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Common types of ants

In the Western United States, there are a number of different types of ants that you can encounter. Black ants are extremely common, but you could be seeing carpenter ants or other little black ants. Other ants like odorous house ants and pavement ants can also be a threat to your home, but that doesn't account for all of the different ant species out there.

It's also important to know that depending on which ant you're seeing could mean a difference in how you get rid of them. While the easiest way to avoid an infestation is to prevent ants from your home in the first place, you might find yourself seeing ants around your home that need identifying.

Western Exterminator knows how to identify which ant you are seeing and can provide the ant control solution to get rid of ants for good. Check out the different ants you could see or call us at 800-837-5520.

Start living ant-free today with Western Exterminator

Different ant species

Some ant species live in colonies that are supported by a single queen while others are supported by multiple queens. Although there are 1,000 ant species known in the U.S., there are relatively few that we commonly see as pests. These include:

Argentine ant

(linepithema humile)

Argentine Ant


  • Workers about 1.6mm long.
  • Light to dark brown in color.
  • Do not swarm.
  • Bite – do not sting.


  • Worker ants produced in spring and increase in numbers up until autumn.
  • Winged ants (reproductive Kings and Queens), produced in early spring, before the workers, mature within three months and mate soon afterwards.
  • Argentine ants mate in their nest so no swarming is seen.


  • Worker ants will follow food trails for long distances so nests are not easy to track.
  • They prefer sweet foods but will also eat live and dead insects, meats, cereals and damaged fruit.
  • Argentine ants drive out other ant species from an area.

Carpenter ant

(camponotus pennsylvanicus)

Carpenter Ant


  • Workers - 1/4’ long.
  • queen - ½” long
  • Blackish color most common but can also be black and red
  • 6 legs.


  • Swarms appear in the spring
  • Colonies of carpenter ants can live from 3-6 years


  • Locations - both moist and dry wood, but prefer moist, especially wood dampened by water leaks.
  • Internally - excavate galleries in wood with a smooth appearance.
  • Externally - sometimes hollow out sections of trees.
  • Visibility - hunt for food mainly at night but also during the day in early spring / summer. They do not eat wood. In homes they are attracted to sweet substances, fats, grease, and meats.
  • Contact - rarely come into contact with people, but if they do will try to escape. They cannot sting.

Fire ant

(solenopsis spp)

Red Imported Fire Ant


  • Queens 5/8" long. 
  • Workers 1/8"-1/4" long. 
  • Coppery–brown on the head and body, with a darker abdomen. 
  • Solenopsis has a very distinctive two–segment antennal club, which is most visible in the front view of the female reproductive ant.


  • After swarming from the nest and mating, the queen searches for a suitable spot to lay her eggs. Once found, she can lay up to 125 eggs in late Spring. 
  • Larvae hatch within 8 to 10 days, and the pupal stage lasts for 9 to 16 days. 
  • Larvae feed on secretions from the queen’s salivary glands and broken down wing muscles until the first worker ants emerge. After this first batch of larvae molt into workers the queen’s role returns to egg laying – she can lay up to 1500 per day. Worker ants continue with larval care, nest building and food foraging. 
  • Fertile males are produced later in the season.


  • Foraging workers diet consists of dead animals, including insects, earthworms, and vertebrates. Workers also collect honeydew and forage for sweet food, proteins, and fats. 
  • Swarming characteristics – mating between queens and fertile males takes place on the wing mid to late Summer. Males perish after mating. 
  • Nest locations can be a mound of up to 40 cm or next to objects found on the ground, e.g. logs. 
  • If aggravated, these react aggressively and can inflict a painful sting, resulting in a pustule some 48 hours later. 
  • These ants are a major agricultural and urban pest, destroying crops and invading residential areas both outdoors and indoors.

Pharaoh’s ant

(monomorium pharaonis)

Pharaoh Ant


  • Workers 1.5-2mm long, yellow-brown with brown abdomen.
  • Males 3mm long, black, winged.
  • Queens 3.5-6mm long, dark red in color with wings.
  • Black eyes, 2 small segments at the pedicel.

Life cycle

  • Multi-queen colonies.
  • Swarming can take place at any time of the year.
  • Winged adults seldom fly so rarely seen. Wings are soon lost after mating.


  • Well–defined trails are laid which are often associated with heating systems. Feeds indoors on high protein foods — meat, fats, blood, dead insects, etc.
  • Swarming characteristics — new colonies are often formed through nests that have been disturbed e.g., as a result of insecticide spray treatments.
  • Each queen produces up to 3,500 eggs in its lifetime.
  • Nest locations — deep seated in cavities in heated buildings. Often found in hospitals. Associated with humid conditions. Colonies can range from a few dozen to 300,000 individuals.

Sugar ant

(Camponotus consobrinus)

Sugar ant image


  • Sugar ants are typically 1/16 -⅛ of an inch.
  • Females have orange colored bodies while males are completely black and winged.
  • Sugar ants cannot sting but the larger species do have very powerful jaws and can deliver a painful bite.
  • These ants also work in two separate castes: major soldiers and minor workers. Soldiers are more robust looking, while the workers or minor, and are more slender.


