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The complete guide to ants

Ants will travel far to find food, water, and shelter. They will establish multiple pheromone trails leading up to their food source, which can make them a nightmare to get rid of on your own. 

The first step in eliminating an ant infestation in your home is to identify the species of ant you are dealing with. Not all ants are created equal, so understanding the behaviors of each species type is critical in developing the proper ant control strategy.

Request an appointment today to protect your property from ants. Call a Western Exterminator ant control expert by calling 800-937-8398 or you can set up an appointment using our online form.

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Ant control

See our ant control methods and treatments to keep your house free of ants.

What do ants look like?

  • Size: 1/16" to 1/8" in length
  • Color: Brown, black, or red
  • Body: Divided into three distinct sections: head, thorax, and abdomen with elbowed antennae

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Common ant species

There are many ant species scattered across the world. Some of the more common ant species in the United States include:

Black ants

(Ochetellus) - Black ants scavenge in kitchens, garbage, and dog excrement, and can potentially spread diseases such as salmonella. They come in all sizes and can be found all across the West.

Carpenter ants

(Camponotus) - Carpenter ants do not eat wood, but they like to live in it. They burrow in and set up elaborate nests that can significantly damage wood structures.

Fire ants

(Solenopsis invicta) - Fire ants are small red ants that can create huge swarms when a nest is disturbed or destroyed. These are one of the few species in North America that sting.

Harvester ants

(Pogonomyrmex spp.) - Harvester ants do not invade homes and are commonly found outdoors. They are known for harvesting or collecting seeds to store in their nests, which can be up to three feet deep into the ground.

Odorous house ants

Odorous house ants (Tapinoma sessile) are very common and found throughout the United States. Their nests are usually outdoors, but they will travel long distances for food and water.

Thief ants

(Solenopsis molesta) - Thief ants feed on proteins like meat, blood, fats, other insects, etc. Once indoors, they can be difficult to find as they are extremely small, meaning they can also get into areas that other ants cannot.

What you need to know about ants


Ants will nest in void spaces inside of a property and in the soil around the foundation of a home or business. Depending on the weather, ants may move their nests to other areas. In the colder months, ants will overwinter in void spaces in a structure, allowing them to be active in your home or business year-round.


Ants go through a complete metamorphosis, and the entire process can take around 60 days to complete. They go through four life stages including egg, larva, pupa, and adult.


Ant colonies can last for several years as one ant colony can have over 10,000 members. Some ant species have colonies that have two queens, resulting in a bigger colony as each queen can lay thousands of eggs.


Many species of ant will eat just about anything they can find. Some species feed only on plants while others prefer to feed on sweets or proteins.

Frequently asked questions

How do you get rid of ants?

To successfully ensure complete elimination of an ant infestation, you must get rid of the whole ant colony and their nest.

How long do ants live?

Ants typically have a relatively short lifespan. Some ants live for only a couple of days, while others can live for a few years. An ant’s life all depends on a few things, such as the ant species type and colony caste, nest location, and food and water access.

Does one ant mean there are more?

The short answer to this question is yes. The ants that you actually see in your home are only a small percentage of the whole ant colony in the nest.

Can ants hurt people?

Each ant species poses different health risks and problems. For example, fire ants can sting people.

What brings ants into the house?

Ants are looking for food, shelter, and water. If you have any tiny openings in your home (holes in window or door screens, cracks in the foundation, or openings under doorways), in addition to crumbs in your kitchen or food left out, ants will find their way into your home.

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