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How to Identify & Control Different Types of Ants

A guide to ants found throughout the United States.

When it comes to irritating insect pests, ants rank near the top of the list. With close to close to 1,000 species of ants in the U.S., at some point, most people will have to deal with ants in their home or yard (or both). The first step is to confirm that the insects that have invaded are indeed ants. The second step is to identify what kind of ant you're dealing with. Then, of course, you need to fight back. Let this guide help you.


Carpenter Ants

Carpenter ants, which are typically black and ┬╝ to ┬Ż inch long, are common pests throughout North America. While they donÔÇÖt actually eat wood, these pests subsist on a diet of sugar and protein, so they'll happily consume everything from cookie crumbs to dog food.

Two carpenter ants fighting

The worrying thing about carpenter ants, though, is that they tunnel through wood to create their nests, causing structural damage to your home, particularly when the infestation is a heavy one. Carpenter ants are most active after sunset and, since they aren't especially afraid of humans, can often be seen out and about. Kill carpenter ants for up to 30 days in hard-to-reach places with Ortho┬« Home Defense┬« Insect Killer for Cracks & Crevices. Keep them out of your home by treating your yard with Ortho┬« Bug B-gonÔäó Lawn & Landscape Insect Killer Ready-to-Spray and creating a barrier around your house with Ortho┬« Home Defense┬« Insect Killer of Indoor and Perimeter2.


Odorous House Ants

Odorous house ants are a common type of ant that, when crushed, releases an unpleasant odor reminiscent of rotten coconut. These ants are medium-sized and have smooth, dark brownish black bodies with lighter, honey-hued legs. 

One ant on a plant's stem

Odorous house ants often create nests in bricks or wall cracks from which to launch their household invasions. You are most likely to find them prowling your floors and countertops in search of food. Ant baits like Ortho┬« Home Defense┬« Liquid Ant Bait are very effective for controlling odorous house ant colonies. Once ant activity has decreased after using a bait, treat the perimeter of your home with Ortho┬« Bug B-gonÔäó Lawn & Landscape Insect Killer Ready-to-Spray to keep them from coming back.


Pavement Ants

Extremely common in residential settings, pavement ants are small and vary in color from brown to black, with lighter colored legs and antennae. As their name suggests, they like to build their mounds in pavement cracks.

Ants surrounding a crumb of food

They don't stay outdoors all the time, though, as these pests will invade indoor spaces when foraging for food and sometimes take up residence beneath floors or in the cracks of walls. What makes pavement ants even more of a nuisance is that, in addition to scouring your pantry and cabinets for food, they may bite. Their colonies, including the queen, can be killed using Ortho┬« Home Defense┬« Liquid Ant Bait. You can also kill the worker ants searching for food in your home with Ortho┬« Home Defense┬« Ant, Roach & Spider Killer2. Keep pavement ants out of your house by creating a barrier indoors with Ortho┬« Home Defense Max┬« Indoor Insect Killer with Extended Reach Comfort Wand┬« and outdoors with Ortho┬« Bug B-gonÔäó Lawn & Landscape Insect Killer Ready-to-Spray.


Pharaoh Ants

Tiny pharaoh ants are probably the top nuisance of all ant species (with the possible exception of fire ants.) Ranging in color from light yellow-tan to reddish-brown with darker colored backsides, they are found throughout the U.S. and prefer to nest inside the home.

A pharaoh ant on a leaf

Pharaoh ants aren't picky about what they eat; while they prefer sweets, they will eat pretty much anything edible, including meat and other insects. Because they form a colony that consists of multiple nests with multiple queens, the best way to control a pharaoh ant infestation is to prevent it from happening in the first place. Keep them out by treating the inside of your home with Ortho┬« Home Defense Max┬« Indoor Insect Killer with Extended Reach Comfort Wand┬« and the outside your home and landscapes with Ortho┬« Bug B-gonÔäó Lawn & Landscape Insect Killer Ready-to-Spray. In addition, inside your home, kill the ones you see with Ortho┬« Home Defense┬« Ant, Roach & Spider Killer2 and reach those hiding in hard-to-reach places with Ortho┬« Home Defense┬« Insect Killer for Cracks & Crevices.


Argentine Ants

While a single Argentine ant is tiny in size, their overall colony size is massive. They have adapted to living in urban areas of the southern U.S. and particularly California. Nests belonging to these light to dark brown ants can be found underneath wood, debris, or mulch, as well in cavities and at the bases of trees and shrubs. 

Several ants crawling on a white background
A single colony can consist of multiple nests built around an existing nest and may contain hundreds of queens. In fact, one colony can become large enough to cover an entire city block! Argentine ants are also extremely aggressive, and have been known to conquer other nearby ant colonies. They seek shelter inside homes during weather extremes (very wet or very dry.) As with pharaoh ants, the best way to control Argentine ants is to prevent an infestation. Treat your landscape and around the outside of your home with Ortho┬« Bug B-gonÔäó Lawn & Landscape Insect Killer Ready-to-Spray, then protect the inside of your home with Ortho┬« Home Defense Max┬« Indoor Insect Killer with Extended Reach Comfort Wand┬«. Kill any Argentine ants you see inside your home with Ortho┬« Home Defense┬« Ant, Roach & Spider Killer2 and the ones in hard-to-reach places with Ortho┬« Home Defense┬« Insect Killer for Cracks & Crevices.


Fire Ants

Fire ants are terrible pests that plague southern states. With their red coloring and large mounds, these ants are hard to mistake. Though small, their bites can be extremely painful. Fire ants prefer to remain outside, but they may enter indoors in order to seek food and water if they discover an easy entry point.

A fire ant on sand

The best way to control fire ants is with a 2-step approach. First, treat any noticeable mounds in your lawn and landscape beds with Ortho┬« Orthene┬« Fire Ant Killer1. Then, apply Ortho┬« Fire Ant Killer Broadcast Granules to the lawn to prevent new fire ant mounds from forming for up to 6 months (when used as directed). You may also want to create a barrier around your home with Ortho┬« Home Defense┬« Insect Killer for Indoor & Perimeter2 to help keep fire ants out.


Prevent Future Ant Infestations

Once you've controlled the ants in your home, you should caulk any cracks you can find and shore up any leaky pipes that could be providing the ants with a water source. By routinely cleaning up crumbs and sticky food residue, you can further convince ant pests that your home isn't the right place for them.