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Almost everyone has experienced these uninvited house guests – ants! Ants are found on every continent on Earth except Antarctica. According to the National Pest Management Association (NPMA), ants are considered the #1 nuisance pest in America.
There are over 700 types of ants in the United States. Most people don’t realize that these pests can also pose health risks like food contamination and some species can cause costly property damage. If you live in Arizona, there are six particular types of ants that you may see in and around your home. It’s important to know what attracts ants to your home and the best way to keep them away to avoid an infestation.
These ants get their name from the way they obtain food. Harvester ants collect or “harvest” seeds as their primary food source. You don’t want these ants around your home because they can sting and when building their nests, they remove vegetation which causes large bare spots in lawns. Worker harvester ants are about 1⁄4 – ½ inches long and can be red to brown or black in color. Their midsection has one pair of spines on the top and many species have long hairs on their head forming a “beard”.
Their name comes from the strong, rotten-coconut-like smell it gives off when crushed. These tiny brown or black ants range in size from one-sixteenth to one-eighth of an inch long. Odorous house ants like sweets and tend to build their nest near moisture sources, such as in wall voids near hot water pipes, beneath leaky fixtures, and inside wood damaged by termites. Odorous house ants do not pose a public health risk, but they can contaminate food.
Argentine ants are an invasive species that are typically light to dark brown in color and range in size between 2.2 to 2.8 mm long. They are wingless and give off a musty odor when crushed. The most common sign of an Argentine ant infestation is seeing the trails of ants. They travel in wide trails usually up buildings and trees and into homes. Argentine ants are resilient and reproduce easily. Consequently, an infestation can quickly reappear. It’s important to contact a pest control professional to perform a thorough inspection of your home to identify the source of the infestation.
Pavement ants make their nests in cracks in the pavement or outdoors underneath stones, as well as indoors within walls and floors. These ants will eat almost anything including insects, bread, meat, nuts, and cheese. To find these items, they may forage for distances up to 30 feet. To prevent pavement ants, eliminate standing water from your property, keep tree branches and other plants cut back from the house, and make sure that there are no cracks or little openings around your home.
These ants build large mound nests that are flattened, irregular in shape, and between 2-4 square feet in size. Fire ants usually nest in soil near structural foundations or in landscaping. Although most often found outdoors, they can gain access to buildings through HVAC systems and AC units. They can inflict painful bites and stings which often result in a raised welt that becomes a white pustule. A person stung by fire ants will receive multiple stings from more than one ant. People who are allergic to insect stings will react more severely to fire ant stings. If you see a fire ant nest, do not disturb it and contact a pest professional for help.
Carpenter ants excavate wood by creating smooth tunnels inside to build their nests. They do not eat the wood, but chew through it to create nests. A mature colony contains about 10-20,000 workers. Swarmers can appear from February through June. Carpenter ants vary in size and can be anywhere from ½” to ⅝” long. Black is the most common color, but carpenter ants can also be a combination of black and red. They may also be completely red or brown. Carpenter ants prefer to attack wood softened by fungus and are often associated with moisture problems. It’s important to eliminate excess moisture and be on the lookout for soft, rotting wood around the home.
Identifying the correct ant species is critical to solving an ant infestation in your home. This can be a challenge for someone without proper training. The best thing to do is to contact a pest professional. Western Exterminator’s pest specialists will identify the type of ants you have and develop a customized plan to eliminate and control ants in your home. Contact us to get started today.