There are many species of ants, but there are three species in the Northeast (other than Carpenter ants) that are of concern: the Odorous House, Pavement and Pharaoh Ants.

The Odorous House Ant is the most common, getting their name from the rotten coconut-like smell emitted when crushed. They’re small, 1/16-1/8 of an inch long, and black or brown in color. Colonies are often extensive, ranging from several hundred to over 100,000 thousand.

Like most other species, these ants reproduce via swarm. Between May and July, hundreds (even thousands) of winged ants can emerge and envelop everything in sight. Many homeowners think the colony of ants is inside their house; but rest assured, even if ant swarmers have covered the entire side of your house, the largest colony will always be outside. Nests are typically under lumber, firewood, bricks, etc. Often, this means that the parent nest isn’t in your house, but right next to it!

This allows for smaller nests, or satellites, to be constructed in your home. Just like on the outside, these ants will often nest near moisture, in wall voids, near pipes and water heaters or even wood previously damaged by termites. Ants can also enter a home when foraging, usually occurring when outside temperatures are between 43-95 degrees (after their food supply has run dry). They love to eat honeydew off dead aphids, scale insects and mealy bugs. Ironically, this honeydew runs dry when it rains, so they come inside to try to find more.

antsPavement Ants look very similar to the Odorous House Ants both in size and color; but, while Odorous House Ants nest near moisture, Pavement Ants build their nests in the cracks of pavement. Their colonies are remarkably smaller, averaging only between 3,000–4,000 ants with several queens. This isn’t to say that Pavement Ants won’t nest inside your house. They are just looking for a different sort of nesting place, specifically near a heat source such as in walls, under floors, in insulation or in foundation cracks. This means in June or July, you may see swarms of winged Pavement Ants crawling up the side of your house, similar to the Odorous House Ant.

Pharaoh AntWhile Pavement and Odorous House Ants seem to have a lot in common, Pharaoh Ants seem to be related only because they are ants. Their name originates from an old, mistaken belief that they were one of the 10 plagues noted in the Bible; however, they originated from Africa and have been strongly implicated in the spread of disease. They are very small, measuring 1/16 of an inch and are usually pale in color making them difficult to spot, especially if only one or two foragers are seen. They are most often seen in large packs, filing one by one after each other.

Pharaoh Ant colonies are very large, ranging between 1,000–500,000 workers. Pharaoh Ant reproduction takes place “in house,” without the use of swarms. Instead, they create new nests through “budding” (where five workers, 10 pre-adults and one queen will migrate to a new area from the parent colony and start their own home). This is when they often begin their nests inside your home, usually in wall voids, behind baseboards, in furniture or under floors. They require warm (between 80-86 degrees) and humid (at least 80%) spaces.

Pharaoh Ants cause many problems in the Northeast because they can’t survive year round. They must find areas of high humidity to overwinter inside (such as hotels, grocery stores, apartments and hospitals) entering via electrical and phone lines. Pharaoh Ants cause a particular problem in pest control because they do not respond to liquid chemicals. They have to be treated with baits or the colonies will “bud” into several additional colonies, causing a bigger problem.

If you see ants in your home, call Accurate Termite & Pest Control immediately. Store-bought sprays are typically only effective for contact kills and don’t leave a proper residual. Also, be sure to sweep and mop areas were ants are seen. Removing their food source will also help reduce the numbers of ants as well. You don’t have to feel “antsy” every time you enter your house. Accurate Termite & Pest Control can take care of your problems effectively the first time.

If you would like to learn more about wood-destroying ants, see our information on Carpenter Ants.

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