How to Identify Household Ants

How to Identify Household Ants

More than one hundred varied species of ants live throughout Canada. Although most are nothing more than a nuisance that invade areas in and around your home, some can cause structural damage. Identifying ants can assist you in make sure you tackle your ant problem with ant control services properly.

The Most Common Species

The most common species of ant throughout Canada include:

  • Argentine Ants
  • Carpenter Ants
  • Fire Ants
  • Odorous Ants
  • Pavement Ants
  • Pharaoh Ants
  • Thief Ants

Understanding differences in appearance, colony habits, behaviour, and problems caused by these ants can assist you in determining which species has invaded your home. It can also help you determine what method of control is best to use.

Argentine Ants

Although Argentine ants can prove to be pesky invaders, the biggest concern is that they can find your way into your food and they are known to support aphids. Aphids eat the leaves of plants, which means unwelcome news for farmers. These enjoy the honeydew excretions of aphids, which is why they offer them support.

Argentine ants cannot dig deep into the ground, so they will more than likely build their colony under loose ground litter and small stones. You can easily identify these ants by their appearance, which includes:

  • Dark brown, almost black shiny colouring
  • Workers ants that are roughly 3mm in size (queen can grow up to 12mm)
  • Unevenly shaped thorax
  • Triangular shaped head
  • Single body segment that links the thorax and abdomen

Carpenter Ants

Carpenter ants are aptly named because they enjoy feasting on wood, which can cause structural damage. They can use their powerful mandibles to bite humans, too, although it is rare. They only bite when they feel a threat toward their nest. They prefer areas under wooden decks, porches, windows, and other areas where there is a lot of wood.

You can identify these ants using the following factors:

  • Roughly 6.5 to 13mm in length
  • Usually stay swarmed up
  • Carpenter ants have wings, often misidentified as termites
  • Antennae with an elbowed appearance
  • Narrow waist
  • Females grow between 20 and 25mm long

Fire Ants

Fire Ants
Fire Ants

Fire ants are a big issue because they will bite and sting anything that crosses their path. They are courageous pests that refuse to back down from even the biggest of challenges. Their sting contains an alkaloid venom that can cause an allergic reaction. If you are sensitive to their venom, it may cause swelling, slurred speech, shortness of breath, chest pain, sweating, and nausea. If left untreated, it can cause death.

You can identify these ants by the following:

  • Colouring that ranges from red to black
  • Size variations (workers grow between 2 and 6mm, queens between an inch and 25mm)
  • Two segments that connect the thorax and abdomen
  • Antenna that appear to have a segmented club on the end of them

Odorous Ants

Odorous ants do not pose any specific hazards to your health and do not create structural damages. However, they are aptly named because they produce a strong odor. Although they primarily build nests outdoors, they will enter your home in search of food and water. Also, they can multiply rapidly.

Identification of these ants includes the following:

  • Dark grey to brown colouring
  • Between 2 and 3mm in length
  • Pungent rotten smell when squashed

Pavement Ants

Pavement ants seek shelter under pavement-like material, such as sidewalks, foundations, and driveways, hence their name. They are also known to seek out a heat source, which is why you will find nests near garages. They may make their way inside homes and businesses during the winter months, too. They carry diseases and germs that can contaminate food, which makes them a concern.

Identification includes:

  • Colour varying from pale brown to black (legs are lighter in colouring)
  • Worker ants that are between 2.5 and 3mm, queens can grow as much as 6mm
  • Antenna with 3 segments
  • Noticeable grooves in head and thorax
  • Two segments that connect the thorax and abdomen

Pharaoh Ants

Pharaoh ants are a small species of ant. Despite their small size, they pose a large threat to the health of humans and animals. They are a highly invasive ant that often shows resilience to ant baits and other methods of ant control.

Identification of these ants include:

  • Coloruing that ranges from light brown to yellow, though the abdomen is darker and somewhat translucent
  • Workers grow between 1.5 to 2mm and queens are roughly 4mm in size
  • Antenna contains 3 segments
  • Evenly shaped thorax
  • Two segments that connect the thorax and abdomen

Thief Ants

Commonly mistaken for the pharaoh ant, thief ants have a very similar appearance. Thief ants prefer to steal food from nearby colonies, thus their name. These ninja-like ants will travel far to obtain their food source and can easily penetrate sealed containers of food. They are often resistant to traditional traps and do not find sweets attractive.

You can identify these ants by the following features:

  • Colouring that ranges from light brown to yellow, abdomens are slightly darker
  • Worker ants grow between 1.3 to 1.8mm and queens reach 6mm in size
  • Antenna containing 3 segments
  • Evenly shaped thorax
  • Two segments that connect the thorax and abdomen

If you identify any ants in your home, no matter the species, you should contact a professional immediately. Considering that some ants are resistant to traditional baits and traps, a professional is your best bet when it comes to ant control and prevention.