ANTS



Ants are the most frequent and persistent pest encountered around homes and buildings. Besides being a nuisance, ants contaminate food, build unsightly mounds on our property, and cause structural damage by hollowing out wood for nesting.

 

To most homeowners, all ants look alike. In truth, dozens of different species occur around homes and buildings, each having unique chracteristics, which may influence the method of control.

 

Ants are social insects belonging to the order of insects known as “Hymenoptera”. This is the same order containing bees and wasps. They live in large, cooperative, intermingling colonies where they depend upon each other for the survival of the entire colony, which range from hundreds to millions, depending on the species.

 

There can also be several colonies inhabiting the soil or landscape surrounding a property. For that reason, ants can be a particularly difficult pest to eradicate. In our area, the most common house-invading ant is the Odorous house ant. Other common species include Carpenter, Pavement, Pharaoh, and Acrobat. To gain control it takes a tremendous amount of knowledge, which is best left to the professionals at .

 

Below you'll find the most common ants that frequently invade our homes and businesses. Click on each picture to learn more about the species.



   


NEST / CHARACTERISTICS: Argentine ant colonies live in moist areas near a food source. Colony numbers fluctuate seasonally, ranging from one hundred to several hundred thousand workers and many queens. Foraging workers follow trails; winged queens can sometimes be found amongthem. Argentine ants live outdoors in shallow nests in moist areas, including under boards and stones, beneath plants and along sidewalks. Argentine ants will also nest indoors. When outdoor conditions are too wet or too dry, Argentine ants invade buildings by trailing along tree and shrub branches, utility lines and wires.

FEEDING PREFERENCES: Argentine ants prefer sweets such as honeydew, fruit juices and plant secretions, but will also forage on proteins (meat, insects, eggs) and fats and even attack small, vulnerable animals.



NEST SITE / CHARACTERISTICS: Moderately sized mature colonies contain more than 3,000 workers with one queen per colony (colonies may contain satellite nests that consist of workers, larvae and pupae; together with the main colony, the total population may exceed 15,000). Nestsusually originate in moist, decayed wood and voids and may later expand into sound wood. Look for coarse sawdust piles (frass) that contain insect body parts and listen for the sound produced as workers chew to remove wood to enlarge the nest. Outside, nests are commonly found in dead or damaged portions of trees, roting logs and stumps. Carpenter ants forage alone or along trails 300 or more feet from the nest. “Trunk trails” between parent and satellite nests are clear of vegetation and debris, typically cutting across lawns. Carpenter ants enter buildings around door and window frames, through eaves, along plumbing and utility lines, and over branches touching the structure. Peak foraging occurs at night.

FEEDING PREFERENCES: Carpenter ants feed primarily on insect honeydew, plant and fruit juices and insects. Indoors, they feed on food debris, including sweets, eggs, meats, cakes, pet foods and grease.



NEST SITE / CHARACTERISTICS: Typical colonies contain 10,000–20,000 workers, but can contain as many as 100,000 with one queen per nest. Nests usually originate in decayed wood and later expand into sound wood. Look for coarse sawdust piles (frass) that will also contain insectbody parts and listen for the sound produced as workers chew to remove wood to enlarge the nest. Outside, nests are commonly found in dead or damaged portions of trees, rotting logs and stumps and landscape timbers.

Carpenter ants forage alone or along trails 300 or more feet from the nest. “Trunk trails” between parent and satellite nests are clear of vegetation and debris, typically cutting across lawns. Carpenter ants enter buildings around door and window frames, through eaves, along plumbing and utility lines, and over branches touching the structure. Peak foraging occurs at night (note activity at dusk or dawn).

FEEDING PREFERENCES: Carpenter ants feed primarily on insect honeydew, plant and fruit juices and insects. Indoors, they feed on food debris, including sweets, eggs, meats, cakes, pet foods and grease.



NEST SITE / CHARACTERISTICS: This serious structural pest nests in sound wood but prefers fungus- or moisture-damaged wood. Outside, it nests in dead trees, rotting stumps and beneath rocks and logs. Colonies can be large, with up to 100,000 workers and multiple queens. Look for coarse sawdust piles (frass) that will also contain insect body parts. Another indicator is the sound produced as workers chew to remove wood to enlarge the nest.

Carpenter ants forage alone or along trails 300 or more feet from the nest. “Trunk trails” between parent and satellite nests are clear of vegetation and debris, typically cutting across lawns. Carpenter ants enter buildings around door and window frames, through eaves, along plumbing and utility lines, and over branches touching the building. Peak foraging occurs at night.

FEEDING PREFERENCES: Carpenter ants feed primarily on insect honeydew, plant and fruit juices and insects. Indoors, they feed on food debris, including sweets, eggs, meats, cakes, pet foods and grease.



