Ants

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FIRE ANT

Biology: This double-node ant is one of the worst ant pests in the U.S., in terms of human health, property damage, and environmental damage. Colonies may have several hundred thousand workers and dozens of queens in them, and workers very aggressively defend their nest with stinging. Their nests may be located in equipment, causing damage to it, as well as within structures. Nests most commonly are in the soil, identified by the large mound of soil raised above the surface, and they are particularly common in turf. The workers are aggressive predators, feeding on any other insects they find as well as small mammals or birds, earthworms, frogs and lizards. They dramatically alter the natural habitat when they move into an area. RIFA nests may go as deep as 8 feet in the soil, and have mounds above ground as tall as 3 feet and 2 feet in diameter. They are nocturnal except when the mound is disturbed, at which point they rapidly overwhelm the intruder, and on a chemical command commence stinging simultaneously. Nests may be found in wall voids, rain gutters, bath traps, and under carpets, as well as in electrical equipment. There may be numerous queens in a colony with numerous satellite colonies attached. Their spread may be by budding, and up to 200 mounds per acre have been found.

Identification: RIFA is identified by its red head and thorax and red/black abdomen. Long bristly hairs are found over the thorax and abdomen and no spines are on the thorax. The antenna is composed of 10 segments with a 2-segmented club at the end. RIFA may be separated from other fire ant species by the presence of a dark patch in the middle of the “forehead” area and a short, downward-projecting spine on the clypeus between the jaws. This is a highly polymorphic species, with various sizes of workers within a single colony.

CARPENTER ANT

Biology: The usual habitat of a colony of carpenter ants is within wood, often wood buried or partially buried in the soil. They also commonly establish “satellite” colonies that may be in a structure, maintaining contact between the two colonies with the workers who travel to and from over well-defined trails. Generally there is a single queen in the colony but often supplementary queens as well. Colonies typically are around 15,000 workers when mature, but potentially could be over 100,000 workers. Foods are both carbohydrates and protein, with insects a major part of the diet. These are single-node ants without a stinger, although they are capable of biting. As they expand their colony they eject “frass”, which is wood chips and other debris such as leftover insect parts. This frass is often seen in structures before the ants are, as they are primarily nocturnal in habit. Carpenter ants are also typically polymorphic, with various sizes of workers in the colony.

Identification: Worker ants are easily identified to the genus Camponotus by the single, large node and the evenly rounded profile of the top of the thorax. It has no dips or spines on it, but is an even, curved line from front to back. There is a circular fringe of hairs around the anal opening and the antennae have 12 segments. Colors range from tan to black to reddish to orange to black/red combinations. Workers vary from 6 to 13 mm in length.

ODUROUS HOUSE ANT

Biology: This is a single node ant that may easily be confused with the Argentine Ant, but when viewed from above the single node of the Odorous house ant is not visible, as it is tucked up against the abdomen. It also is a shinier black color. The name is derived from the strong odor given off when the ants are crushed, said to resemble rotting coconuts. Workers are all the same size and forage in long, distinct trails. Colonies may have up to 10,000 workers in them, and nesting sites may be almost anywhere. Outdoors they make shallow soil nests under any material on the ground, within hollow trees, or in any other cavity available. Indoors they nest in wall voids, under insulation in crawl spaces, or within cavities in the wood. Sweet materials like honeydew or other sugar sources are their preferred foods.

Identification: Workers are only about 3 mm long, and are shiny black to dark brown. They have a single node that is tucked closely against the front of the abdomen, and the top of the thorax has a slight dip in it near its mid-point. There are 12 segments on the antenna and there is no enlarged club. There is no circle of hairs around the anal opening

LITTLE BLACK ANT

Biology: When found outdoors this ant nests primarily in the soil under debris or other objects, as well as in open areas and in turf. The nest opening will have a small crater of soil around it. Less commonly the nests may be found in cavities under bark or other areas, as well as within structures in walls or under carpets. Colonies are small but have numerous queens, and will relocate when they are disturbed. Preferred foods seem to be sugar materials such as honeydew, but they also feed on protein from live or dead insects.
Identification: This ant is one of our smallest, with workers only about 1.5 mm long. It is related to the Pharaoh Ant and is the same size, but is a shiny black color instead of the orange of the Pharaoh Ant. It is a double-node ant and workers are all the same size. The antennae have 12 segments, with the last 3 segments enlarged to form a club.

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