  • Sugar ants are also a major issue around the springtime in Washington, Oregon and in other areas in the Pacific Northwest.
  • Since sugar ants thrive in moisture ridden environments, places like Seattle and Portland, which experience higher amounts of rainfall compared to the rest of the United States, are more likely to experience an infestation.


  • Sugar ants get their name from feeding on sweet items, normally seen around a home kitchen, sometimes in bathrooms.
  • These ants are attracted to moisture, so any room in the house where there is a high water content, like bathroom or kitchen sinks, will be subject to sugar ant infestation. If you have any type of sugar in your kitchen, chances are it will attract sugar ants. While most sugar ants feed on nectar, most will find solace in any form of sugar like agave nectar, honey or maple syrup.
  • While not harmful, sugar ants can easily infest your property if you do not take the proper precautions.
Start living ant-free today with Western Exterminator

Thief ant

(solenopsis molesta)

Thief Ant


  • Body color ranges from brown to pale yellow
  • Two enlarged club segments at the end of antennae

Life cycle

  • Multi-queen colonies.
  • Mating flights take place in late July to early Fall
  • Some mated females may return to the nest after the nuptial flight


  • Nests are located in very small cavities; under debris or objects on soil, behind wall paneling or loose floor molding, and within wall voids or cabinets.
  • They feed on meats, breads, fruits, animal fats, oils, nuts, and dairy products, but will readily feed on sweets.
  • Outside, they will look for almost anything organic, including insects, honeydew, seeds and germinating seeds.

Harvester ant

(pogonomyrmex spp.)

Harvester ants, also known as “red ants,” are famous for their seed collecting and painful stings. Harvesters, as the name implies, harvest seeds. Grass seeds make up the majority of their diet. Easy to identify, harvester ants are large and build distinct mounds in open grasslands and deserts. They use their strong jaws to grind seeds down and then place them in storage areas called ‘granaries‘ in their nests. Harvester ants deliver a painful sting and can damage lawns and vegetation as they forage for food.

Nests of harvester ants are typically located in exposed sandy soil, with nests having as many as 10 entrances. The mound-shaped nests are moderate to large in size and can be found in arid grasslands, lawns, and playgrounds. They create large circular nest clearings, stripping vegetation and contributing to soil erosion. While they prefer the outdoors and do not typically invade homes and buildings, harvester ants do establish nests in lawns and gardens close to homes, often destroying vegetation. Harvester ants swarm to reproduce, and swarming typically takes place between June and October, especially in the afternoon after a rain event.

Although they do not invade homes, harvester ants are occasional pests on lawns and playgrounds, where people may get stung by them. Harvester ants are famous for their sting. Unlike most ants, harvester ants leave their stinger in the wound. According to experts, harvester ants will readily attack humans and smaller animals. Anaphylactic reactions have been reported from harvester ant stings. If you suspect a harvester ant infestation, it is recommended to contact a licensed ant expert.

Harvester Ant


  • Orange to reddish, reddish to dark brown to brownish black.
  • Long hair under the chin

Life cycle

  • Swarm from June to October, but most commonly in August and September.
  • Colonies have been documented to live as many as 17 years.
  • Males die soon after mating


  • When swarming, they will often fly to a high spot, such as a tower on a building, before moving on.
  • Their favorite food is the seeds of different types of grasses.
  • Harvester ants do not invade homes and are found outdoors.
  • Nest locations — 10 to 15 feet deep into the ground and they clear an area ranging from 1 to 35 feet in diameter around the entrance hole

Black house ant



  • Shiny and black.
  • 2.5 - 3mm long.


  • Larva hatches out of the egg as a white grub which is narrower towards the head. They are fed by the adults.
  • The larva pupates and appears creamy-white, looking similar to an adult. Sometimes they have a protective silk cocoon around them.
  • The adult emerges with the three defined body sections: head, thorax and abdomen.
  • The length of time between the egg stage and ants emerging as adults can take 6 weeks or more; it depends on a variety of factors such as the species of ant, the temperature and the availability of food.
  • Fertilized eggs become female, unfertilized become males.


  • These ants are regarded as a nuisance and scavenge in kitchens, garbage and also dog excrement, therefore potentially spreading diseases such as salmonella.
  • 'Common Ants' include the intensely black 'Black House Ants', and they are attracted to sweets.
  • The light yellowish brown 'Coastal Brown Ant' prefers to feed on meat products and grease.
  • The most effective control measure is to find the colony and treat it.

Odorous house ant

(tapinoma sessile)

Odorous House Ant


  • Black or brown bodies 
  • 1/16″ to 1/8″
  • Live in colonies of up to 100,000 members
  • No stinger

Life cycle

  • Commonly nest in and/or around houses
  • Become numerous and spread during spring and summer
  • During winter, return to a central nest location
  • Can re-infest homes again and again unless nest is removed


  • Known for strong rotten coconut or rancid butter smell when squished 
  • Feed on dead insects and sugary substances 
  • Seen in kitchens, bathrooms, cupboards or anywhere food crumbs or food residue is found
  • Commonly nest in or around houses and in wall voids



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