What To Know About Ants

In North America, there is over 1000 species of ants[1]. Despite this large number, only a few of these species are prone to invading households or disrupting crops and agricultural development. For the most part, ants are important to many ecosystems as they forage, harvest and help recycle nutrients.

However, of the few species that do enter homes and wreak havoc in bathrooms, kitchens and food pantries, most are often pushed to do so based on outside weather conditions. In the case of Argentine ants, household infestations most often occur during the extremes of heat and drought as well as heavy rains[2]. These conditions force ants and their colonies to search for a better place to live and will often push them indoors.

The most common ant species found throughout the United States are acrobatcarpentercrazylittle blackodorous house, and pavement ant species.

In addition to those , there are several species that are more commonly found in specific regions. Since ants are attracted to damp wood and excess moisture, more species can be found in the Southern US.

Ant Species by Region

map of regional ants

Allegheny Ant

Cornfield Ant

Ghost Ant

White-Footed Ant

Big-headed Ant

Argentine Ant

Thief Ant
Pharoah Ant
Pyramid Ant

How To Eliminate Infestations

The key factor in eliminating ant infestations is to recognize which type of ant species you are encountering. It may be helpful to research their foraging habits and how large their colonies can get. This may help you identify where best to place the bait stations in your home and how many locations will require one.

Many species are drawn to high-protein food and sugar as well as phermone-based baits. According to an article in Annals of the Entomological Society of America by Deborah Gordon, Ph.D., “…each forager ant leaves the nest to search for a seed and then comes back and waits inside the nest, and it uses the rate at which it meets other ants returning with seeds to decide whether to leave again on its next trip. This creates a kind of positive feedback: The more food there is out there, the more quickly ants find it and come back, and the more quickly more ants go out again.[3]

Taking notice of how fast ants gather around a food source or bait is a clear indication of how much the colony is aware of food being present. Usually, a lot of ants might be disconcerting but when using the baits the more ants drawn to the station the more effective the bait will be in reducing the colony size. Bait stations or insecticides that target not only worker or foraging ants but also the queen can help speed up the process of removing the infestation. Having bait stations ready whenever weather conditions present ideal conditions for more ants, is also a proactive way to prevent ant colonies from getting too big.
[1]North American Ants, 13 et al. http://www.myrmecos.net/north-american-ant/ 
[2]Stanford University. “Household Ant Invasions Are Determined By Weather, Not Pesticide Use, New Study Finds.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 27 April 2001. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2001/04/010427072453.htm
[3]Movement, Encounter Rate, and Collective Behavior in Ant Colonies“, Deborah Gordon, Ph.D., Oxford Academic, 20, November 2020. https://academic.oup.com/aesa/advance-article/doi/10.1093/aesa/saaa036/5973963

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ADDITIONAL INFORMATION
argentine ants

Spotlight on an Invasive Ant Species

One of the most widely recognized invasive species in North America is the Argentine ant. The Argentine ant is native to Northern Argentina and it is a globally distributed invasive pest in urban, natural, and agricultural habitats [4].

Unlike the invasive imported fire ant, argentine ants do not sting or threaten humans. However, they have emerged as a threat to existing ant species due to their aggressive expansion into competing colonies. They are also one of the few species of ants that do not compete with other Argentine colonies; hence, creating super-colonies. They can displace native species and disrupt the food source of larger animals.

Their colonies build underground and are difficult to target with aerosols and other sprays when found inside homes. Bait stations counter this effect by encouraging foragers to bring back the bait to the colony.
[4]“Argentine Ant.” Matt Daugherty. Center for Invasive Species Research, University of California Riverside, February 2015. https://cisr.ucr.edu/invasive-species/argentine-ant
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