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Pest Guide - Ants

Odorous House Ants

When crushed, the workers of this species give off an odor which resembles that of rotten coconut, giving them their odd name. There is only one size worker in their colonies; they are usually about 1/8 inch in length. The odorous house ant is dark brown to black in color, has 12 segments in its antennae, no circle of hairs on tip of abdomen, no club on the antennae, one node, and has an uneven thorax when viewed from the side.

This ant lives in a variety of nesting sites, moving constantly to avoid the perils of inclimate weather conditions. Not only will you find huge super colonies, but many satellite colonies located close to the main colony. Odorous House Ants feed on living and dead insects but are particular fond of the sweet honey dew produced by aphids, scales and mealybugs. If found inside structures, these ants will eat many available foods but again prefer to feed on sweets. These ants will forage during the day and the night.

The size of colonies, number of workers, wide variety of food sources and multiple queens per colony make this a formidable foe to eradicate.

Carpenter Ants

Carpenter ants are difficult insects to control and can cause extensive damage to wood members in a fairly short period of time. Carpenter ants do not actually eat wood but excavate galleries within it to use as nesting sites. Foraging activity can occur at any time of day but usually peaks at night. When foraging inside houses, carpenter ants are attracted to sweets, meat, grease and fat.

A carpenter ant colony is usually formed by a queen who begins a nest in a piece of old buried wood or in a partially decayed tree or stump. In mature infestations, there may be as many as ten satellite colonies linked to the parent colony by trails. Colonies normally do not produce winged reproductive forms until they are at least three to six years old with emergence of swarmers typically occurring from May through July.

The most common way in which homes become infested is through emigration of an existing colony. Houses located near wooded areas or brush covered vacant lots are good candidates for infestation. Carpenter ant colonies are inclined to move if they are disturbed, as often happens during construction. Thus, new homes or those surrounding a new building lot present likely locations for attack.

Pavement Ants

Pavement Ants are small pests (ranging from 1/10 to 1/16 inches in length) that can be found in many parts of the United States. Each individual colony contains thousands of workers, multiple queens and is usually located at one particular site, but can have satellite colonies or build huge nests that cover hundreds of feet.

This is a two-node ant (has two segments or nodes on its pedicel) and is dark brown in color. Its antennae has 12 segments (which ends in a 3 segmented club) and its thorax has one set of spines. The first physical characteristic noticed (when viewed under a microscope) is the lines which seem to have been sculptured on the ant's head. These grooves are evident on the head and thorax.

The pavement ant earns its name well, building nests beneath and along the sides of pavement: patios, driveways, sidewalks, foundations of homes. These pests can also be found inside of homes (and other structures) in wall voids, beneath toilets and water heaters. They also will readily nest in and beneath insulation in walls and attics. Outdoors, you will see pavement ants nesting beneath mulch, landscaping, stones and logs, and also along curbs. The ant beds usually appear as piles of misplaced soil, without a distinctive appearance. These loose piles of soil occasionally will have a slight crater appearance.

Each colony of pavement ants contains thousands of workers and multiple queens. Swarming of reproductives can take place any time of the year but usually takes place in the Spring. If contributing conditions (heat, humidity, etc.) are not at favorable levels, a few swarmers can be seen in several successive days. This seemingly "endless" swarm cycle often alarms residents and office workers alike. With colony population numbering in the thousands, the amount of swarming reproductives can be remarkable.

Pavement Ants are active foragers who will set up trails along baseboards, beneath the edges of carpets, beneath toilets and other areas inside a structure. Worker ants will also readily move to different rooms and floors via plumbing lines. These lines not only provide a "highway" but also entry points, moisture source and (in cold seasons) heat. The small ants feed on a variety of foods, including grease, sweets, seeds and dead insects. Pet foods or any food dropped on the floor will quickly covered with pavement ants. They also feed on the honeydew produced by aphids and are an occasional pest of vegetable gardens.