Scientific Name: Formicidae
Lifespan: Queens 3-30 years. Workers 3 to 6 months. Varies.
Problem: Home invaders. Swarm sugars and food.
With ants being the number one nuisance pest in the U.S., ant control is now more important than ever! There are more than 700 different ant species found in the U.S. – although only about 25 species commonly infest homes. Ants are social insects that typically live in underground colonies, made up of workers and at least one queen. Ants will eat practically any kind of food, but are especially attracted to sugars and proteins.
Ant control in a structure is often attempted as a do-it-yourself project. This approach may work for very small infestations but when left untreated, ants can literally take over that structure. In fact, an established colony may take several weeks to eradicate.
Household ant problems often start outdoors where landscaping, cracks, and gaps provide and entry point for a colony to invade. PestForce has an ant control program designed to manage ant colonies inside and outside the structure. It provides an intensive initial service using a combination of surface treatments, baits and pest proofing to bring the ant problem under control.
The rule of thumb, to manage any pest, is to start by eliminating sites where they can harbor, hide, and breed, and to cut off their food and water sources. Pests seek these things when looking for a place to live, and by removing or limiting one or more of these aspects, it will help make the property less attractive to them.
For example, food should be kept in sealed containers – removing the food source for ants and other insects. Ants look for moisture, so be sure to keep cracks and crevices caulked. It is also important to keep areas like bathrooms as dry as possible following showers. Ant colonies send out scouting ants to conduct reconnaissance in search of food and water. Other ants from the colony are led to the food and water sources by following pheromone trails left behind by these scouts.
Ants are among the most prevalent pests in households. But they can also invade anywhere they can find plenty of food, water and shelter. Any time you are dealing with food on a frequent basis, you run the risk of having an ant or other pest infestation. Dealing with an ant issue is never fun, but when you’re trying to run a restaurant or other commercial business it can be downright worrisome. If customers happen to see ants running around, or worse yet, in their food, the business runs the risk of losing valuable revenue and continued patronage.
There are more than 12,000 species of ants all over the world.
An ant can lift 20 times its own body weight. If a second grader was as strong as an ant, she would be able to pick up a car!
Some queen ants can live for many years and have millions of babies!
Ants don’t have ears. Ants "hear" by feeling vibrations in the ground through their feet.
When ants fight, it is usually to the death!
Queen ants have wings, which they shed when they start a new nest.
Ants don’t have lungs. Oxygen enters through tiny holes all over the body and carbon dioxide leaves through the same holes.
When the queen of the colony dies, the colony can only survive a few months because the Queen is rarely replaced and the workers are not able to reproduce.
ACROBAT ANTS (SCIENTIFIC NAME CREMATOGASTER)
Named after their ability to raise their abdomen over their heads like an acrobat, Acrobat ants are commonly found in most parts of the United States. These ants seek moisture and can be found in damp areas around your home or business. When indoors, acrobat ants can cause circuit shortages by biting on exposed wires and can contaminate the food in your kitchen. While these ants are mostly just a nuisance in homes and businesses, they sometimes bite when threatened.
Acrobat Ants are identified as being only 4 millimeters long. Their coloration ranges from light brown to nearly black and some are multi-colored. Adult workers grow to about 1/8th of an inch in length; the queens are larger in size and grow to about 3/8th of an inch. They can also emit a foul-smelling odor if threatened. But their most notable physical feature is a heart-shaped abdomen when viewed from above. When nesting outdoors, acrobat ants prefer to live in trees, often taking over a single tree through large colonies and can spread to neighboring trees. Indoors, you might find acrobat ant colonies in insulation, behind walls, in crawl spaces, and near food sources, like pantries.
To prevent acrobat ants outdoors, first start by inspecting the exterior of your home or business. Remove any decaying or damp wood, foam structures, dead and rotting trees, stumps, and other wooden structures that might attract acrobat ants. Indoors, seal any cracks, gaps, or crevices in the foundation that may be used as entryways. Check for any leaks or damp areas around your home that may be a hotspot for acrobat ant nests. Finally, ensure that all food containers and garbage bins are tightly sealed and try to avoid leaving dirty dishes out overnight. Taking these precautions will help keep your home or business acrobat ant-free.
