There are about 570 species of ant in the United States. But of those, fewer than 30 species may regularly infest homes and other buildings, and only ten species are considered major pests. Here, we’ll discuss the seven most common types of ants – you’ll need to identify the type of ant you’re dealing with in order to learn how to kill ants effectively.
Carpenter ants – Carpenter ants can cause significant damage to wooden structures; these ants tunnel through wood but do not consume it for food like termites do. Identify carpenter ants by looking for coarse sawdust piles 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 enter buildings around door and window frames, through eaves, along plumbing and utility lines, and over branches touching the structure. They 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.
Fire ants – Many ants do not bite or sting, with at least one very notable exception: fire ants. They can cause serious medical, agricultural, and property damage. The fire ant is very aggressive and will sting repeatedly, especially when the colony/mound is disturbed. Identify fire ants by looking for nests in areas of exposed soil within buildings (e.g., bath traps), outside adjacent to foundation walls and slabs, as well as in and around electrical junction boxes and air conditioners, and gas and water meter boxes (the fire ants will follow pipes into the building). Take care not to disturb the nest! Fire ants prefer high-protein foods, but will feed on almost any plant or animal matter.
Pharaoh ants – Pharaoh ants have become a serious nuisance pest in hospitals, rest homes, apartment dwellings, hotels, grocery stores, food establishments, and other buildings. When looking for how to kill ants, identify their nests by looking in wall voids, under floors, behind baseboards, in trash containers, under stones, in cement or stone wall voids, even in linens and light fixtures. Pharaoh ants prefer dark, warm areas near hot water pipes and heating tapes, in bathrooms, kitchens, etc. They feed on a wide variety of foods including jellies, honey, shortening, peanut butter, corn syrup, fruit juices, baked goods, soft drinks, greases, dead insects, and even shoe polish.
Black ants – Black ants are the common house ants; they nest in woodwork, masonry, soil, and rotted wood. Identify black ants by their small, all-black bodies and look for their nests in the ground detected by very small craters of fine soil. Black ants feed on sweets, meats, vegetables, honeydew and other insects.
Thief ants – Called the thief ant because it often steals food and ant larvae from nests of other ants.How to kill ants? Look for thief ants colonies in cabinet or wall voids or behind baseboards; they may travel from one room to another by traveling on electrical wires; and they may be seen in electrical outlets. Trails will be located inside cabinets, on walls, along baseboards, and along branches of trees and shrubs. The thief ant is small enough to forage into pantry foods that are packaged. They feed on grease and greasy foods, proteins, dead insects, and even dead rodents; may sometimes feed on sweets.
Odorous house ants – Odorous house ants are most easily identified by the coconut odor that is produced when their bodies are crushed. To identify these types of ants, look for outdoor nests in mulch, soil, debris, logs, stumps, under stones, and under plastic outdoor tarps. Indoors, odorous house ant nests are usually found in wall voids, around hot-water pipes and heaters, behind paneling, under carpets, or beneath the floor. This pest is often found foraging for food in long trails over household surfaces and can contaminate food products. Odorous house ants forage both night and day and eat many types of foods, including live and dead insects; they are very attracted to sweet foods.
Argentine ants – Argentine ants travel rapidly in distinctive trails along sidewalks, up sides of buildings, along branches of trees and shrubs, along baseboards, and under edges of carpets. Identify them by the musty odor emitted when they are crushed. Argentine ants feed on sweets, fresh fruit, and buds of some plants.
So that’s the first step in how to kill ants: identify which type of ant you have. Stay tuned for our next blog, where we’ll discuss how to choose the right type of product to kill whichever type of ant you have.