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7 Most Common Types of House Ants

Updated on May 5, 2019
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Common Types of House Ants
Common Types of House Ants | Source

House ants are social insects. It's normal to find house ants here and there because they are always searching for a food source. But if you find ants more often than usual, it's likely that more will follow.

Where there is food, water, and moisture, there are ants. In general, they are harmless to humans; but in large quantities, they can be troublesome. An ant infestation can have serious effects, like food contamination, allergic reaction, and property damage.

The first step to ant control is to know what you're dealing with. This article lists the most common types of house ants to watch out for.

How to identify house ants

Determining the type of house ants can help you figure out how to best manage them. To identify the species of ants, you have to consider the following factors:

  1. What they look like. Note their size, physical appearance, and other identifying features.
  2. What they eat. Although ants are known for eating everything, some species have food preferences.
  3. Where they nest. Some species form their nests in specific sites.

Ants Types

Below are the basic and common types of house ants.

  1. Acrobat ants (Crematogaster)
  2. Argentine ants (Linepithema humile)
  3. Carpenter ants (Camponotus pennsylvanicus)
  4. Pharaoh ants (Monomorium pharaonis)
  5. Sugar ants (Monomorium pharaonis)
  6. Pavement ants (Tetramorium caespitum)
  7. Red imported fire ants (Solenopsis invicta)

Acrobat ants (Crematogaster)

Also known as the Saint Valentine ant, acrobat ants are 2.6 to 3.2 mm in length, and light red to black in color. They are known for their heart-shaped abdomen. When they are threatened, acrobat ants emit a strong, unpleasant odor and raise their abdomen over their thorax.

Acrobat ants prefer moisture and sugary or high-protein food. These include insects, honeydew, sweets, and meat.

Trails of acrobat ants can be found around electrical wires, insulation panels, and damp Styrofoam boards. Their nesting sites can be found in dead or decaying wood damaged by age, moisture, fungus, or other pests.

The presence of this type of ant in your home indicates water leak or damaged wooden structure. To manage acrobat ants, address these problems first, then remove the nesting site.

Argentine ants (Linepithema humile)

Considered the most invasive ant species in the world, Argentine ants are 2.6 to 3.2 mm in length, light red to black in color. They have a smooth, hairless body and a 12-segment antennae. They look ordinary, but they are identified by the uniformity of the worker ants' appearance.

They are an omnivorous species. Argentine ants prefer sweet, oily, and high-protein foods -- honeydew, fruit juice, sweet drinks, pet food, meat, and insects.

Argentine ants nest in gaps and cracks in concrete, in between wooden boards, and in moist soil. They are a very aggressive species: they kill other insects near their territory and take over other colonies.

Argentine ants are active and adaptive. When attacked, they release a musky odor and bite their attacker. Colonies can span city blocks and they can cause large-scale structural damage. Eliminating them is not a one-time treatment; it involves constant and repetitive use of insecticides. That said, management of an Argentine ant infestation is best left to pest control professionals.

Carpenter ants (Camponotus pennsylvanicus)

Carpenter ants are known for eating through wood, hollowing it out into a nest. They are one of the largest ant species, ranging from 6 to 12 mm in length. Worker ants are black, brown, red, yellow, or multicolored.

Plants, fruit juices, honeydew, insects, and arthropods are their preferred food source. As they need water for survival, carpenter ants can be eliminated by removing sources of moisture and stagnant water.

Carpenter nests can be tracked by locating frass or their sawdust-like excrement. They most commonly nest in damaged wood sources. The presence of carpenter ants usually indicates water damage or rotting wood.

When their nests are disturbed, they bite their attacker, then leave a chemical acid in the wound, making it more painful. They also damage building structures through their nesting process. Treatment of a carpenter ant infestation is done through application of insecticides, pesticides, and boric acid.

Pharaoh ants (Monomorium pharaonis)

Pharaoh ants derived their name from the myth that it was one of the pestilence of Ancient Egypt. They are a small species, averaging 1.5 to 2mm in size. Their colors range from yellowish red to light brown to blackish. Pharaoh ants are distinguished by their small eyes, shiny mandibles, and 12-segment antennae.

They are not picky eaters, although they prefer eating carbohydrate- or protein-rich food such as sweets and other insects.

The species build their nests on warm, humid areas near sources of food and water. Pharaoh ants are most commonly found near wall voids, behind cabinets and refrigerators, and other structures close to artificial heating.

Pharaoh ants are one of the major pests in the United States, largely because of how difficult they are to manage. They affect homes, hospitals, grocery stores, and food service establishments. When their nest is threatened, pharaoh ants scatter and start to build separate nests.

Sugar ants (Monomorium pharaonis)

Sugar ants are 5 to 15mm in length. They are identified by the female's signature black head, orange thorax, and orange-brown band, while males are completely black.

