North America is home to around 1,000 different ant species, and the United States has about 700 of those species. With such variety, you know you will find ants just about anywhere, and especially in your home. Discover more about the common ants you can find around your home, including where they like to live and what they like to eat.
Image via Flickr by James Niland
The acrobat ant gets its name because it tends to acrobatically raise its abdomen above its head when it’s disturbed. The ant is common throughout the United States. It’s about one-eighth of an inch in length, and when you view it from above, its abdomen looks like the shape of a heart.
For the most part, acrobat ants like to live outside in dead or decaying wood. However, they need moisture to survive, so if you have a leak in your home, they will congregate around it. They can also come inside through gaps around pipes or cracks in the foundation. Once inside your home, they’ll make their nest in your woodwork and raid your pantry for food.
You’ll find Argentine ants throughout California and the Southeastern United States. They’re an invasive species that will displace native ants. They have multiple queens, so they can breed rapidly and create large colonies. They’re around one-eighth of an inch in length and a shiny brown color. Although Argentine ants like to nest outside under mulch, logs, debris, and concrete slabs, they’ll move into gaps and cracks in your foundation when it cools down in the winter months.
Carpenter ants range in size from one-quarter inch to a half-inch. They also come in a variety of colors, including black, red, orange, yellow, and tan. They live throughout the United States, but they’re more common in the northern part of the country. Carpenter ants need wood to make their nests, so they can live indoors or outdoors.
If they get inside your house, they can build colonies in your walls, crawl spaces, insulation, and eaves, and they can cause significant structural damage. You’ll see wood shavings outside of their nests, and many people mistakenly assume this means the ants are eating the wood. However, carpenter ants prefer to eat the same food people eat, including sweets and meats.
Crazy ants are an invasive species first documented in the United States in 2002. Since then, they have spread throughout the Southern United States, especially in the Gulf Coast states. They’ve also been spotted as far north as Massachusetts and west into California. These small ants are about one-tenth of an inch in length, and they range in color from dark brown to black. They get their name from their erratic and jerky movements when they’re searching for food.
These highly adaptive ants can live in moist or dry habitats. If they’re outside, they’ll build their nests under the soil near your house foundation or cavities of trees. Inside, they can make their nest under your floors, in the walls, and sometimes even inside electrical equipment. They can’t survive the extreme cold, so they’ll infest houses and buildings when the weather starts to change.
Fire ants are another invasive species. They prefer warm, sunny climates, so you’ll typically find them in the southern half of the United States, as well as California, New Mexico, and Texas. They eat almost any type of plant and animal matter. When you’re doing yard or garden work, you need to keep an eye out for their nests, which are in the shape of mounds in open, sunny areas. If these aggressive ants feel threatened, they’ll attack and inject venom through a stinger. The sting is very painful and some people can have an allergic reaction to it.
Little Black Ant
At just one-sixteenth of an inch in length, the little black ant certainly lives up to its name. You can find it throughout the United States, although it’s most common in the East. They prefer to build their nests outside under logs, mulch, debris, and rocks. However, they’re also one of the more common house-infesting ants. When they get inside, they’ll nest in walls, woodwork, masonry, and under carpets. They also eat a variety of foods, so it’s very common for them to forage in your kitchen.
Odorous House Ant
Odorous house ants are found throughout the United States. They’re black or dark brown in color and range in size from one-sixteenth to one-eighth of an inch. As their name suggests, these ants give off a bitter and rotten odor when crushed. When they’re outside, they’ll construct their nests under debris, rocks, and patio blocks.
These ants are another common household invader, and when they come inside, they like to build their nests in spots that are warm, close to moisture, and near food. Therefore, kitchen cabinets are their preferred location. You can also find them near hot water pipes and under your floors.
Pavement ants are about one-eighth of an inch in length and dark brown in color. They’re common throughout the United States. Since they like to make their nests near sidewalks, patios, driveways, and foundations, it’s very easy for them to make their way inside to look for food. They’ll usually gain access to the inside of homes through cracks in the foundation or through gaps around plumbing pipes. Once inside, they like to eat greasy foods, sweets, trash, and leftover pet food.
Since rover ants are dark brown in color and only one-sixteenth of an inch in length, they’re often mistaken for little black ants. While they prefer living in the southern states between Florida and California, they’re expanding their territory into western states as well. In their natural habitat, they like to live in the forest under soil and in decaying wood. In urban environments, they’ll move into areas of a home that have high moisture, such as bathrooms and kitchens.
If you see some ants crawling around your home, you can use this guide to identify what they are and learn more about them.