ARGENTINE ANTS (SCIENTIFIC NAME: LINEPITHEMA HUMILE)
Argentine ants are shiny dark brown to shiny black in color. They are a smaller species of ants; adults grow only to between 1/16th and ¼ of an inch in length. They are often recognized by their massive colonies; a single colony can have hundreds of thousands of workers and hundreds of queens living in it. When the weather outside becomes less than comfortable for these ants, in other words too wet or too dry, they will move inside, traveling along tree branches and utility wires.
There are a number of ways to protect your home and property from Argentine ants. Like most pests, they are attracted to moisture and food. To prevent Argentine ants, eliminate any standing water around the property by emptying flowerpots, birdbaths, grill covers and baby pools. Also, be sure to clean up food spills immediately, keep food stored in tightly sealed containers, and remove waste regularly. It is also important to trim tree branches and other plants from around the home that may be touching the structure, as these can serve as highways for Argentine ant entry. They will also enter through cracks or small openings around the foundation of the home, so it is important to thoroughly inspect the structure for these openings and make sure they are fortified and sealed. Lastly, store firewood and building materials at least 20 feet away from the house and remove yard waste regularly, as these can serve as ideal nesting sites for these ants.
Argentine ants are resilient, and they often bounce-back after being eliminated because of their ability to easily reproduce. It’s important to contact a pest management professional when you think your home or property has been invaded by Argentine ants. The professional will inspect your home and property to identify the source of the infestation, and then come up with the best solution to eradicate the Argentine ant infestation and protect your home from any future attacks.
CARPTENTER ANTS (SCIENTIFIC NAME: CAMPONTUS)
Carpenter ants are large ants that may appear black, red, yellowish, or a combination of those colors. Adult workers can grow to between 1/8 and 1/2 of an inch in length; and queens grow quite larger in size. They have an oval shaped segmented body, and workers have large, strong mandibles. Carpenter ants can be distinguished from other ant species by their one node waist and their thorax that has an evenly rounded upper surface. Unlike most other ants, Carpenter ants are a destructive species of ant and will damage wood (including furniture and structural wood) while they create nests inside of homes and other buildings.
Carpenter ants get their name from their nest building, where they will excavate the wood and form smooth tunnels inside of the wood. Carpenter ants do not eat wood, they only tunnel and chew through wood to create their nests.
The western black carpenter ant colony, when mature, contains about 10-20,000 workers, with large colonies of more than 50,000 individuals. There is usually only one functional, wingless queen per colony. Swarmers are not usually produced until the colony is more than two years old. They are produced in the previous year and held over the winter in the nest for release the following year. Swarmers appear from May until August in the eastern United States and from February through June in the west.
RED IMPORTED FIRE ANTS (SCIENTIFIC NAME: SOLENOPSIS INVICTA)
Fire ants are dark reddish-brown in color and have segmented bodies that only grow to between 1/8th and 3/8th of an inch in length. Fire ants create large nesting mounds; the mounds are flat and have an oblong- irregular shape, and are usually between two and four-square feet in size. Fire ants are known for their aggressive nature; they will not hesitate to defend themselves and their nest from a perceived threat. Fire ants work together, attacking victims in large groups, repeatedly stinging and injecting venom into their victims.
Red imported fire ants (RIFAs, for short) get their common name from their ability to inflict painful bites and stings. These dark reddish-brown ants are an invasive species found throughout the southern part of the U.S in the 1930’s.
Although commonly referred to as a bite, red ants actually sting – not bite. In fact, fire ants will sting humans who intentionally or accidently disturb their nest. The sting of a red imported fire ant is painful and often results in a raised welt that becomes a white pustule. Often, a person stung by red imported fire ants will receive multiple stings from more than one of the ants. Persons allergic to other insect stings will usually react more severely to fire ant “bites.”
LITTLE BLACK ANTS (SCIENTIFIC NAME: MONOMORIUM MINIMUM)
Shiny black in color, little black ants are very small – only about 1/16 of an inch. They can also be identified by their pace – they are very slow-moving ants. They also travel along established foraging trails. Outside, they nest in moist areas, including stumps, mulch, and other debris piled up. They may move indoors in search of food, preferring sweets, meats, and grease. The workers also feed on other insects, honeydew and plant secretions.
As stated, the little black ant gets its common name from its very small size and black coloration. Colonies are moderate to very large and contain many queens. Their swarms are common from June to August, during which time they forage in trails and are frequently seen along sidewalks.
