mid-Missouri Pest Information: Ants

Ant Identification

Ants are social insects that live in colonies that can have 1 or more queens. An average sized colony is comprised of around 4,000 ants. They can colonize in the ground, leaf clutter, or inside a structure. They have a 3-part segmented body: the head, thorax, and gaster. Reproductive ants are winged. These insects can carry 20 times their body weight and live an average of 45-60 days.

Carpenter Ant

Photo of multiple Carpenter Ants

Carpenter Ants are relatively large. Known mostly by their size and color, these insects are commonly black, however their color can range from black to red or even solid red. They have one segment to their waist and a long abdomen containing lightly-colored dull hairs. Though their name suggests otherwise, they do not eat wood and instead feed on plant juices and other insects. Black Carpenter Ants do bite and can spray formic acid, but they do not possess the ability to sting their prey. Most carpenter ant species establish their first nest in decayed wood and later expand or enlarge this into sound wood. Inside structures, nests are located in wood (preferably softened by fungus rot or water damage) in insulation, and/or wall voids. Outside structures, nests are typically found in rotting fence posts, stumps, old firewood, dead portions of standing trees, and under stones or fallen logs. Swarming carpenter ants can appear inside or outside homes and structures from spring to fall in central Missouri. Swarming black carpenter ants can easily be mistaken for swarming termites if found inside homes and structures.

Field Ant

Photo of a Field Ant

Field ants are large, (3/8 inch) often confused with Carpenter ants. They can be black, brown, tan, reddish, or red and black in color. Sometimes field ants are commonly called thatching ants because of their habit of constructing a mound of thatch of plant material. They are common around structures, but are not often found inside. They are soil nesters and may construct mounds in open fields. In lawns, their nests have a low profile, rarely reaching above the top of the grass. They also nest under objects like rocks, landscape timbers and firewood piles. Displaced soil is often evident. Items such as stones, logs, and bricks should be overturned and inspected for colonies underneath. Field ants don’t invade homes very often. When they do enter homes it’s just because they are searching for sweets. These insects primarily feed on honeydew from aphids, mealybugs, and scale insects found on trees and shrubs.

Odorous House Ant

Photo of an Odor Ant

Odorous house ants are small workers, around 1/16-inch to 1/8-inch in size and dark brown to black. When crushed, they release a bitter odor that is said to smell like rotten coconuts. Odorous house ants are the most common ant species that will invade homes in Missouri and the central United States. These ants can nest in a wide variety of places outdoors and inside. They commonly construct shallow nests in soil underneath objects such as stones, patio blocks and debris. Inside, they prefer areas with moisture such as around hot water pipes and heaters, but also will nest in crevices around sinks and cabinets. Theses insects forage when temperatures are cool, even down to 50 degrees Fahrenheit. You can commonly find their trails along foundations, flower beds, sidewalks and driveways. Odorous house ants prefer sweet items to feed on in and around homes, but also eat foods with high protein content and grease such as meats and cheese. Outside your home they will feed on honeydew which they get from aphids.

Acrobat Ant

Photo of an Acrobat Ant

Acrobat ants are very small; about 5.4 millimeters in length or less! They like to nest in moist areas and often can be found nesting behind siding, near a leaking roof, under rocks and in stumps or wood piles. These pests also like to nest in damage and galleries made by other insects. They like to eat sweets and meat and may emit an unpleasant odor when disturbed.

Pavement Ant

Photo of a Pavement Ant

Pavement ants are 2.5 to 3 millimeters long and are light brown to black in color. Their appendages are lighter in color than the rest of their bodies and have parallel lines on their head and thorax. They feed on a variety of foods including other insects (dead or alive meats. These pests will establish trails from their colony to their food source and often infest kitchens, patios, and other similar areas. They often nest beneath rocks, concrete, and in walls and floors.

Pharaoh Ant

Photo of a Pharoah Ant

Pharaoh Ants are tiny; approximately 2 millimeters long. They are yellow bodied with black and red markings on their abdomen. These insects will typically nest in hidden, well-protected areas such as walls, voids, behind baseboards, in insulation and other warm areas inside a building. They prefer sweet foods but will also eat other insects. Pharaoh Ants can spread disease and cause contamination.

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