NEST SITE / CHARACTERISTICS: Crazy ants are noted for their erratic movements. They appear to be lost and confused. Colonies tend to be small, with up to 2,000 workers and 8–40 queens. The presence of numerous interconnected colonies may result in larger infestations. Colonies mayspontaneously abandon one nest site and move to another. Inside, crazy ants usually nest under floors and in wall voids, frequently near hot-water pipes and heaters. Workers follow trails of up to 100 feet to forage for food. Outside, nests are shallow and in soil under objects or in plant cavities, trees, trash, refuse, mulch and potted plants. Crazy ants enter homes in the fall or after rain when honeydew supplies are reduced.

FEEDING PREFERENCES: Crazy ants prefer insects and sweets, but will feed on any household food. Outside, their preferred diet includes insects, seeds, fruits and honeydew from aphids, mealybugs and scale insects.



NEST SITE / CHARACTERISTICS: Ghost ant nests are moderate to large with thousands of workers and many queens. Inside nests are generally located within wall voids, behind baseboards, between cabinets and walls or in potted plant soil. Outside nests are in potted plants, under stones, under and inside logs and firewood, in debris of tree crotches, in cavities of dead trees and shrubs and in hollow cavities of plants.

Ghost ants readily enter buildings, usually by trailing from nests along guidelines, such as foundations or via branches. Ghostants will enter structures from ground to roof levels. Workers run rapidly and erratically, trailing along edges and corners. Indoor trails are hidden, under carpet edges and along electrical wires in wall voids. Because ghost ants have high moisture needs, they often trail to sinks, wash basins, commodes and shower stalls. Outdoor trails can be found behind grass and/or mulch lining sidewalks, patios and foundation walls.

FEEDING PREFERENCES: Ghost ants prefer honeydew and insects, dead and living. Indoors, they prefer sweets and will forage for water sources during dry weather.



NEST / CHARACTERISTICS: Odorous house ant colonies may contain up to 100,000 ants with many queens. Super colonies may exist where food, water and brood are exchanged between satellite locations. Indoors, odorous house ants nest in wall voids, especially around hot-water pipes and heaters, and in crevices around sinks and cupboards. Outdoors, nests are often found in soil, usually under objects. Odorous house ants aremost likely to enter buildings when colonies become very large and natural food and water sources become scarce and when climate conditions are extreme (drought or flood).

FEEDING PREFERENCES: When indoors, odorous house ants prefer sweets during most of the warm season, but will eat high-protein foods and greasy meats and cheese as dictated by colony requirements. Outdoors, they feed on honeydew, plant secretions and sometimes seeds and insects. Workers emit a rotten, coconut-like odor when crushed.



NEST SITE / CHARACTERISTICS: White-footed ants are found in Florida, Hawaii and isolated areas of California. This species may be spread to other warm southern regions of the United States on infested goods and plants. White-footed ants nest in a variety of locations, and colonies can contain one million or more adults. These ants like to nest in dead wood, but will also invade and short out air conditioners. They nest in piles of lumber, firewood, stones, bricks, trash and heavy vegetation at foundations or in trees. Indoors, they nest in wall voids, potted plants and atriums. A single colony can encompass many sites, both close by and far away from a single nest. These extended colonies exchange workers, brood and food.

White-footed ants establish well-defined, easy-to-find foraging trails outside infested buildings. Trails commonly follow structural guidelines, such as edges of sidewalks, edges of brick buildings, ledges and soffit corners. Foragers often move into buildings from trees and shrubs touching walls or roofs. Once inside, workers forage along baseboards above and below carpet edges.

FEEDING PREFERENCES: White-footed ants prefer sweets. Outdoors, they feed on honeydew and tend aphids, mealybugs and scales. Trophallaxis (cross feeding) has not been observed in this species. Because of this, baiting programs will not be effective as a stand-alonemanagement program.



NEST SITE / CHARACTERISTICS: Indoors, nests may be located where water damage has occurred, in decayed or damp wood or inside insulating wall panels and wall voids. Outdoors, acrobat ants nest under rocks or in logs, firewood or trees where decay allows them to tunnel under bark or into wood.

Workers trail along tree limbs, utility lines and rails of fences and decks, entering structures through cracks and holes around utility lines or pipes, window frames and soffits. Workers also trail across the ground and enter through door thresholds and small openings. Acrobat ants are aggressive when disturbed and give off a strong odor.

FEEDING PREFERENCES: Acrobat ants eat a wide variety of foods, including sweets and proteins. Workers like honeydew from sap-sucking insects (aphids, mealybugs, scale insects). These ants also prey on termite alates and immature stages of cotton boll weevil, grape curculio and codling moth.



