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Carpenter ants invade homes and build their nests in dead, damp, hollow wood. Larger than the average household ant, they are 5/8 and can be identified by worker ants or swarmers (winged ants which can often be mistaken for termites). Carpenter ants are usually red, black or a combination of both. They can give a painful bite when disturbed. They can also cause structural damage to your home. Controlling them often requires the help of a professional.
Odorous house ants get their name from the odor they emit when crushed. Indoors, they are usually found near moisture and prefer sweet things to eat. You may see worker ants or swarmers (winged ants) in your home. They do not bite, sting or cause structural damage, and are primarily a nuisance. These ants are much smaller than a carpenter ant and range in size from 1/16″ – 1/18″. They are usually brown or black in color.
Pharaoh ants feed on almost any type of food, even toothpaste and shoe polish. They do not sting or swarm, and rarely cause structural damage. They can, however, spread very quickly and are difficult to treat. They can spread diseases and are of particular concern for hospitals. Pharaoh ants are 1/16″ in size and their bodies are usually pale, varying from yellow to red with their abdomen often darker to black.
The most common, bothersome outdoor ants are fire ants. Fire ants will sting anything that comes in their way or disrupts their mound, including children and pets. For more information on fire ants, visit our fire ants information page.
Another common outdoor species is crazy ants, a relatively new invasive outdoor ant in the U.S. They get their name from their fast-moving erratic behavior. They are typically found in the Gulf Coast region and southeastern U.S., and prefer warm temperatures and humidity, which means they do not prefer to be inside cool homes.
Crazy ants have multiple queens and hundreds of thousands of individuals, which make for very large colonies. Their colonies are found under and around rocks, leaf litter, the base of trees and naturally shaded areas. They can monopolize food sources – causing them to drive out fire ants and other insects, which can impact the ecosystem. Crazy ants will bite, but their bite is not as painful as the sting of a fire ant. They range in size from 1/16 1/8 and are typically brown or black. They often require the expertise of a pest control professional to treat them.
Ants are the most common pest problem in America, with more than 80% of homeowners experiencing ant problems. There are more than 12,000 species of ants in the world, but only a few types typically pose the greatest problems for homes in the U.S.
Ants are easy to identify because they have three distinct body regions: a heart-shaped head with large jaws and elbowed antennae, a smooth round midsection, and a ridged tail end. Some ants grow wings in order to swarm and spread their colonies. Winged ants and termites can look similar, but the main difference is that a termite has two body segments and does not have a constricted waist. Termites also have smooth antennae instead of elbowed, with four wings of equal size that extend far beyond the end of their bodies. Winged ants have four wings, but two are much smaller than the others.
Ants can be a problem in or outside a home, where they can contaminate food, bite and damage property. They can be difficult to control and treat once they are established. Many species are hard to identify to the untrained eye. Here are some that are common inside the home, including carpenter ants, odorous house ants and Pharaoh ants.
To achieve long term control and prevention of ants, some steps include:
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