Ants can be a nuisance, and in some cases, even pose health risks. It is easy for homes to be infested with ants when the conditions are right, and unfortunately, ants are easily pleased.
Whether you have ants crawling all over your house, or a colony in your garden, no one wants these insects all over their property. Of course, ants are a vital part of the ecosystem, but we would all prefer it if they stayed out of our way and line of sight.
Since ants are such unique insects, they can be extremely difficult to deal with and get rid of. DIY methods of ant extermination often result in wasted money and time, and winning on your own merit is a rare occurrence.
These hardy insects can survive a lot, so if you don’t want to waste your own time and spend unnecessary money, your best bet would be to hire professional services.
What Are Ants?
Ants are small insects found all over the world. There are over 12,000 ants species across the globe, and while they are common insects, they are unique in many ways.
The only places where ants do not naturally occur are Antarctica, Iceland, Greenland, and a few island nations. Most ant species live in decaying plants, soil, or leaf litter, but they can adapt to live in many environments.
Like all insects, ants have six legs. They are skinny looking insects, and have a small connection between their thorax and abdomen, much like wasps. Their color can vary, depending on the species, but most ants are black or brown.
Ants have antennae and typically have the same or similar body shape, but their sizes differ depending on the species.
In the United States, there are over 700 known species of ants, and only about 25 of those are known to infest homes. It is important to know which species of ant you are dealing with if your home is infested, as some may need different approached.
Below, we will go through the most common species of home-invading ants in the US.
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Different Types Of Ants
Although all ants have some similar characteristics, each species is distinct enough to identify with relative easy. Before trying to deal with this problem, professionals will need to determine the species before taking action.
If you are going to attempt an at home DIY to exterminate the invaders, you will also need to know which type of ant you are dealing with. Below is a lost of the most common ant species that are known to invade homes and properties across the country.
Size = 4 – 8 mm long
Colors = brown, black, mixed red, yellow-brown
Where they are found = Midwest
Field ants can come in different colors and sizes, and are typically found outside. This species prefers to form nests in areas that are mostly open, such as greenery, soil, or dead wood. Although these ants tend to stay outside, they can roam indoors.
This species of ant can defend their colonies by spraying formic acid, a substance that will result in low-level pain. Found throughout the US, field ants are very common, and are likely the insects you see by rocks and sidewalks.
European Fire Ants
Size = 4 – 5 mm long
Colors = light red-brown
Where they are found = North-east and Canada
European fire ants spend the warmer months outdoors in lawns, gardens, and shrubbery. However, in the winter they frequently enter homes to make nests. Their favorite places to nest include any kind of warm areas, like underneath water heaters and bathtubs.
As long as they have warmth and moisture, this ant species will be happy and make themselves at home. Like the Acrobat ant, European fire ants are known to be aggressive and will string when threatened. Their stings are painful and should be avoided.
Size = 2.2 – 2.8 mm long
Colors = light or dark brown
Where they are found = Hawaii, and Southeastern states
Argentine ants primarily live outdoors and will nest in shady spots. When they venture inside, they can be found nesting in wall voids. Thankfully, these ants are not able to sting, but will produce a musty smell if they are stepped on.
Size = 2.2 – 3 mm long
Colors = black-brown
Where they are found = throughout the US, more common near the Gulf Coast
Crazy ants have uniquely long antennae and legs, and can form nests in a range of environments. When they are outdoors, they frequently nest in soil, plants, garbage, mulch, and heavy vegetation. Inside, they can make their homes in wall voids, carpets, and houseplant.
Although these insects do not have stingers and are not aggressive, they will sporadically move around whenever they are disturbed, hence their name. These ants are very problematic as they have the ability to live in moist or dry environments, and are known to be common invaders.
Size = 6 – 13 mm long
Colors = broad range as there are many types of carpenter ants
Where they are found = Throughout the US
Carpenter ants can come in a range of shapes, sizes and colors. They are larger than many ants, and are considered to rank high as structural pests due to their behavior. These insects excavate wood to make nests.
Carpenter ants will typically make nests in outside places such as lumber and trees, but will also venture indoors to build bests in woodwork and roofs, wherever there is moisture. Some types of carpenter ants are known to sting anyone who disturbs them.
Size = 2.5 – 3 mm long
Colors = black, red-black, brown, and yellow-brown
Where they are found = Eastern US
Acrobat ants primarily nest outside inside damaged wooden structures, foam panels, and in moist wood. These insects can find their way indoors if the conditions suit them, though this rarely happens. They get their name from the position they take when running, which makes them appear as if they are tumbling.
When this species feels threatened, they will lift their abdomen above their head and resemble a tiny scorpion. Unfortunately, this type of ant is known to be aggressive, and will sting and bite if you get too close. While the injuries they cause are not serious, they can ve unpleasant.