Named after their primary food source, sugar ants primarily consume sugar, sweet drinks, plant pollen, and honeydew.

They tend to nest in hot, dark, and damp areas, such as basements, wall voids, and cracks between foundations and floorboards.

While repellents don't work for sugar ant infestations, many natural remedies can be used instead. You can use ant traps and baits, or vinegar, bleach, and diatomaceous earth.

Pavement ants (Tetramorium caespitum)

Pavement ants are 1.5 to 3mm in length and are black-brown in color. They have a distinct pair of spines on their back, and parallel grooves on their head and thorax.

They mainly subsist on oily and greasy food, but they also eat meat, insects, fruit juices, honeydew, and pet food.

From the name itself, pavement ants build their nests under pavement. Indoors, they are often found in kitchens or bathrooms. Pavement ants trail plumbing lines and insulation, and heating panels.

Compared to other ants on this list, they are more manageable. Treatment for pavement ant infestation is done through a combination of baits and pesticides.

Red imported fire ants (Solenopsis invicta)

Red imported fire ants (RIFA) are a species of fire ants known for invading homes through structural foundation and landscaping. They are 2 to 6mm in length and reddish in color. Their diet consists of dead mammals, insects, seeds, and honeydew.

Fire ants build their nests inside walls and buildings. They can also be found in greenhouses and home gardens because they thrive in warm and sunny locations.

When red imported fire ants are threatened, they sting the offender and release a venom. This alkaloid venom causes burning, swelling, and the formation of pustules. The ants are also known for spreading diseases to animals and livestock.

RIFAs are among the most destructive ant species in the world. Annually, fire ants cost $6.7 billion in medical, agricultural, and structural damage in the United States. Each colony has multiple queens and a minimum of 100,000 insects, spanning at least 100 yards. Because of significant risks, treatment for fire ant infestation should be done by pest control professionals.

Name
Appearance
Identifying Features
Food Preference
Habitat
Acrobat ants (Crematogaster)
2.6 to 3.2 mm; light red, brown, brown black, or black
Heart-shaped abdomen
Sweets, meat, and other high-protein food
Damaged wood, insulation panels, and Styrofoam
Argentine ants (Linepithema humile)
1.6 to 3 mm; light brown, dark brown, or black
Smooth, hairless body
Sweet drinks, pet food, and insects
Moist soil, cracks and gaps in concrete
Carpenter ants (Camponotus pennsylvanicus)
6 to 12 mm; dark brown and black, or red and black
Round thorax, heart-shaped head
Plants, fruit juice, and insects
Damaged wood, tree stumps, and branches
Pharaoh ants (Monomorium pharaonis)
1.5 to 2 mm; yellowish red, light brown, blackish
Shiny mandibles, 12-segment antennae
Sweets and other insects
Wall voids and structures near artificial heating
Sugar ants (Camponotus consobrinus)
5 to 15 mm
Females have black heads, orange thorax, and orange-brown band
Sweets, sweet drinks, and honeydew
Foundation cracks, floorboard gaps, and wall voids
Pavement ants (Tetramorium caespitum)
1.5 to 3mm; black-brown body, paler color in the legs
A pair of spines on its back, grooves on head and thorax
Grease, fruit juices, meat, honeydew, oily food, and pet food
Pavement, brick patios, plumbing, sink, toilet, insulation
Fire ants (Solenopsis invicta)
2 to 6mm; reddish
Spineless, uneven thorax
Sweets, and dead mammals and insects
Gardens, greenhouses, and wall voids

Did you know?

  • Biologist E.O. Wilson estimates that there are at least 10 quadrillion ants living at any given moment.
  • Ants communicate through touch, sound, and a chemical called pheromone. Pheromone acts as a signal -- it can be used as a warning sign to alert other ants, or as an invitation for food.
  • There is a single megacolony of a billion Argentine ants that spans three continents -- Europe, North America, and Asia.

Are you wondering about "How long do the Ants live?" then check out this link!!!

References!

  • Acrobat Ant By Orkin - https://www.orkin.com/ants/acrobat-ant. Retrived on May 5, 2019
  • Ant mega-colony takes over world, By BBC - http://news.bbc.co.uk/earth/hi/earth_news/newsid_8127000/8127519.stm. Retrived on May 5, 2019

  • Pavement Ant, By Pennsylvania State University - https://ento.psu.edu/extension/factsheets/pavement-ant. Retrived on May 5, 2019

  • How to Get Rid of Sugar Ants, By House Method - https://housemethod.com/pest/sugar-ants/. Retrived on May 5, 2019

  • pharaoh ant, By Orkin - https://www.orkin.com/ants/pharaoh-ant. Retrived on May 5, 2019

  • Food Preferences of Ants, By How Stuff Works - https://home.howstuffworks.com/home-improvement/household-hints-tips/insect-control/food-preferences-of-ants.htm. Retrived on May 5, 2019

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