There are an estimated 22,000 species of ant worldwide. They can form massive colonies consisting of millions of individuals, and because of their ubiquity, they are among the most difficult to control pests in the world.
Common ant species include:
- Carpenter ants – Carpenter ants are usually reddish-black in color and 5/8 inches long.
- Argentine ants – Argentine ants are dark brown and typically 1/16 – ¼ inch long.
- Pavement ants – Pavement ants are darkish brown to black in color and about 1/8 inch long.
- Fire ants – Fire ants are dark reddish brown in color and range from 1/8 – 3/8 inch long.
- Odorous House Ants – Odorous House ants are dark brown to black in color and range in size from 1/16 – 1/8 inch long.
Carpenter ants are one of the most common household ants and can cause some of the greatest destruction to structures. They are aptly-named for their reputation of chewing through wood to hollow out “galleries” for their nests. These ant species come in a variety colors and will nest just about anywhere, including tree holes, wood piles, leaf litter, debris, and in moist or water-damaged wood. A key indicator of a colony’s location is the presence of sawdust or grass piles.
Ant Eating Habits
Carpenter ants like most of the same foods as people do, and are often found foraging for crumbs on the kitchen counter, dishwasher, garbage cans, and anywhere else they can access food particles.
They create satellite colonies consisting of worker ants, larvae, and pupae that are frequently located close to food sources. Carpenter ants will travel as far as 100 yards from their colony to search for food and water. Oftentimes, they are found in one structure, but may be coming from a colony on a neighboring property or wooded area nearby in search of food.
Carpenter ants are mostly nocturnal, so you may have difficulty spotting them outside your home in the daylight. The best thing to do for an infestation of outdoor ants is to inspect after dark with a flashlight.
Inspection of ants indoors will mean looking for satellite colonies, which are the most common types of colonies in structures, such as homes. If you don’t spot any, here are some other signs to look for:
- Ants trailing through the house – If you see ants trailing through your home, try and locate where they’re going and follow any ant that is carrying a bit of food back to the nest. If they’re difficult to track, you can also set out sugar water, honey, or freshly-killed ants along their path to track them back
- Look for piles of sawdust – Sawdust will accumulate where the ants are tunneling. Refuse, in the form of bits of non-digestible food such as insect legs and wings are also periodically kicked out of the nest.
- Listen for a rustling sound – When you have a colony of disturbed ants, they’ll often produce a rusting sound, like crinkling cellophane. Tapping on wood where you suspect carpenter ants may be hiding will sometimes excite the ants and incite them into making this sound.
Carpenter ants are generally detected in their satellite colonies, which are the most common types of colonies to be found in human structures such as homes.
Ant control methods will vary depending on the species of ant and their behavioral patterns. Contact a pest control specialist to assess your unique situation and determine the best course of action.