Ant Identification Guide

Carpenter Ant

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).

Nests usually 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, rotting 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.

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.

Control Recommendations:
Find and directly treat as many nests as possible. Drione and Tempo Dust are good flushing agents when inspecting voids.

Check suspicious areas with a probe that will penetrate infested wood. Successful control depends on eliminating the parent colony, which is usually located outdoors.

  • Thoroughly inspect property and interview residents to help locate nests and identify conducive conditions. Trim vegetation and eliminate moisture problems.
  • For colonies in wall voids, inject an insecticide dust, such as Drione or Tempo, or inject voids with Premise Foam.
  • For effective perimeter treatments, apply Premise, Tempo, Suspend or Delta Dust. Apply spot treatments to any possible ant entry point. Apply insecticide sprays around the base of trees that possibly harbor nests. Place Maxforce Carpenter Ant Bait Gel on foraging trails, near suspected nest locations, where ants enter the building, in areas with water damage and on trunks of trees with ant activity.
  • Apply Maxforce Granular Insect Bait around the base of trees harboring nests, around buildings, along ant trails and in cracks and crevices where ants enter the structure. Indoor applications must be limited to areas inaccessible to children and pets.

Crazy Ants

Crazy ants are noted for their erratic movements and appear to be lost or confused.

Colonies are small, with up to 2,000 workers and 8-40 queens.

The presence of numerous satelite colonies may result in larger infestations.

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. Crazy ants prefer insects and sweets, but will feed on many household food.

Outside, nests are shallow and in soil under objects or in plant cavities, trees, trash, refuse, mulch and potted plants.
Outside, their preferred diet includes insects, seeds, fruits and honeydew from aphids, mealybugs and scale insects.
Crazy ants enter homes in the fall or after rain when honeydew supplies are reduced.

Control Recommendations:
Locate the nest by following the trail of foraging workers from their food source. Thoroughly treat each nest with Premise, Tempo or Suspend. In infested interior walls or in the voids of outside ground-floor walls, drill and inject insecticide, such as Drione or Tempo, or inject voids with Premise Foam. Access wall voids via electrical outlets and plumbing installation holes. For perimeter treatments, apply Premise, Tempo, Suspend or DeltaGard G. Use Maxforce baits in combination (gel, granular and stations) to help ensure bait acceptance. Apply bait(s) along foraging trails, near suspected nest sites and in cracks and crevices around the perimeter.

Ghost Ant

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. Ghost ants readily enter buildings, usually by trailing from nests along guidelines, such as foundations or via branches. 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.

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 prefer honeydew and insects, dead and living. Indoors, they prefer sweets and will forage for water sources during dry weather.

Control Recommendations:
Inspect indoors and out for nest locations or follow trailing ants to nests. Indoors, look near moisture sources, food sources, carpet edges, shoe moldings, electrical outlets, phone jacks and walls around possible entryways. Outdoors, inspect along foundation walls, patio and sidewalks as well as likely nesting areas. If nests cannot be located, bait with Maxforce FC Ant Killer Bait Gel along trails and around entryways. If ghost ants are feeding on proteins (e.g., dead insects, pet foods), apply granular insect bait along trails or into voids where ants enter. Treat inside nests directly with Premise, Tempo or Suspend. Dusting voids with Drione or Tempo is also effective, as well as injecting voids with Premise Foam. Treat outdoor nests with Premise, Tempo or Suspend. In cases of continual ghost ant invasions from outside, treat the perimeter with a residual spray and broadcast Maxforce Fine Granule Insect Bait outside the spray perimeter.

Odorous House Ant

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 are most 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).

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.

Control Recommendations:
Locating the nests is crucial. Follow the trail of foraging workers back from their food source. Thoroughly treat exposed colonies using Premise, Tempo or Suspend.

  • Dust voids of outside ground-floor walls and infested interior walls with insecticide dust, such as Drione or Tempo, or inject voids with Premise Foam. Access wall voids via cracks and crevices, electrical outlets and pipe chases.
  • A perimeter treatment with Premise, Tempo, Suspend or DeltaGard G will keep odorous house ants from entering buildings. Spot treat entry point (e.g., window and door frames and utility entries).
  • Bait with Maxforce ant bait stations, Maxforce FC Ant Killer Bait Gel and/or Maxforce Granular Insect Bait. Apply bait along trails, close to water sources and around entry points. Odorous house ants’ feeding preferences may change quickly, without warning, so be prepared to use multiple bait formulations. Bait in sufficient amounts to ensure adequate exposure of the active ingredient to the extended colony. If odorous house ants are feeding on protein foods, apply Maxforce Granular Insect Bait as a broadcast application in the yard.

Acrobat Ant

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.

Acrobat ants eat a wide variety of foods, including sweets and proteins. Workers like honeydew from sap-sucking insects (aphids, mealybugs, scale insects).

Control Recommendations:
Thoroughly inspect and locate as many indoor and outdoor acrobat ant colonies as possible and treat them directly with Premise, Tempo or Suspend.

