoid fire ants and the mound nests. Seal all internal and external cracks and crevices to prevent entry into a structure. If you are stung by fire ants, promptly seek medical attention.

Are ants dangerous?

When ants find their way into homes, they contaminate food and spread bacteria on surfaces. Ants are not welcome pets in or around our homes. Carpenter ants are a destructive species that create nests in wood found both outside and inside our homes. They gravitate to wood damaged by water and move inside of it to create nesting galleries.

A very aggressive and dangerous ant species that lives in our area is the fire ant. They have a short fuse and will bite and sting anything that walks near them or their nest. The venom they deliver with each sting is strong enough to trigger allergic reactions (sometimes severe) in people and our pets.

Why do I have an ant problem?

Ants target any yard or home that provides them with easy access to food sources. Gardens, trash cans, pet food, outdoor eating areas, food on counters, and crumbs on the floor attract ants.

Ants create main nests outside but often find their way indoors while they forage for food or escape harsh weather. Once inside, they often decide to stay and generate satellite nests to expand their colonies in sheltered areas near food sources. Common entry points for ants include spaces in the foundation and exterior walls, gaps around windows and doors, and areas around wires and utilities entering your home.

Where will I find ants?

Most species of ants create their main nest outside, but often also build satellite nests indoors. Fire ants tend to stay outside and prefer to nest in open sunny areas like yards, parks, athletic fields, and golf courses. Carpenter ants nest within structural wood, causing difficult and expensive to repair damage in the process.

Common outdoor nesting sites for black garden ants and Argentine ants include the damp soil found under paving stones, under woodpiles, under mulch, spaces between bricks, and in the ground next to sidewalks or foundations. Inside they nest behind walls or under floors, usually in areas that are near pipes or sinks. 

How do I get rid of ants?

If you are ready to get rid of ants from your property, reach out to the local pest control experts at Patriot Pest Management. Our customized services performed by our knowledgeable and friendly experts eliminate pests and stop them from coming back.

At Patriot Pest Management, we won’t hesitate to go the extra mile to ensure that our customers are happy and their properties are free of pests. For exceptional home pest control or commercial pest control services in the Greater Bay Area and surrounding counties of California, contact Patriot Pest Management today!

How can I prevent ants in the future?

Below are some easy to follow tips that will help you keep ants from taking over your home and yard:

  • Deny ants access into your home by sealing cracks in the foundation and exterior walls. Place covers over vents and fill any spaces around wires, cables, and other utilities entering your home.
  • Create a barrier between any grass, plants, mulch, or soil, and your home’s foundation.
  • Ants are attracted to areas of moisture. Eliminate excess moisture by repairing leaky pipes, sinks, and hoses, and using dehumidifiers and vent fans.
  • Replace any wood in your home or property that becomes damaged by water, such as wood trim, structural beams, decking, and fences.
  • Remove piles of debris from your property where ants can nest like leaf piles, woodpiles, fallen trees, brush, and overgrown garden areas.
  • Keep lids on trash cans and recycling bins, and store them up off the ground and away from the outside of your home.
 

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