What Kind of Ants Do I Have? Common Types of Ants and How to Kill Them

If you’re wondering: what kind of ants do I have? Congrats. You’re a clever cookie for realizing that the types of ants you’re dealing with matter.

And it really matters.

If you’ve ever been to McDonald’s in a foreign country, you’ll know how something can be both familiar and bizarrely different at the same time.

Ants are found on every continent except Antarctica, and there’s not a person alive who isn’t familiar with these ubiquitous insects.

However, ants are also one of the most diverse groups of insects around, with over 12,000 different species currently described. Yes, I know. That’s a whole lot of different types of ants.

So it’s hard to make a blanket statement about a group so large.

However, there are a few species of ants that are a particular concern to humans, since they are more likely to be found inside our homes.

Most Common Types of Ants

If you have an ant problem in your house, the chances are good that you’re dealing with one of the ant species listed below. So here’s a rundown of the most common types of ants and more importantly, how to get rid of them.

Pavement Ants

This is an extremely common type of ant that is often seen in homes and yards throughout the summer. Pavement ants get their name from their preference for building nests in sandy soil, often underneath paving slabs.

Over time, the nests start to form sandy mounds around the entrances and exits, which can be a valuable clue to tell you where these ants are nesting.

It’s unlikely that you’ll find pavement ants nesting inside your home, although it is possible. Sometimes, these ants will nest underneath the foundations of a home and emerge through cracks in the concrete. But even if they only nest outside, it’s still entirely possible for these ants to invade your home in their search for food.

Best Way to Kill Pavement Ants

Pavement ants respond well to bait treatments such as Terro Liquid Ant Bait.

Why? This type of ant is fond of sweet liquids – in the wild, they often feed on the moisture produced by insects such as aphids – so sugary baits such as Terro’s Liquid Bait are highly attractive to them.

These baits will be passed through the colony and will eradicate not only the worker ants, but also the Queen and the juvenile ants. And all that without having to spray any harmful chemicals.

However, sometimes you want quick results. And since pavement ant nests are often relatively easy to find, you may be more inclined to treat the nest directly.

In that case, Ortho Home Defense is a great product to use to treat ants directly. Just spray it on to the nest and enjoy the chaos that ensues.

Carpenter Ants

Carpenter ants are one of the biggest ant species in the world, and certainly the biggest commonly found in North America. Reproductive ants and Queens can be up to 1 inch in length! So seeing these ants inside your home can be a nerve-racking experience.

It gets worse when you consider that Carpenter ants are one of the few ants capable of causing structural damage to your home. They take their name from the fact that they like to build their homes out of wood. The same wood your home is made of.

And Carpenter ants have no problem with carving out nests inside the wooden structure of your home, even if the wood is in good condition. For this reason, carpenter ants are considered a serious pest species.

Best Way to Kill Carpenter Ants

Unfortunately, Carpenter ants do not respond well to bait. While it is possible to bait for carpenter ants, the results are generally poor.

These ants are quite bad at foraging, and will often go a long way from the nest in search of food sources. This means that they don’t take up as much bait as other ant species do.

For this reason, it’s often better to spray for carpenter ants than it is to try and bait them.

The smartest way to do so is by spraying around the outside of your house before you develop a problem to create a barrier that ants won’t want to cross. And if they do, a residual insecticide such as Bifen I/T Insecticide will continue to kill ants that come into contact with it, even once it’s dried.

If the Carpenter ants are nesting in your home, things get a little trickier. If possible, you’re going to want to find and treat the nest directly. This is an acquired skill that is often best left to a professional.

However, sometimes, the ants make it easy. If you find fine sawdust forming in a specific location and see ants coming and going from holes in the wooden structure of your home, the chances are good that you’ve located the nest.

Treating the nest with a dust, such as Terro Ant Dust,  is an effective way to take carpenter ants out. Don’t worry; they don’t have a union.

Pharaoh Ants

Pharaoh ants are a tropical species that has nevertheless migrated to more temperate environments. As a warm-weather species, these ants are rarely found outside in cooler climates. Instead, they build their nests inside. They can use any void space to create a colony, which makes them hard to track down.

Worse, Pharaoh ants create new nests by a process called budding. Pharaoh ant colonies have multiple queens, and these queens will sometimes split off with some workers and found a new nest away from the original nest.

This is part of the Pharaoh ant lifecycle, but the process can be hastened by stress. If Pharaoh ants feel their nest is under attack, they will start budding immediately, and one nest can quickly turn into five, six, or seven new nests.

Best Way to Kill Pharaoh Ants

NEVER spray Pharaoh ants. Never, never, never. Spraying Pharaoh ants with anything, even household cleaners or bleach, can make them panic and begin budding. By trying to treat the problem, you will actually make it much worse.

The only way to effectively deal with Pharaoh ants is through the use of ant bait. And even that is not always easy.

Pharaoh ants have a broad range of food preferences, but they can also be surprisingly picky. Their food preferences can change throughout the year, even from one day to the next. This makes it extremely hard to find a bait that will consistently attract them.

These bait stations from Raid are a good choice because they contain two different types of bait. Whether your Pharaoh ants are in the mood for something sweet or something savory, these bait stations should still be attractive to them.

But when it comes to Pharaoh ants, the smartest strategy is to switch it up every once in awhile. Go check out our article on best ant baits and pick up a few to keep up with the Pharaoh ants’ changing appetites.

Fire Ants

Fire ants are every bit as lovely as the name suggests. This invasive species has been spreading throughout North America for decades now. They get their name from their charming habit of stinging people when they feel threatened, so any treatment you perform on a fire nest should be done with great care.

Fire ant nests can be massive. In areas where they are thriving, there can be millions of individual ants per acre. Fire ants live outdoors and construct large mounds on top of the nest that make them relatively easy to find.

However, fire ants spread quickly, and nests often contain multiple queens.

Best Way to Kill Fire Ants

The best treatment for fire ants is to use specially formulated outdoor bait – the most effective option? Hands down, Advion Fire Ant Bait.

You can either sprinkle it across the lawn yourself or use a broadcast spreader to spread this gritty bait everywhere the fire ants have colonized.

The ants will find this food and take it back the nest, destroying them from the inside.

Fire ant nests can also be treated on an individual basis with an insecticide like Ortho Orthene Fire Ant Killer. This dust can be applied directly to any fire ant mounds you find.

Ants that come into contact with the dust will be killed by the insecticide, but not before they’ve carried some of it back into the nest. This dust works remarkably well with the only downside being that it will need to be reapplied any time it rains outside.

And keep in mind that while the fire ant dust works well for spot treatments, a granular bait is a better option for long-term control.

What Kind of Ants Do I Have? Now You Know

So now you know more about different types of ants than you ever wanted to know. While it’s tempting to think that an ant is just an ant, the reality is that it does matter what species of ant you’re dealing with.

The treatment that works on one type of ant may not work on another, and can, in fact, make the situation worse. So if you’re dealing with ants in your home or yard, take a little time to identify them properly before you reach for the ant killer.

Any treatment will be much more effective if you target it at the ants you’re having problems with.

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