Ant Identification

Identifying an ant infestation is more straightforward than other pest invasions, since it’s not uncommon to discover their foraging trails. However, identifying what type of ant is infesting your home can be more difficult. Many species of ants exist in the world, and several types can exist in more than one location. Learning about the most common ant species that could infest your home can help you understand how to handle them.

Acrobat Ants

  • Color: Light brown to black, sometimes multicolored
  • Shape: Long, segmented thorax; heart-shaped abdomen
  • Size: 1/16-1/8 inch long


Acrobat ants can be found pretty much everywhere in the world. They are named for their habit of acrobatically raising their abdomens above their heads, especially when they have been disturbed by something. There are several different species of acrobat ants in the United States, and many emit an unpleasant odor when startled. This ant species may also occasionally bite if threatened.

Acrobat ants typically live outdoors in nests made of decaying wood, but may wander into homes through pipes in foundations or the gaps around these pipes. For colonies that live in trees, branches that come close to the home can provide the perfect point of entry. Once inside a home, acrobat ants look for moisture and food sources. They may pose a problem to your property, as well, since they will occasionally strip the insulation from electrical or telephone wires, which can cause short circuits. Homeowners may notice these ants in lines travelling to and from their food sources, or travelling in mating swarms.

Argentine Ants

  • Color: Light to dark brown and shiny
  • Shape: Segmented; oval
  • Size: 1/16 – 1/4 inch long

Argentine ants can be found mostly in the southern U.S., along with California and Hawaii. These ants are one of the most invasive and difficult species for homeowners to deal with. Argentine ants have multiple queens per colony, and there can be as many as 300 queens for every 1,000 workers. In regular ant colonies, the goal is usually to eliminate the queen, but with Argentine ants, this is not an effective strategy.

Argentine ants are attracted to dampness, decay, and waste, and spread harmful bacteria wherever they walk. Because of this, they can easily contaminate food, even though they don’t pose any major health threats. These ants kill other pests and invade human homes. Some Argentine ant colonies can span entire city blocks. Because of this, Argentine ant control is an ongoing process, not a one-time fix.

Carpenter Ants

  • Color: Black, red, or a combination of the two
  • Shape: Segmented; oval
  • Size: 1/4 – 3/4 inch long

Carpenter ants are indigenous to many forested areas of the world and can be found throughout the United States, especially the more northern states. They build nests inside wood, which they chew with their strong mandibles. Unlike termites, carpenter ants do not ingest the wood they chew. When carpenter ants find their way into a wooden structure, they can cause significant damage.

Homes with moisture leaks are prime candidates for carpenter ant invasions, since carpenter ants require a constant source of water to survive. Unsealed gaps around pipes and tree branches close to homes provide optimal entry points for these ants. When carpenter ants are present, homeowners may notice rough wood shavings, rustling noises inside walls, or swarming ants.

Crazy Ants

  • Color: Dark brown to black with a gray sheen
  • Shape: Segmented; extremely long legs and antennae
  • Size: 1/16 – 1/8 inch long

Crazy ants earn their name from their frantic, erratic, and jerky movements, and they are found throughout the United States. They have a strange attraction to electrical equipment, and every year, they cause more than $146 million in electrical damage. Crazy ants do not excavate their own nests, unlike most other ants, and prefer to settle in whatever viable, enclosed containers they can find. They may also contaminate the food in your home, so they should be treated accordingly.

Crazy ant colonies are small, but contain many queens. One square foot colony can have up to 20 queens at one time. The number of queens, in addition to their erratic patterns for searching for food, can make them extremely difficult to bait and control.

Odorous House Ants

  • Color: Brown to black
  • Shape: Segmented; oval
  • Size: 1/16 – 1/8 inch long

Odorous house ants, also known as sugar ants, stink ants, or coconut ants, get their name from the strong, rotten coconut-like smell they produce when crushed. These tiny black ants love to eat sweets, and are especially fond of honeydew, a substance produced by aphids and mealybugs. They can be found throughout the United States.

