There are over 12,000 different species of ants around the world, and the North American continent is home to around 1,000 ant species. Discover the different types of ants and their characteristics that live in the unique geographic regions of the United States.


Ants by Geographic Region
Image via Flickr by photochem_PA

The most common types of ants found in the Northeast include carpenter ants and odorous house ants. Carpenter ants get their name because they chew through wood to make tunnels for their colony. They’re typically black or red, and they grow to about a half-inch in length. Odorous house ants like to make their homes where there’s plenty of moisture, like near toilets, pipes, and drains. These small brown ants range from one-sixteenth to one-eighth of an inch long and get their name from the pungent smell they give off when crushed.


With its warm and humid climate, the Southeast is home to a variety of different ants. Fire ants are one of the most common species found here. They’re dark red or brown in color and around one-eighth of an inch long. They typically nest outside, and they pack a painful sting if anything disturbs their mound. While Argentine ants are native to central South America, they have created massive colonies in the southeastern United States. They’re dark brown in color and one-sixteenth and one-quarter inch in size.


Turfgrass ant territory extends from North Dakota to Iowa and east. They’re generally around one-eighth of an inch in length and light to dark brown. They like to build their nests underground on the sides of roads and on lawns. While they don’t damage buildings or other structures, their volcano-shaped mounds do destroy landscaping and fairways on golf courses. At about 1.5 to 2.2 millimeters long, thief ants are one of the smallest ants in the U.S. They range in color from yellow to brown, and they like to nest outside, especially under rocks.


Leafcutter ants love the dry and warm weather found in the Southwest. These ants get their names from the leaves they cut and bring back to their nests to grow the fungus they eat. While only around a half-inch long, these ants are very industrious workers. In fact, they can strip a tree of its leaves in just 24 hours. Another common ant found in this area is the honeypot ant. These worker ants gorge themselves on food until their abdomens noticeably swell. Then they feed other ants in the colony with this liquid.


You can find western harvester ants in the mountains of the western states. They’re between one-quarter to three-eighths of an inch in length and dark red in color. They prefer to make their nests in soil that’s already disturbed, and these nests can get around 35 inches in diameter. They’re also defensive of their nests and deliver a painful sting if disturbed.

The climate and topography varies greatly in the unique geographic regions of the country, and you can also find these different ants in each region.