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There are many distinct types of ants found throughout Tennessee, each contributing to the ecosystem in their own ways. However, this also means that during the hotter months, homeowners of The Volunteer State may see these pests appear in their homes or yards. This article details the most common Tennessee ants you’re likely to see in the area and talks about each species and strategies for dealing with them.
Common Tennessee Ants
In Tennessee, there are four predominant categories of ants that you are most likely to find in the wild or in your home.
Image via Flickr by Marufish
The most feared of the four, fire ants are quite small, no bigger than a quarter-inch long, with light brown heads and red, brown, or black bodies depending on the particular species. They are very aggressive and territorial, stinging people or pets at their first opportunity. The ants will bite down for leverage and then repeatedly sting the same area of their target, which is why the blisters they leave are so painful and itchy.
Fire ants are also a problem because of how pervasive they are. The ants are quick-moving and eager to explore and are often transported to other parts of your yard or even inside your home by hitching a ride on objects, such as potted plants. They also prefer to keep their colonies small, so they often split colonies and branch off to new areas, spreading their influence rapidly.
The largest of the four, these ants reach up to a half-inch in length, and are usually dark-colored. Some members of the colony have wings and appear during the spring. Although they do not sting like fire ants, some species will bite in self-defense, which is unpleasant to mildly painful. Their real threat is the property damage they can inflict. Carpenter ants are named for their ability to chew up wood, which they use as nest material. Vulnerable wood, such as water-damaged baseboards, are an easy target for the ants.
Apart from being undesirable visitors of your home, carpenter ants could also be a sign of serious damage. Addressing a carpenter ant problem properly means not only using pest control to get rid of the colony, but also replacing the rotted material to keep future colonies from coming back.
Unlike some ant types, carpenter ants don’t often set up a core colony inside a human home if they can help it. Instead, they live somewhere outside near a source, such as a fallen tree, and then establish smaller, satellite colonies in nearby human buildings.
Little Black Ants
Also called Argentine ants or sugar ants, these are the smallest of the four types, reaching not even 2 millimeters. They are not dangerous like fire ants, nor do they cause property damage like carpenter ants. They will, however, invade buildings and structures and multiply rapidly. They invade people’s homes for a regular source of food and water and can be found in basements, cellars, pantries, and other areas where they can find space and access to food.
Like all ants, the presence of little black ants is not sanitary and can encourage more pests to move in, so they should be dealt with if you find them. In particular, little black ants are troublesome because they are hard to notice and build nests out of sight, so it’s easy to miss them until their presence has grown out of control.
Odorous House Ants
Almost as small as little black ants, odorous house ants are not a risk to your property and do not bite or sting. However, they have a pungent, nasty smell, especially when crushed, and they will wander into human buildings for food and water, setting up a colony until someone notices them. They prefer moist places that are low to the ground, such as the underside of a woodpile. As with little black ants, they can contaminate food and encourage other insects to enter your home.
Do You Need Pest Control for Tennessee Ants?
While ants can be fascinating creatures to study in the wild or keep as pets, they are also one of the most challenging pests to eradicate when they aren’t welcome. Although do-it-yourself methods for removing ants exist, their effectiveness will vary on the species and the specific nature of the infestation.
In the case of fire ants, year-round prevention can be effective. Good yard care will help you spot any early fire ant nests. In the case of little black ants and odorous house ants, proper home protection is important, such as sealing up windows, crawlspaces, and other cracks and entry points. Carpenter ants, meanwhile, are best dealt with through proper home maintenance, leaving no vulnerable areas to attract them.
There is no easy solution to deal with all types of ants, which is why experienced professionals can make your life much easier. If you’re dealing with an ant problem in your Tennessee home, be proactive and contact a professional ant pest control team to fix the problem for good.
Fun Facts About Ant Species in Tennessee
- While many ants prefer sugary foods, fire ants prefer fatty foods.
- Some carpenter ant species have an acid that they inject when biting, which can make their bites more painful.
- Most little black ants are nocturnal, going out in search of food and water at night.
- The smell of an odorous house ant is reminiscent of rotten coconut. For this, they are also named coconut ants.
Between fire ants, carpenter ants, little black ants, and odorous house ants, Tennessee homeowners must stay vigilant and take good care of their homes and yards. In a healthy environment, these ants all compete with each other so that none will become overpopulated, but sometimes that balance is lost and one ant type grows into a nuisance. If you are curious about these industrious creatures or are looking to clear them out of your property, check out our ant knowledge center to learn more.