Ants

Ants are tiny insects that we all interact with on a daily basis, whether we realize it or not. They’re found in virtually every habitat, are adaptable to urban and rural environments, and are usually so small and harmless that we don’t notice them at all. Unfortunately, they can be a nuisance pest for the home if not managed properly. We’ll help you determine when you should worry about ant presence and when they are actually quite beneficial for your yard and lawn.

Benefits of Ants

While we do understand ants in your home are likely not welcome – the ants in your yard are doing incredible work for your lawn and should really be left alone. Ants are in their natural habitat outdoors and we need to share our green spaces with these tiny, beneficial creatures. Why? Ants prey on other pests, act as pollinators for our lawns and gardens, and the tunnels they build underground actually help aerate the soil, allowing air and water to enter more easily. 

Sunday ProTip: There are definitely ants in your lawn that can be harmful (like fire ants and harvester ants). Make sure you know the difference between beneficial and more harmful for your lawn and family.

How to ID Ants

While we’re certain most people have seen an ant in their lifetime unless you are very familiar with a particular species, most ants probably look pretty much the same. In order to address integrated pest management practices for ants, the first step is to at least properly ID ants from another type of insect. 

Quick ID (for most ants) 

  1. Usually between 1-5 mm long
  2. Range in color from black, brown, reddish-brown to golden 
  3. 1-2 nodes or bump(s) between the second and third body segments (think “waist” on an ant) 
  4. Bent or ‘elbowed’ antennae on the head
  5. Commonly confused with termites. Make sure to ID correctly! 
  6. Most ants are workers (meaning they don’t have wings)

So, What are the Most Common Ant Species?

There are roughly 1000 species of ants in the US. While we realize it’s impossible to know each one, these are two categorizations of ants we think you should be aware of: 

  1. Foraging ants, sweet feeding ants, and moisture ants
  2. Little black ants

A basic quick ID below can get you started on your journey to understanding what ants (from either category) you might be encountering in your home or yard.  

Foraging ants, sweet feeding ants, and moisture ants

Argentine ants

  1. Brown
  2. 2.2 to 2.6 mm long
  3. One node

 

Tawny crazy ants

  1. Golden to reddish-brown
  2. 2.0 to 2.3 mm long
  3. Erratic behavior (runs in all directions)

 

Field ants

  1. Reddish-brown and/or black
  2. Multiple sizes
  3. One node
  4. Often mistaken for carpenter ants – depression in thorax differentiates from carpenter ants

 

Little Black Ants

Odorous house ants

  1. Dull brown
  2. No obvious node
  3. Smells like blue cheese when crushed

 

Pavement ants

  1. Dark brown
  2. 2.5 to 4 mm long
  3. Two nodes
  4. Often associated with piles of sand on sidewalk or patio
  5. Will swarm in spring and summer

 

Thief ants

  1. Yellowish or tan (lighter than other small ants, except Pharaoh ants)
  2. 1.5 mm long – all same size
  3. 2 nodes
  4. Clubbed antennae (wider at tip)

 

Texas leafcutting ants

  1. Rust to dark brown
  2. 1.5 to 5 mm
  3. Three pairs of spines on their back and one pair on head

 

Sunday ProTip: Unsure if what you’re looking at is really one of the ants above? We can see why – most ants are really tough to ID on your own. Here are some great guides and resources to help you ID ants: 

  1. Ant Identification Resources
  2. Ants 
  3. Identifying household ants
  4. Ants In and Around the Home 

When Are Ants Active?

Ants in the US can be active all year round if located indoors. If found outdoors the range of temperatures can fluctuate, but likely need to remain above freezing. A heightened time for activity tends to fall between seasonal changes or weather. When temperatures or weather shifts occur between seasons, these ants tend to seek refuge indoors or in places with lower moisture levels (e.g. spring rain and flooding). 

Sunday ProTip: Be mindful in the spring if you do a bit of spring cleaning to note what areas in your home ants are entering.

Where Do Ants Live?

Ants are found nationwide, but some species are differentiated by their region and preferred habitat. Regardless of species, most ants are incredibly adaptable creatures and able to live indoors, outdoors, near homes and of course, our backyards. Luckily, the only ants that you really need to manage are the ones entering your home.

Natural Pest Prevention and Reduction Practices

At Sunday, we’re here to help keep your home ant-free this summer. A really important note here, fire ants, harvester ants, and Allegheny mound ants are really the only ants you should limit in your lawn. Other ants should be welcome within a lawn and will help your grass (and garden!) thrive. 

Having said that, here are ways you can avoid encounters and deter the smaller, less harmful ants from entering your home:    

  1. Clean and Monitor Food, Trash and Water Sources. Clean areas around your trash, compost, and recycling bins indoors. Store the trash, compost, and recycling bins away from both your house and lawn outdoors. 
  2. Seal Entryways & Add Screens. Caulk and seal crevices where ants frequent, and re-tighten doors and windows as needed. 
  3. Check and Remove Potential Habitats. Check and fix moisture-rich and unclean spaces inside your home to limit ant infestations. 

Sunday ProTip: Consider removing objects that ants are nesting under, including stones and landscape fabric near the home foundation outdoors. 

The Sunday Way to an Ant-Free Home

Sunday’s Bug Doom is a biodegradable, canola oil and pyrethrin-based yard and home pest control spray to kill and repel ants (among other pests) on contact and for sustained periods of time.

Here’s how to use it: 

  1. As with all pesticides, always read the label first, wear eye protection and full-length clothing when applying.
  2. Spray directly onto ants or as a perimeter treatment, thoroughly covering infested areas and ant hiding places.
    1. Indoor hiding spots include cracks and crevices, crawlspaces, storage areas, sinks, cabinets, counters, stoves, shelves, drawers, bookcases, along baseboards, around doors and windows, and behind and under refrigerators.
    2. Outdoor hiding spots include gravel, bark mulch, seams, and cracks in pavement, patios, and walkways, around the outside of raised beds and containers, and where pests may enter buildings including screens, window frames, foundation, roof eaves, garages, and garbage cans. 
  3. Repeat as necessary. 

Sunday Application Tips: 

  1. Bug Doom is available as a barrier treatment to keep insects out of homes, flower beds, and other protected areas, as well as a ready-to-use spray. Make sure to use the right one in the right place! 
  2. Avoid spraying consumable vegetables, flowers, succulents, and pollinator-friendly plants.

Cited Sources

Cochran, S. Ant Identification Resources. Nebraska Extension

Hahn, J and Liesch, L. Ants. UMN Extension.  

Merchant, M. Identifying household ants – Insects in the City. Texas AgriLife Extension Service

Shetlar, D., et al. Ants In and Around the Home. Ohio State University Extension.