Ants are one of the most common pests in the world. They live in colonies that consist of female workers, fertile male drones, and queens. Ants are very social, and extremely intelligent. Each ant consists of three parts; the head, the body, and the thorax. Most ants never leave the colony, so you will never see them. The drones and workers that do leave the colony are often foraging. The foraging ants are the ones that you see in the yard or inside your house. When food or better shelter is found, a pheromone trail is laid. This trail is an invisible scent that others ants can follow to a certain destination. This is why you often see ants following an invisible path. If you see these ants entering and leaving through cracks around your house, it is likely they are moving the colony inside for a more temperate environment, better protection, and more access to food.
Description: These are the small black ants you see all over the place. As you squish them, the secrete a small odor, that smells like rotten coconut. It actually is quite effective to squish an odorous house ant in front of a prospect as you explain this, then offer your finger to them to smell as well. These ants don’t often do damage to a home, but they can cause mold, and they often attract other insects into the home. They also move their colonies often, every 3 months, which makes them hard to get rid of using traditional treatments.
Life Cycle: Colonies typically range from 2000-10,000 ants, with multiple queens. The time it takes to mature from egg to adult is 35-80 days, and even as long as six months during cold seasons. Queen ants can live for several years.
Description: These ants are one of the biggest ants. They can be either black with a grey thorax, or big and red. These ants do damage homes, as they make their homes in the grain of certain wood, similar to a termite. The difference is instead of using the wood as food, carpenter ants use the wood as shelter, so you will often see “frass,” or small piles of sawdust by the baseboards or along certain structures. Sometimes you can even hear the ants chewing through the wood. Although these ants aren’t as aggressive as termites, they do considerable damage to structures, and cause rot, leaks, and structural instability.
Life Cycle: Colonies typically only have one queen ant, which can live up to 15 years, often never even leaving the underground colony. Workers typically live a few weeks to 7 months.
Size: 1/16” to 1/4” in length
Description: These ants are deep red, almost black. The often make colonies deep underground in the yard or along sidewalks. You can visibly see a fire ant colony, as they pile up dirt as they dig a deep colony. If you touch the top of the colony or brush your feet over it, you will immediately see hundreds of ants come up. Fire ants are extremely aggressive, and have a small stinger. When they sting you, they secrete a poison that burns you, similar to the feel of getting burned by fire, hence the name. Fire ants are extremely smart, and if they feel they are in danger, they will move their colony, making them extremely hard to get rid of without the right product. 1-2% of the US population is allergic to the bite, and will be at risk of anaphylactic shock when stung.
Fire ants are even more aggressive during or after rain. Because they live underground, they are forced together into a ball, where they float on top of the water until the water subsides. This often shifts the colony and can destroy tunnels. The shock causes them to be much more likely to sting at higher doses.
Life Cycle: Fire ant colonies are huge, typically between 80,000-250,000 ants per colony. Each mound is similar to an iceberg, with a very small portion of the mound visible above the ground, while the majority of the mound below the ground. Intricate tunnels expand several feet below the ground. Fire ants have the ability to bud, meaning that when they feel threatened or get overcrowded, they will split up the queen ants, move in two different directions, and make two colonies from one. This is what causes frustration for homeowners when they try to treat for them themselves.
Size: Workers are 1/16” to 1/8”
Description: Acrobat ants are similar to odorous house ants, but are slightly more aggressive. They typically live in areas of decay or rotting wood. They have the ability to sting, and will lift up their abdomen when threatened. They are usually light brown or black. These ants make small mounds in the yard, and when they get inside they can cause damage to the electrical wiring by stripping the insulation causing short circuits.
Life Cycle: Colonies can survive up to 15 years. Acrobat ants are active during both the day and night, so have a shorter life cycle than other ants.
Size: Workers are 1/16” to 1/8”
Description: Pavement ants are a dark red, brown mix, and have long spindly legs. As you can guess, they like to nest in sandy areas around sidewalks or pavers. They are expert diggers, and can get inside the home by driller through loose mortar or cracks in the foundation.
Life Cycle: These colonies have around 3500 ants, with several queens. Eggs mature to adults over 35-60 days.
Size: Workers are 1/16”
Description: Pharaoh ants are a light yellow to a light red color. They are smaller than many other ants. They are named because of the headache they caused to Egyptians during the time of the pharaohs. They need a blend of dry and wet environments, and tend to nest in areas of high humidity, such as in bathrooms, kitchens, along water pipes inside walls, etc. They travel far, using pipes and wires to maneuver themselves through the home, onto the counter and along the ground. These ants are one of the biggest nuisance pests. They are very common around areas of food and water.
Life Cycle: Colonies reach the thousands. Pharaoh ants don’t swarm, but mating takes place inside the nest. Eggs mature to adults in about 35 days. Workers don’t live for more than a few months, and most queens don’t live longer than a year.
Size: Workers are 1/16”
Description: As the name implies, these light brown ants steal from other insect colonies. They love to eat larvae, pupae, and eggs. These ants are constantly moving their own eggs above and below ground as a way to regulate heat to the eggs during incubation periods.
Life Cycle: These ants take a while to mature, and egg to maturity can take several months. Colonies consist of thousands of ants.