There are several kinds of ants that may occur in and around the home ranging in size from about 1/32 to 3/4 inch long and colored yellowish, light brown, reddish-brown, brownish-black or jet black. Ants, as all insects, have three body parts, head, thorax, and abdomen. Most are wingless, but the homeowner sometimes may confuse swarming, winged ants with swarming, winged termites, causing alarm. Ants can be easily distinguished from termites by several characteristics:
Ant wings are firmly attached, while termite wings are easily removed or shed (fall off).
These ants are the largest found in Virginia. They are a nuisance by their presence when found in parts of the home such as the kitchen, bathroom, living room and other quarters. They do not eat wood, but remove quantities of it to expand their nest size, sometimes causing structural damage.
This ant is a serious nuisance in hospitals, rest homes, apartment dwellings, hotels, grocery stores, food establishments, etc. They feed on jellies, honey, shortening, peanut butter, corn syrup, fruit juices, soft drinks, greases, dead insects, and even shoe polish. Workers are very small about 1/16 inch long, light yellow to reddish-brown colored with the hind portion of the abdomen somewhat darker.
These ants are prevalent around kitchen sinks and in the cupboards, feeding on grease, oils, cheese, meat, dead insects, etc. They don’t seem to feed on sweets. Workers are very small ants, about 1/32 to 1/20 inch long, smooth, shiny, yellowish to bronze colored with two nodes in the petiole, a 10- segmented antennae with a two segmented club, thorax without spines and small eyes on the head. It nests in the soil or wood, robs the food and brood of other ants, hollows out seeds for the oil content and may feed on dead rodents.
These are the common house ants which nest in woodwork, masonry, soil and rotted wood. They feed on sweets, meats, vegetables, honeydew and other insects. Workers are about 1/8 inch long, slender, shiny black, sometimes dark brown with two nodes in the petiole and 12-segmented antennae with a three segmented club. Nests in the ground are detected by the very small craters of fine soil.
These ants may invade the home for food (sweets and meat). They feed on sweet juices such as honeydew of aphids, nectar, plant sap, etc. They build “cowsheds or tents” of plant or earthen material over aphids, which they tend. Workers are about 1/8 to 1/4 inch long, light brownish-yellow, and are recognized by a heart-shaped abdomen, flattened on the upper surface and curved below. When disturbed, they elevate their abdomens, directing them forward in an acrobatic manner and bite fiercely. They nest under wood, such as stumps, under boards, in hollow trees, under trash, rocks, in windows and door frames. They have an objectionable odor.
These ants occasionally forage indoors for sweets and other foods. They give off an unpleasant odor when crushed, smelling like “rotten coconuts.” Workers are brown to dark-brown in color, about 1/10 inch long. The petiole has one node (hidden by the abdomen) and the profile of the thorax is uneven.
These ants will feed on sweets and kitchen scraps, but prefer to feed on animal matter and insects such as fly larvae and adults. Ants present the appearance of running aimlessly about a room and, thus, named “crazy.”
There are literally hundreds of insecticide formulations labeled for ant control. Some are labeled for general use (homeowners) while others are restricted use (licensed pesticide applicators only).
In many cases, once an ant infestation has been found, control measures are best accomplished by a licensed, professional pest control firm. Homeowners often do not have the experience, availability of certain insecticides and equipment needed to perform the job effectively on certain ant species.