Asian Needle Ants
Size = 5 mm long
Colors = black or brown with mandibles that are dark orange
Where they are found = Southern US
These insects prefer to create nests in moist outdoor areas with shade.They are relatively passive, especially when it comes to other ant colonies and species, but will sting if they become trapped in things like clothing. Their stings can cause welts and can be painful, sometimes causing anaphylactic shock in some individuals.
Dark Rover Ants
Size = 1.6 mm long
Colors = medium and dark brown
Where they are found = Southern states and Nevada
This species of ant are often found in populated areas such as parking lots, under large objects, and by the edges of grass. When they venture inside, they frequently create nests in kitchens and bathrooms where there is a food source.
Dark rover ants enjoy sweet liquids, and their large colonies can be problematic for households and those in public spaces. These insects do not sting, but the size of their colonies can be intimidating.
Other Ant Species
A few other common ant species across the US include:
- Odorous house ants
- Harvester ants
- Thief ants
- Black house ants
- Sugar ants
- Pharaoh ants
What Problems Can Ants Pose?
Depending on the species, ants can cause property damage, bite and sting people and animals, and even cause allergic reactions. While many ant species are only nuisances, they do have the potential to spread bacteria and contaminate food.
Many people dislike ants, not only because they can move quickly and potentially bite or sting, but because their large colonies can be intimidating to deal with.
What Attracts Ants?
No matter the ant species, they will be drawn to an area because of a food source and shelter. If there is a good food source for the ants, and a suitable place for them to turn into their home, they are likely to take advantage and make their home there.
Things like fruit, crumbs, sweets and sweet liquids are all things that will attract most ants to your property.
Preventing Ant Infestations
There are a few key things you can do to prevent your house from becoming infested with ants. These steps are as follows:
- Seal off the property – if you have any entry points that the ends could take advantage of, block them off. These entry points can include the crevices that are found around windows and doors, as well as sockets. Use acrylic or silicone to seal these points and ensure there are no leaks in the house.
- Clean up food – since ants are attracted to food and spills, it is crucial to clear up any messes you may find in the house. Crumbs will be enough to entice ants onto the property, so clean up regularly and make sure that food, especially sweet food, is sealed away where ants will not be able to get to it.
- Store food in airtight containers – on a similar note to the above, make sure that all food is kept in sealed containers where ants will be unable to get to it. If food such as fruit is beginnings to ferment, get rid of it promptly, as this will attract ants very quickly.
- Sweep frequently – make sure to sweep and vacuum behind pieces of furniture and appliances. Food is often forgotten about if it falls between the stove or refrigerator, so always check those areas and clean up regularly.
- Pet food – ants will also happily eat pet food, so when your animal has finished eating, get rid of the leftovers or seal them away. Do not leave pet food out overnight, as this is a surefire way to attract ants into the house.
- Seal trash cans – outside, ensure that you are using bins that can be sealed. If the ants are unable to get into the bins to get to the garbage, they will have no food to enjoy.
How To Tell If You Have An Ant Infestation
Because of their small size, finding out about an ant infestation can take some time. However, there are a few things you can do to check if you do have ants on the property. The telltale signs can vary depending on the species, but below is a list of things to look out for.
- Wood shavings – if you find trails of wood shavings around your house without an explanation, you can assume you have a colony of carpenter ants in the area. These ants will leave the trails as they burrow through wood and destroy walls and furniture.
- Sounds in the walls – you might hear rustling sounds in the walls at night if you have a carpenter colony living in the house. These ants are usually more active at nights and will gradually destroy walls, much like termites.
- Your food has ants – ants will be attracted to food that is left out, so if you notice insects crawling all over the fruit or any other kind of food, you have a problem.
- Checking damp areas – a lot of ant species like to make their colonies in damp places. Check areas like the kitchen and bathrooms, as well as wood. If there are leaks in your home, it is likely that ants will make use of it and create colonies nearby. If you find rotting wood and anywhere that seems to be constantly damp, get the issue solved.
- Ant colony – ant colonies are most likely to be found in your yard, so if you would like to know if you might have an issue on your hands, walk around your yard. If you spot an ant colony anywhere, you can assume that they will be venturing into your house. Even if they are primarily outdoor ants, it is unlikely that you want them in your yard, especially if you spend time outside, have children, or pets.
Dealing With Ants
If you think you may have ants in your house, you can try to starve them out. To do this, you will need to effectively clean your house and make sure that there is no food for the ants to get to. On top of this, you will have to get rid of or reduce the number of places where ants might want to building colonies.
This will include fixing any leaks, reducing dampness around the house, and getting rid of any rotting wood on the property. Along with sealing any entrances and keeping your house clean, ensure that there are barriers on wooden objects that could stop carver ants from getting through.
Unfortunately, at home DIY rarely work, if at all. Ants are hardy insects and can survive most things you can throw at them. Because of this, it is recommended to call in professional services if starving ants out does not work.
Professionals are equipped to deal with any species of ant and will come up with a fool-proof plan to exterminate the pests before they can cause any more problems for you.
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