At 16,000 types of ants and counting, these tiny pests add up to a mind-numbing 10,000,000,000,000,000. Oh, don’t worry about counting those zeroes. They add up to a quadrillion!
I confess, this number did scare me, especially since I discovered this fact while running some research on how to combat an ant invasion of what seemed like gigantic proportions in my garage. I was relieved to soon learn how only a few species can be found in and around our homes.
So, to share with you what I’ve learnt, here’s a quick list of 7 types of ants that could invade your home.
1. Argentine Ants (Linepithema Humile)
Accidentally introduced to American shores from Argentina, these ants are found all along the Californian coast and are infamous for quickly multiplying into colonies with up to hundreds of queens in a single one!
Argentine Ants are one of the most common species found in homes. They may not sting, but they certainly outdo this fact by setting up huge colonies or invading in large numbers.
How to Identify Argentine Ants
Argentine Ants measure between 2.2 to 2.8 millimeters and are tinier than most other common species. Light to dark brown in color, these ants set up colonies in damp and wet environments where they have easy access to a food source.
So, if you live in a wooded area with trees and shrubs, you will probably find their colonies under debris or mulch. Accidentally stepping on an Argentine worker ant emits a strong musty odor.
Argentine Ant colonies are notorious for their size. In some cases, these colonies can even grow to be as large as an entire city block when allowed to multiply without hindrance and supplied with a consistent food source. They are also quite aggressive in nature, taking over other ant colonies as their own colony expands.
2. Carpenter Ants (Camponotus)
Carpenter Ants, just like carpenters, love wood. Only, they end up destroying it by creating satellite nests in dead or decaying wood. These ants can be quite scary to look at due to their large size and since they’re found across the United States, I’m sure you’ve been startled by one of them at some time too.
Since building their nests involves excavation of wood, people often incorrectly assume that these ants eat wood. They do not. However, their nest-building activities do contribute to structural damage, even eating into wooden foundations in some cases. If disturbed, Carpenter Ants are known to bite, so I’d suggest you steer clear from a nest if you come across one!
How to Identify Carpenter Ants
Carpenter Ants measure between 6 and 13 millimeters. They are mostly black in color but come in other varieties too, with brown and red-orange the next most common color combinations. Most subspecies are nocturnal and forage only after dark.
Outdoors, you may discover their nests in trees. Indoors, their favorite haunts are wooden foundations, doors, boxes and even wooden structural frameworks, walls and ceilings, hence the danger to structures.
3. Pavement Ants (Tetramorium caespitum)
Easily found in and around residential areas, their habit of building nests in the cracks and joints found in pavements gives these Pavement Ants their name. Unfortunately, they do not stay outdoors and out of your way all the time, and it is possible that their search for food brings them to your doorstep.
Indoors, they set up their nests in the cracks and joints of walls, in nooks and crannies immediately outside the house, and even in the spaces found beneath floors.
These ants are not native to the US and sailed the high seas to reach here. How did they do that? Well, when merchant ships set sail from Europe, they filled their holds with soil to weigh down their vessels. At port, they emptied the holds to load their cargo, leaving the soil – and the ants in the soil – in new country!
How to Identify Pavement Ants
Pavement Ants are small in size and measure around 3 millimeters. They are found throughout the United States and are black or dark brown in color with paler antennae and legs. Pavements Ants bite.
4. Odorous House Ants (Tapinoma sessile)
Odorous House Ants give away a distinct odor when crushed, hence the name. Outdoors, they can be found under mulch or beneath stones. Indoors, once they discover a reliable food source, they build their nests in cracks of walls and beneath floors. They can also find temporary hiding spots beneath objects.
How to Identify Odorous House Ants
Odorous House Ants are tiny creatures. They measure between 1.5 and 3 millimeters and are black or dark brown in color. These ants give away a distinct odor when crushed and this is where they get their name from. The debate on what this smell is closest to continues with opinions ranging from blue cheese to rotten coconut.
5. Red Imported Fire Ants (Solenopsis invicta)
The first time I heard the name Red Imported Fire Ants, I must admit I was terrified. You will agree that the words red and fire do make for a deadly combination. A little research told me they derived their name from the painful stings they deliver.
Although this wasn’t entirely great news, it did help me do away my mental image of ants belting fire from little evil eyes!
How to Identify Red Imported Fire Ants
Red Imported Fire Ants measure between 3 and 7 millimeters and are darkish red in color. Their favorite nesting areas are open spaces such as lawns, playgrounds and gardens where they can receive plenty of sunshine.
These ants are especially infamous for their aggressive behaviour and heads-on encounters that usually end with painful stings. I recommend staying away from disturbing any nests you may find as stings from these fierce pests may even result in allergic reactions.
6. Pharaoh Ants (Monomorium Pharaonis)
Pharaoh Ants are well-known for their ability to form large colonies, at times with hundreds of queens in a single setting. Since they are unable to survive bitter cold, they are found more commonly in sub-tropical states.
However, they thrive in heated environs and can be found nesting within such structures across the United States.
How to Identify Pharaoh Ants
Pharaoh Ants are found in golden-brown and reddish-brown hues and are almost transparent. They measure between 1.5 to 2.5 millimeters. You can also identify these ants based on their food habits – they are choosy eaters and especially love high-sugar and high-protein foods.
These ants have the ability of splitting their colonies in the face of danger, a move that makes their elimination quite a challenge. A concerted and planned effort is therefore required to combat an invasion or you may think you are terminating their nests but may actually have an even wider infestation on your hands. I’m sure you’d hate that, wouldn’t you?
7. Rasberry Crazy Ants (Nylanderia Fulva)
Rasberry Crazy Ants are so named for the erratic and seemingly haywire running patterns. Quick on their feet, these tiny creatures prefer warm and humid environs and are found both outdoors and indoors.
Since they’re unable to bear the cold, they tend to move base indoors during the colder months.
How to Identify Rasberry Crazy Ants
Their crazy running patterns are probably the best way to identify Crazy Ants. If you happen to overlook their haphazard behavior that almost seems like a drunken dance, you may also notice tiny hair on their bodies.
They measure around 3 millimeters in length. Since they hate the cold, you can also identify Crazy Ants by their tendency to march indoors as the weather outside gets colder.