Little black ants are common in wooded areas. In yards, they nest under rocks, in rotting logs, and under piles of bricks or lumber. Once inside, they may be found in wall voids, under floors, and in cracks and crevices. Their nests can be found in woodwork, decaying wood, masonry, and behind facades.
Little black ants do have a stinger, but it is often too small and weak to be effective – especially on humans.
ODOROUS HOUSE ANTS (SCIENTIFIC NAME: TAPINOMA SESSILE)
Odorous house ants are dark brown to black in color and when you look at them from the side you can see that their thorax has a very uneven shape. They are a small species of ant – adults grow to only be about 1/8 of an inch in length. These ants do not bite or sting, but they do produce a very foul rotten coconut-like smell when they are crushed. Odorous house ants often enter into structures while foraging for food or during periods of heavy rains.
Odorous house ants like to eat sweets and are especially fond of honeydew. They are known to move their nests every three months or so in response to rain. Indoors, odorous house ants nest near moisture sources, such as in wall voids near hot water pipers, in heaters, beneath leaky fixtures and inside wood previously damaged by termites. Outside, odorous ants are often found in exposed soil or under stacks of firewood.
Odorous house ants do not pose a public health risk, but they can contaminate food and should be avoided whenever possible.
PAVEMENT ANTS (SCIENTIFIC NAME: TETRAMORIUM CAESPITUM)
Adult pavement ants can range in color from dark brown to black – workers grow to only about 1/8 of an inch in length. The pavement ant’s head and thorax have grooved parallel lines and the thorax has a pair of small spines extending out backwards from the rear end. These insects are usually found living outside – nesting in the cracks of driveways, under and along sidewalks, under concrete slabs and under foundations. Because of their small size, they can find their way into homes through cracks in a foundation or concrete slab. Pavement ants can especially become a big problem inside of homes that have dirt basements.
Within structures, pavement ants are most likely to be found in ground-level masonry walls, but they also nest within the walls, in the insulation and under floors. Outside, these black ants typically nest under stones, pavement cracks and next to buildings.
Pavement ants will eat almost anything. They have been known to consume insects, seeds, honeydew, honey, bread, meats, nuts, and cheese. They forage in trails for distances of up to 30 feet and are known to climb masonry walls to enter into occupied areas.
Pavement ants do not pose a public health risk, but they can contaminate food and should be avoided whenever possible.
PHARAOH ANTS (SCIENTIFIC NAME: MONOMORIUM PHARAONIS)
Pale red to yellowish-brown in color, worker Pharaoh ants have abdomens that are darker in color than the rest of their body. They grow to a tiny 1/16 of an inch in length. Queens are a bit darker in color and are double in the size of the workers – growing only to 1/8 of an inch in length.
Pharaoh ants are not picky eaters and will feed on a wide variety of foods. Searching for food round the clock, Pharaoh ants feed on sweets, proteins, and live or dead insects.
A unique fact about Pharaoh ants is that they prefer to nest inside structures as opposed to outside. Preferring areas near moisture, nests are located near a water resource, such as sprinkler systems and evaporative cooling units. Inside homes and businesses, Pharaoh ant nests are generally located in hard-to-reach locations near moisture, such as bathrooms, kitchens, under floors, and behind baseboards. In hospitals, nursing homes, and food-processing facilities, they appear in kitchens, laundries, boiler rooms, and around heating ducts, toilets, and pipes. Pharaoh ants utilize electrical wiring and plumbing pipes to travel from room to room, which allows them to gain access throughout an entire structure.
Pharaoh ants can be quite dangerous to have living inside of any home or business. They can carry and transmit serious diseases to people including salmonella and Streptococcus. Having pharaoh ants living inside hospitals is very challenging as these tiny ants can even invade IV lines and contaminate patient wounds.
Pharoah ants are also very difficult to control – mainly because they live in such large colonies. A single colony of pharaoh ants can consist of thousands of workers and hundreds of reproductive females. In addition, pharaoh colonies have the ability to “bud” when the colony senses danger. When this occurs, a small group of workers and one queen migrate away from the original colony to start another colony. This budding makes it very difficult to control pharaoh ants because instead of a single colony, you may now have multiple ant colonies to deal with!