NEST SITE / CHARACTERISTICS: Most form small (200- to 300-member) colonies, but colonies of some species contain thousands of ants and multiple queens. Big-headed ants enter buildings occasionally, preferring to nest in protected soil (such as under stones, leaf litter, mulch, patio blocks, slabs, firewood and landscape timbers). Some nest in open areas where they make small mounds, or in crawl spaces in termite-damaged wood.

Big-headed ants trail readily, but usually not far from their nest. Their foraging trails are sometimes covered with soil, resembling subterranean termite foraging tubes.

FEEDING PREFERENCES:  Big-headed ants prefer seeds and insects but will occasionally feed on honeydew from sap-sucking insects. Inside, they forage for meats, grease, liver, molasses, peanut butter, pet foods and fruit juices, preferring high-protein foods.



NEST SITE / CHARACTERISTICS: Colonies of little black ants are small and contain many queens. If disturbed, colonies will readily move to other locations. Winged reproductives appear from June to August. Indoors, little black ants nest in woodwork, decaying wood and masonry. Outside nests are found in the soil under rocks, logs or debris. Nests may also be found in landscape mulch and in open areas of lawns where nests are characterized by small craters of very fine soil. A common location for outdoor nests is directly adjacent to building foundations. These ants forage in trails commonly seen on foundation walls and along sidewalks.

FEEDING PREFERENCES: Little black ants are most commonly observed foraging on sugar sources such as insect honeydew and plant nectars. Indoors, little black ants may feed on grease, oil, meats, fruits, vegetable material such as corn meal, and sweets. Outdoors, they eatother insects, honeydew and sap secretions.



NEST SITE / CHARACTERISTICS: Colonies average 3,000–4,000 ants with several queens. Pavement ants normally nest in soil; however, they occasionally nest indoors in walls, insulation and under floors. Colonies will move near a heat source in winter. Pavement ants often follow pipes through slabs to access build- ings. Outdoors, these ants nest in soil under stones, slabs, next to buildings and in pavement cracks. They enter through cracks in slabs, expansion joints and natural openings of buildings. Pavement ants like to travel under the edges of carpet next to the tack strip. To inspect or treat this area, carefully lift the car- pet a small section at a time, then press down firmly to replace the carpet. Soil nests may have a characteristic “dirt crater” around the opening. Pavement ants forage up to 30 feet in trails.

FEEDING PREFERENCES: Pavement ants are opportunistic feeders that will “swarm” on foods that appear within their foraging range and are therefore easily controlled with bait. Indoors, pavement ants feed on meats, nuts, cheese, honey, bread crumbs, meats and grease. Pet food bowls are common foraging sites for pavement ants. Outdoors, this ant feeds on insects, honeydew, seeds and plant sap.



NEST SITE / CHARACTERISTICS: Pharaoh ant colonies range in size from several hundred thousand workers and several hundred reproductive females to very small colonies with 100 workers and one or two females. These ants nest almost anywhere, but prefer warm, humid areas near sources of food and water — in wall voids, behind baseboards, in furniture, under floors and between linens. In southern regions, colonies can exist outdoors. Workers range widely from the nest and establish visible trails to food and water sources. Pharaoh ants commonly use electrical and telephone wires, plumbing and other utility lines as trail routes. Outdoors, these ants nest in debris collected on flat roofs, entering and exiting via poorly caulked or defective windows, under flashing and through weep holes.

FEEDING PREFERENCES: Pharaoh ants have a wide preference of foods, from syrups to fruits, sweets, meats, pet foods and dead insects. Pharaoh ants have a high daily water requirement. Workers forage for water just as aggressively as for food. They will “harvest” water from unusual sources, such as aquariums, pet dishes, condensation on plumbing fixtures and windows, refrigerator condensation pans, air conditioners and house plants. In health care facilities, pharaoh ants have been known to forage on the wounds of immobile patients or residents.



NEST SITE / CHARACTERISTICS: Thief ant colonies are relatively small and contain a few hundred to several thousand workers with many queens. Thief ants commonly nest close to other species of ants. Flights of swarmers begin in June and end in late fall. Indoors, thief ants nest in small crevices, woodwork and masonry. These ants forage in set trails. Their behavior is similar to pharaoh ants. Outdoor nests are found in exposed soil or under objects, in trash, rotten wood and tree cavities. Thief ants commonly enter structures during hot, dry weather.

FEEDING PREFERENCES: Thief ants prefer high-protein foods, but will feed on sweets. They feed on meats, bread crumbs, fruit, animal fats, oils, nuts, pet foods and dairy products. Outdoors, thief ants feed on almost any organic matter, including insects, honeydew, seeds and germinating seeds.