Of all the animals in the insect class, perhaps none is more ubiquitous than the ant. They inhabit just about every corner of the earth and have evolved specialized abilities and social structures in order to survive them. From leaf-cutters in the jungles, to carpenter ants in the New England forests, there is amazing variety in the Formicidae family.
However interesting the ant is, though, they can quickly become a pest when they invade your home or business. As a highly social species that forms large colonies, a few ants can quickly be followed by hundreds. Ants are constantly foraging, and use pheromone trails to guide their fellows to new sources of food and water. If these sources happen to be in your building, you can be quickly inundated with ants.
The most common types of pest ants in New England are the odorous house ant, pavement ant, pharaoh ant, citronella ant, and ghost ants. The treatment for these ants is very similar. Another common pest ant is the carpenter ant–a serious threat to wooden structures. For information on the carpenter ant and it’s treatment, please refer to our carpenter ant control page.
Odorous House Ant
The Odorous House Ant receives it’s common name from the smell it emits when crushed. If this wasn’t unpleasant enough, it is a very hardy ant, and can continue on unimpeded even when it suffers injury (stomped, kicked, crushed). Pair its hardiness and unpleasant aroma with the fact that it is comfortable living inside or outside (in any condition), its colony can split into multiple colonies to optimize scavenging, and it is attracted to common food items found in the average kitchen, and it’s easy to see why the odorous house ant is such a problem pest.
Odorous House Ant Facts:
- Brown or black in color
- ~ 1/16 to ⅛ inch in length
- 12 segment antennae
- Release unpleasant smell when crushed
- found indoors and outdoors
The pavement ant, so named for its proclivity for nesting in the cracks in pavement, is another common pest ant species. While they are most often found outside, their omnivorous and varied diet will sometimes send them inside in search of food. Outside of the house, they can spread quickly and can create unsettling seas of black, tiny bodies across driveways and sidewalks. They are an extremely belligerent ant, and will often wage war on other colonies and other ant and insect species.
Pavement Ant Facts
- Brown or black in color
- Bristly spines on back
- Aggressive towards other insects / ants
- “Vent” their colonies in the summer and emerge from pavement
While less common than pavement or odorous house ants, the pharaoh ant can be an even bigger nuisance should it infest a building. These ants are originally a tropical species, however they can infest buildings with heat in New England; this is good in that they don’t spread from building to building so easy, but bad in that this quick breeding species will take up every available area of a building if allowed.
The reason they spread so quickly is through a process called budding. This means one colony will fragment into other colonies; and since they are not aggressive toward other colonies, they can easily expand across a building. Once established, they can be extremely difficult to remove. This species proposes serious problems for commercial buildings, such as hospitals, office parks, factories, and warehouses.
Pharaoh Ant Facts:
- Yellow or reddish brown
- Abdomen is darker than rest of body
- Very small, ~ 2 mm
- Non-function stinger
- Antennae end in “club”
- Almost exclusively found indoors in New England
When disturbed the citronella ant releases a pheromone that smells of citrus (hence citronella). It is not commonly considered a pest, however when colonizes in urban areas, it could present a problem. They prefer to nest in and around moist and rotting wood–they do not damage dry-wood like a carpenter ant or termite.
Citronella Ant Facts:
- Burnt yellow, dark orange, or reddish brown
- Very small
- Release lemony smell
The ghost ant gets its spectral appellation from its milky-white, translucent abdomen and legs. It is often confused with the pharaoh ant, and indeed share a few traits in common. For one, it is also a tropical ant, and prefers warm, moist areas. It can then be found outdoors during humid New England summers, and can move indoors during colder, dryer months. Also like the pharaoh ant, it is a communal species, and multiple new colonies can spring out from one. Therefore they can spread quickly and can be difficult to remove once well established.
Ghost Ant Facts
- Front of body is dark (black), back of body translucent
- Very small, ~ 1/16 inch
- Communal, non-aggressive (toward other ants)
- Prefer high-moisture areas
Ant Control (General)
Proper prevention is the first step in any ant control, treatment, and management plan. To prevent ants from invading your home, use of simple exclusion is recommended. By exclusion, we mean sealing vulnerable areas of your home. These could be cracks and breaks in the foundation and siding, openings around the pipes and plumbing, or gaps around windows and doors.
The second most important step in prevention is removing food sources that might attract ants. Because they are constant foragers, ants will eventually find the foods they covet (sugary foods). If they are in the area, and these foods are left out (one the floor, the table, and unsealed) they will be attracted and if one finds it, the whole colony will be able to find it. By practicing proper sanitation, sealing foods in airtight containers, and disposing of food waste, you can significantly reduce your chances of ant infestations.
Even when all of the above is done to the best of your ability, ants can still crop up. By combining best-practice prevention with the added protection of a seasonal pest management plan, you can eliminate even the most stubborn of ant problems. A seasonal plan will most likely include the use of ant baits in high risk areas, low-impact ant sprays, and routine monitoring from a pest management professional. For more information on how a seasonal plan–such as our Home Protection Plan, and Home Protection Plan Plus–feel free to contact us for a free consultation.
Call us today at 800.272.3661, or request a quote online.