Household invasion by ants can be troubling at best. Many types of ants can be found in houses, but not all are considered household pests. While some are there to stay and potentially cause damage, others may have just wandered in to look for food or water. Regardless of type, all ants have three body sections consisting of the head, trunk and gaster. In addition, ants always live in groups known as colonies made up of queens, males and workers. Knowing which types of household ants are common to the northeast may help determine if action is needed for removal.
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Carpenter ants are among the largest household ant in the northeast. There are several species that can be found infesting homes and buildings. Worker ants are typically black or red and range in size from three-eighth of and inch to one-half inch long. Winged queen ants can be up to 1 inch long. However, size is not a good indicator for identification because of size variation. Carpenter ants differ from other ants in that they have a waist with only one node and a thorax with an evenly rounded upper surface. Carpenter ants feed on sources of protein and sugar like meats, syrup and other sweets. They do not eat wood, but can cause damage by creating tunnels.
Pavement ants are among one of the most commonly encountered house-infesting ants in the northeast. Most colonies are located under sidewalks, building slabs or large rocks. Nevertheless, they commonly enter houses and buildings through cracks in the foundation and interior slabs. The pavement worker ant is about .1 inch long and varies in color from dark brown to black. The pedicel, which connects the thorax to the abdomen, consists of two segments. The top of the thorax has two upward protruding spines that carry a stinger. Pavement ants feed on a variety of foods. They will consume everything from sugars and fruits to grease and dead insects. Most any tidbit of food dropped to the floor will be consumed.
Odorous house ants are named so because of the unpleasant smell they give off when crushed. They are brown to dark brown, with the worker ant being one-tenth of an inch long. They are characterized by having one petiole with one node, which is hidden by the abdomen. The thorax of only the worker is uneven. Odorous ants are attracted to sweets, particularly honeydew, and insects. When honeydew is unavailable, these ants move indoors to forage for sweets and other foods, including meat.
Thief ants are extremely small with the worker ant never being larger than one-sixteenth of an inch long. The thorax lacks distinct spines, the petiole has two nodes and they have a small stinger at the tip of their abdomen. They are yellow to light brown and have small eyes. Thief ants feed on grease and greasy foods, proteins, dead insects and dead rodents. They often steal food and ant larva from other ant nests. Thief ants travel in set trails made within cabinets, walls and along baseboards of houses. In addition, they may travel from room to room via electrical wires and may be seen in electrical outlets.