Ants are the most common pest problem in America, with more than 80% of homeowners experiencing ant problems. There are more than 12,000 species of ants in the world, but only a few types typically pose the greatest problems for homes in the U.S.
Ants are easy to identify because they have three distinct body regions: a heart-shaped head with large jaws and elbowed antennae, a smooth round midsection, and a ridged tail end. Some ants grow wings in order to swarm and spread their colonies. Winged ants and termites can look similar, but the main difference is that a termite has two body segments and does not have a constricted waist. Termites also have smooth antennae instead of elbowed, with four wings of equal size that extend far beyond the end of their bodies. Winged ants have four wings, but two are much smaller than the others.
Ants can be a problem in or outside a home, where they can contaminate food, bite and damage property. They can be difficult to control and treat once they are established. Many species are hard to identify to the untrained eye. Here are some that are common inside the home, including carpenter ants, odorous house ants and Pharaoh ants.
Found Inside Homes
Carpenter ants invade homes and build their nests in dead, damp, hollow wood. Larger than the average household ant, they are 5/8 and can be identified by worker ants or swarmers (winged ants which can often be mistaken for termites). Carpenter ants are usually red, black or a combination of both. They can give a painful bite when disturbed. They can also cause structural damage to your home. Controlling them often requires the help of a professional.
Odorous House Ants
Odorous house ants get their name from the odor they emit when crushed. Indoors, they are usually found near moisture and prefer sweet things to eat. You may see worker ants or swarmers (winged ants) in your home. They do not bite, sting or cause structural damage, and are primarily a nuisance. These ants are much smaller than a carpenter ant and range in size from 1/16" - 1/8". They are usually brown or black in color.
Pharaoh ants feed on almost any type of food, even toothpaste and shoe polish. They do not sting or swarm, and rarely cause structural damage. They can, however, spread very quickly and are difficult to treat. They can spread diseases and are of particular concern for hospitals. Pharaoh ants are 1/16" in size and their bodies are usually pale, varying from yellow to red with their abdomen often darker to black.
Treating Ants Inside Your Home
- Like all pests, ants are looking for food and water. Complete a thorough inspection in and around your home for leaking water and food sources, and eliminate them.
- Keep your kitchen especially clean and quickly take care of any water leaks.
- All ant species have different characteristics so the type of ant will determine how they should be treated in your home. If eliminating food and water sources do not stop ants from returning, consult with a local box retailer for pest treatment products and follow the instructions carefully.
- If the problem persists after eliminating food and water sources, as well as using DIY treatment products, contact a local pest professional to identify the ants and plan an appropriate treatment.
- If you are building a new home, consider Taexx, a built-in-the-wall pest control system that keeps common household pests out of our home including ants. Many of the nations top builders are installing as a standard feature. If your builder isnt already installing Taexx, you can ask for it.
Found Outside Homes
The most common, bothersome outdoor ants are fire ants. Fire ants will sting anything that comes in their way or disrupts their mound, including children and pets. For more information on fire ants, visit our fire ants information page.
Another common outdoor species is crazy ants, a relatively new invasive outdoor ant in the U.S. They get their name from their fast-moving erratic behavior. They are typically found in the Gulf Coast region and southeastern U.S., and prefer warm temperatures and humidity, which means they do not prefer to be inside cool homes.
Crazy ants have multiple queens and hundreds of thousands of individuals, which make for very large colonies. Their colonies are found under and around rocks, leaf litter, the base of trees and naturally shaded areas. They can monopolize food sources - causing them to drive out fire ants and other insects, which can impact the ecosystem. Crazy ants will bite, but their bite is not as painful as the sting of a fire ant. They range in size from 1/16 1/8 and are typically brown or black. They often require the expertise of a pest control professional to treat them.
Treating Ants Outside Your Home
- Identify which kind of ant you are dealing with to determine the best type of treatment. Consult with a local box retailer for pest treatment products and follow the instructions carefully.
- Use patience and treat as many mounds as possible at the same time. If you treat just one mound, they will move to satellite mounds.
- Trim back bushes, shrubs and trees that brush against your siding or roof to eliminate possible bridges for ants to reach your home. Avoid stacking firewood next to the house and maintain a healthy lawn to discourage ants from returning.
- If you have crazy ants, treatment can be difficult. You should consult with a local pest control expert to talk about treatment options.
If you need help figuring out what type of ants you have and the best treatment for your situation, you can consult a local HomeTeam pest expert. Contact our nearest branch office.
Frequently Asked Questions
What can I do, as a homeowner, to help eliminate or control an ant infestation?
To achieve long term control and prevention of ants, some steps include:
- Eliminating the food source.
- Trimming bushes and hedges that are near or touching your house in the affected area.
- Caulking or closing potential entry points.
- Chemically treating with the appropriate insecticides either on your own or using a pest control professional.
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