Kitchen pantries are common targets for these ants once they have found their way into a home in search of food. Once indoors, they can contaminate your food with the bacteria on their bodies. Any food products that have been invaded by odorous house ants should be thrown away. These ants do not pose any major health risks beyond food contamination.

Pavement Ants

  • Color: Dark brown to black
  • Shape: Segmented and oval
  • Size: 1/16 – 1/8 inch long

Pavement ants prefer to live under sidewalks, patios, and driveways and in close proximity to human dwellings. They can be found in the eastern half of the United States, along with on the West Coast. From their nests, they will scavenge houses for a variety of foods, like sweets, meats, and dead insects. Pavement ants typically find their way into homes through cracks in foundations or basements, but are repeatedly attracted by scattered crumbs and trash receptacles. They are especially attracted to leftover pet food. These ants don’t cause major health issues, but like most other ants, they can easily contaminate food.

Controlling pavement ants can be difficult for homeowners as these ants live deep within the ground. In extreme circumstances, they’ve been known to cause significant damage to sidewalks and pavement, even causing it to sink as a result of their tunneling behaviors.

Pharaoh Ants

  • Color: Bodies are usually pale in color, varying from yellowish to reddish with darker or black abdomens
  • Shape: Monomorphic with segmented body
  • Size: 1/16 inch

Pharaoh ants are small, yellow, and known for being a major indoor nuisance, especially in hospitals. These ants feed on sweets, proteins and oils and are attracted to commercial food handling areas. They can be found anywhere in the United States.

Once pharaoh ants have gotten into a home, they nest in warm, humid areas near food and water sources. Nests are usually located in inaccessible areas such as wall voids, behind baseboards, in furniture and under floors. These ants often use electrical and telephone wires as a “highway system” to travel through walls and between floorboards. Colonies of Pharaoh ants tend to be large, with workers numbering in the thousands. They can easily contaminate food and are known to spread over a dozen harmful pathogens, including salmonella and Streptococcus pyogenes.

Red Imported Fire Ants

  • Color: Dark reddish-brown
  • Shape: Segmented; oval
  • Size: 1/16-1/4 inch long

These ants get their name from their ability to inflict painful bites and stings. They usually nest in soil near the foundation of buildings, and gain access to homes through HVAC systems and air conditioning units. They also have a habit of nesting in electrical junction boxes and gas and water meters. In some cases, they can also short out the electrical boxes. Red ants build large mound nests that are flattened and irregular in shape, and are between two and four square feet in size. They can be found in the southeastern United States, from Texas and Florida up through Virginia. They can also be found in the southwestern United States and California.

Fire ants will attack humans if provoked. They have painful stings that often result in a raised white pustule. Often, one fire ant will sting multiple times, resulting in multiple wounds. People who are allergic to other insect stings are likely to have a strong reaction to fire ant stings. Anyone who has been bitten by a large number of fire ants should seek immediate medical attention, as the anaphylaxis from such stings can be potentially life-threatening.

Red imported fire ants nest in distinct mounds, which should be avoided. Children especially should be made aware of what these ants and their homes look like to avoid being stung. Please contact a professional to handle a fire ant colony.

Ant Life Cycle

Ants live in colonies with a complex social structure and caste system, and are divided into workers, soldiers, and queens. Worker ants, which are usually nonreproductive females, are the most common ants to observe in day-to-day life. They find food and care for young. Soldiers protect the nest, while queens lay eggs. In many circumstances, there is more than one queen per colony, which can complicate the process of getting rid of an ant nest.

Dodson Ant Control

Many ant infestations can be difficult to eradicate due to the sizes of their colonies and how well they hide. DIY treatments may work temporarily or for small infestations, but if you have an ant problem that has grown out of control, the best thing to do is let a professional pest control technician handle it. At Dodson Pest Control, we can identify the type of ant problem you have and create a customized solution to help you get rid of it for good.

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