How to Identify Ant Types

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A close look at the ant is necessary for identification.
A close look at the ant is necessary for identification. (Image: Thomas Northcut/Photodisc/Getty Images)

Ants are one of the most common house pests in the United States, consisting of Carpenter, Fire, Thief, and Pavement ants, as well as many other types. When treating your house for ant infestation, determining what ant type is present saves guesswork, as different ants require different treatments, since ant species have unique food preferences and habits. Identifying ant species requires a close look, so grabbing one with a pair of tweezers and examining it under a magnifying glass will make the identification easier. Knowing what to look for is the key to ant identification.

Things You'll Need

  • Tweezers
  • Magnifying glass
  • Ant identification guide

Magnify the ant. Determine if the ant is a one, or two-node ant. At the petiole of the abdomen, which is forward of the abdomen or end portion of the ant's body, are the nodes. The ant's nodes look like small bumps at the skinny end of the abdomen, and are clearly visible under a magnifying glass.

Note the color of the ant; many ants have different color patterns and characteristics. Although many ants may seem to be the same color, viewing them under a magnifying glass proves otherwise. Also note the approximate length of the ant.

Consult an ant identification chart, similar to the ones found on the University of Nebraska - Lincoln and University of California pages. The Nebraska charts are in full color, divided into one- and two-node ant types and identify the body specifics of the ant. The chart found on the University of California page identifies the ant's length, color and food preferences.

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