Ants are prevalent on almost every continent on the planet and have one of the largest overall populations of any species. They are an important part of the environment and make positive contributions to their natural habitats. If there’s a species on the planet that could be considered mother nature’s garbage crew, it would definitely be ants. Ants clean up dead animals, dead bugs, leaf litter, and other decaying organic matter. They also provide other species of insects and animals with a significant food source. Ants are responsible for aerating and creating fertile topsoil.
In the big picture, ants are vital to the survival of the earth, but when they venture onto your property and into the privacy of your home, they become a nuisance. Ants can spread bacteria capable of making your family and pets sick, which makes them a threat. They can cause unsightly cosmetic damage and structural damage within your home, as well. When ants have crossed the line and invaded your personal space, learning about the most common ants can prepare you to keep your family, pets, and home safe.
Ants are notorious for wreaking havoc in lawns, gardens, and homes. They enter these areas in the pursuit of water, food, and shelter. These are the three necessities that ants need to survive, and they are not picky about where they get them.
You can unintentionally entice ants to take up residence on your property and in your home by failing to maintain your lawn and having unsanitary conditions inside your house. This is why you must keep a well-manicured yard and a clean house, which will deter ants from intruding because it will be more difficult for them to get the food, water, and shelter they are seeking. In instances where you have a full-blown infestation, a professional pest control agency can be of benefit in helping get the ants under control.
There are thousands of species of ants in the United States alone. With so many different types of ants, how do you know which ants to prepare for in case of an ant invasion? That’s a great question, so let’s break down three of the most common ant species to look out for when experiencing problems with ants.
Fire ants are quickly becoming the most commonly reported problem ant for homeowners. Fire ants are an invasive species that are highly adaptable and spread quickly. They are capable of displacing and killing off entire colonies of native ants. Fire ants are extremely aggressive and will defend their nest forcefully. They have stingers and produce a potent venom that can kill small pets, young wildlife, and humans who are allergic to the venom.
Fire ants are burrowing ants and create their nests underground. The result of their burrowing is a mound of displaced dirt above the nest that can be up to 2 feet in diameter and 1 foot in height. Though they have been known to nest under crawlspaces and inside of homes, they prefer to nest underground in open areas. Fire ants often invade homes when there are readily accessible sources of water and food.
There are two common types of fire ants wreaking havoc in the United States, the red imported fire ants (RIFA) and the black imported fire ants (BIFA). The only difference between the two is their color. Their behaviors are nearly identical, and they both can be a significant threat. The RIFAs are dull red with a dark abdomen, while the BIFAs are dark brown to black.
Carpenter ants are quite possibly the most destructive of all ant species as they can cause irreparable damage to the structural framework of your home. Carpenter ants make their nests in trees, deadfall, firewood, and the structural wood of houses that may have been damaged by water or other contaminants. They have powerful jaws that they use to bore into the wood they are using to create the elaborate tunnels and chambers of their nests. Contrary to popular belief, carpenter ants don’t actually eat the wood they remove during their burrowing activities.
Signs of carpenter ants are relatively easy to recognize and consist of:
Carpenter ants are considered to be one of the largest ant species in the United States, measuring up to half an inch. They vary in color from species to species and can be dark brown, light brown, yellow, red, red and black, yellowish tan, orange, and black. They also have unique characteristics that include a rounded thorax, a heart-shaped head, and a circle of hair around their anus.
Image via Flickr by treegrow
Odorous house ants are some of the smallest ants that plague the United States. They measure between 2.4 to 3.25 millimeters in length and are dark brown to black. Odorous house ants are capable of surviving harsh conditions and can be found living indoors and outdoors. The most noticeable sign that you are encountering odorous house ants is the foul smell that they emit when crushed. The scent has been compared to that of rotting coconuts, bleu cheese, cleaning products, and rancid butter.
These are just a few types of ants you may encounter when experiencing an ant infestation. Spending time learning about the many different types of ants will benefit you as a homeowner. As you learn about ants and how to get rid of them, you will be able to provide a safe living environment free from the threat of invading ants for your family and pets.