  • To treat colonies in wood, drill holes into galleries and inject insecticide dust (Drione or Tempo), insecticide foam (Premise) or residual sprays (Premise, Tempo or Suspend). Access wall voids and inject dust or foam.
  • For colonies foraging from the outside, seal cracks and crevices and trim vegetation in contact with the structure. Spot treat likely entrance sites or make a complete perimeter application with residual insecticide sprays.
  • Remove colonies in firewood by discarding infested wood.
  • Place ant bait stations indoors or outdoors adjacent to the structure and immediately next to ant trails or where ants are numerous. Use granular insect bait around the outside of the structure. Do not apply Maxforce baits directly over recently sprayed surfaces. Apply Maxforce Ant Killer Bait Gel on foraging trails and areas of suspected ant activity.

Big- headed Ant

Most Big Headed ants 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.

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.

Control Recommendations:
Find and eliminate colonies in or around the structure.

  • For big-headed ants living in the soil or under items, treat each colony directly with Premise, Tempo or Suspend.
  • To eliminate colonies in wall voids or inside wood, drill into the wall base or wood where the ants are living and inject insecticide dust, such as Drione or Tempo, or inject voids with Premise Foam.
  • If the colony cannot be found, consider baiting on foraging trails or suspected areas of ant activity. Granular insect bait may be applied as perimeter treatments around structures and injected into wall voids and under baseboards. Where large, extended colonies are infesting buildings, inspect bait placements and replace as needed.
  • For large, extended colonies, perimeter treatments are helpful after satellite colonies have been found and treated.

Little Black Ant

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.

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 eat other insects, honeydew and sap secretions.

Control Recommendations:
Locate the nest or nests by following trails and treat each nest directly with Premise, Tempo or Suspend. Direct nest treatments with residual insecticides will be most effective.

Pavment Ant

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 buildings. 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 carpet 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.

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.

Control Recommendations:
Locate nest by following ants back from their food source.

  • Treat outdoor nests and cracks in slabs directly with Premise, Tempo or Suspend.
  • Dust voids of outdoor ground-floor walls with insecticide dust, such as Drione or Tempo, or inject voids with Premise Foam.
  • Apply residual insecticide sprays into expansion joints of concrete slabs.
  • Use Premise, Tempo, Suspend or DeltaGard G as a perimeter treatment.
  • Pavement ants are easily controlled with Maxforce ant bait stations, granular baits or gel. Bait along foraging trails or at entry points. Maxforce Granular Insect Bait may be applied as a mound treatment as well. Apply one to two tablespoons around each mound.

Pharaoh Ant

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.

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.

Control Recommendations:
Using contact insecticides will cause Pharaoh ant colonies to bud, scatter and reform as several new smaller colonies, this should be avoided.

Baiting with a combination of Maxforce baits is the most effective way to eliminate Pharaoh ants. Bait foraging trails and suspected areas of ant activity.
Place bait stations close to food and water sources. If nest sites are not readily accessible, use baits around suspected nest sites. Apply Maxforce Fine Granule Insect Bait under baseboards, into voids under cabinets and under heavy appliances. Inspect and apply granular bait under carpet edges along the tack strip by carefully pulling up the carpet with needle-nose pliers.

  • DO NOT spray or disturb ants or bait stations. Do not use cleaners around or over bait placements.
  • Outdoors, bait placement should be made to all areas of activity, including fences, foundations and roofs.

Red lmported Fire Ant

Fire ants are pests of the southern United States. Native fire ants rarely become structural pests. The red imported fire ant (RIFA) and black imported fire ant have spread to more than 13 southern and western states and continue to expand their range. These ants cause serious medical, agricultural and property damage. The RIFA is very aggressive and will sting repeatedly, especially when their colony/mound is disturbed.

Fire ants typically nest outdoors in sunny areas of exposed soil or lawns. If untreated, fire ant infestations may reach 30-100 single-queen mounds per acre, containing up to 80,000 ants. Over time, colonies may “link,” creating supercolonies of up to 250,000 ants. Mounds are rounded and range from a few inches to several feet across. Each mound has several tunnels just under the soil surface extending out several feet. After rain, nests in sandy soil are rebuilt with sponge-like surfaces. When disturbed, fire ant workers pour out of their mound and aggressively attack the offender.

Colonies generally have their own territories. They forage in established trails. Red imported fire ants will sometimes nest in areas of exposed soil within buildings (e.g., bath traps). They also build outside nests adjacent to foundation walls and slabs. Fire ants are attracted to electrical junction boxes and air conditioners. They also nest in gas and water meter boxes and follow pipes into the building.

Feeding Preferences: Red imported fire ants prefer high-protein foods, but will feed on almost any plant or animal matter.

Control:
TopChoice applied as a broadcast treatment will control fire ants for up to one year. Knockdown may take several weeks, so early-season application (November-February) is recommended. In-season (when mounds are active), a combination treatment of TopChoice and Maxforce FC Fire Ant Bait or Maxforce Granular Insect Bait provides fast knockdown and long-term control.

Thief Ant

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.

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.

Control Recommendations:
Locate thief ant nests. Follow the trail of foraging workers back from their food source. Inspect for other ant species that thief ants may be raiding.

Monica Bird (933 Posts)

Monica’s compassion for her customer's struggles with pest control issues and passion for pest control stems from over 10 years in the industry. With a master’s degree in entomology, she uses her knowledge and experience in chemistry, insects and pests to educate her customers.


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