There are about 1,000 different ant species populating North America. There are only a few types of house ants that are troublesome in our area, but, as you reach out for treatment, you still may find yourself wondering, “what kind of ants do I have?” Some ants nest outdoors, some indoors, and some can do both. Identification is key to knowing where they nest!
Besides the carpenter ant, we will review the other common species in the order of their prevalence in our region.
These ants get their name from their preference for nesting under stones, along curbs or in pavement cracks. They are the little brown ants making ant hills along sidewalks or foundations or pushing up sand through the cracks.
Pharaoh ants are so small that they resemble moving bread crumbs. They have a light-yellow body and red and black markings on their abdomen. They nest in hidden, well-protected areas throughout buildings, including in walls, behind baseboards, in refrigerator insulation and other undisturbed indoor spaces. This is one of the few species known to transmit diseases, especially in hospital settings.
Large Yellow Ants
These ants are otherwise known as citronella ants due to the distinctive odor emitted when they are crushed. The worker is yellow and about a ⅙ of an inch long. They often nest in rotting wood or under landscaping elements near the house where they feed on honeydew, a sugar-rich sticky liquid, excreted by aphids on ornamental plants.
The field ant is often mistaken for the carpenter ant because its similar size and coloring. Field ants can be yellow, red, black or a combination of red and black. They nest in the ground and build mounds. They like open sunny locations as opposed to the dark moist nesting sites preferred by carpenter ants.
One of the smallest ants, they get their names from their habit of stealing larvae and pupae from neighboring colonies to use as food. Their other favorite foods include anything greasy and containing protein. Swarms of mating thief ants appear from June to September. They are very difficult to find because of their tiny size.
Odorous House Ants
Odorous house ants are a tiny species with a dark brown or black coloring. They can enter homes in search of food and nest in floors and walls. They are also able to build nests outside and crawl in through small cracks in your foundation. Odorous ants have a tendency to contaminate food products in the kitchen and, faithful to the name, release a foul odor when crushed.
The acrobat ant prefers moisture and will build its nests under stones or woodpiles or in stumps or rotting logs. Their abdomens look like hearts when viewed from above. They are common in New England but prefer to live and nest outdoors.