Few people think to consider the world of ants until they make an unwanted appearance in their lives. I’m sure you have all had a problem with ants at some point in your life. Whether they have invaded your picnic, your child’s playtime, or have somehow found their way in your home, ants can be a real nuisance.
There are many types of ants that can be found in Wisconsin: carpenter ants, field ants, pavement ants, pharaoh ants, and grease/thief ants, just to name a few. Ants love heat, so Wisconsin ants have learned to adapt to their environment by living in the soil or other locations that allow them to regulate the temperature and humidity level. They can move to deeper chambers or build special winter nests. Most species in Wisconsin, however, do not live in the open soil. Some might nest under the bark of a tree, like the carpenter ant, or under flat stones, like the pavement ant.
Some ants can be harmful to a human’s environment, while others are practically harmless. Because control measures differ for different types of ants, it is important to first understand how to identify the type of ant you’re dealing with. You can use a magnifying glass to aide in identification, and preserve it in rubbing alcohol to examine it. It is wise to submit a sample to a local pest control company for further help in identification.
Here is how to identify common species of ants found in Wisconsin:
Carpenter ants: These ants are particularly concerning because they can cause structural damage to wood by tunneling and nesting inside wood structures. They are large (about 1/4 to 3/8” long), and are black in color, however, they can be reddish or yellowish as well. The best way to identify carpenter ants is to look for two traits. The first is a single node. Second, their thorax is evenly rounded, and doesn’t have any dips or depressions in it.
Another type of carpenter ant to look out for is the small carpenter ant, which differs in two ways. The first is their small size (3/16 to 1/3”). Secondly, they can be any of the following color combinations: thorax or legs black, brownish red, or dark red; head black, brownish red, or dark red; or abdomen black.
Pavement ants: These ants have a reputation for girdling plant stems and eating their sap and for storing seeds in its nest. They usually nest under flat stones and pile up displaced soil on top of sidewalks, patios, and other surfaces next to the cracks through which they enter and exit the nest. Pavement ants are about 1/8” long, are light brown to black in color, and have pale legs and antennae. They have parallel lines on their head and thorax, and their antennae are made up of 12 segments.
Pharaoh ants: These ants were originally introduced from the tropics, and can only live indoors in heated buildings. They often live in close association with people and are sometimes carried in their belongings from place to place. Their small size allows them to nest in unusual sites such as between layers of linens or sheets of stationary, and even inside electronic appliances. Pharaoh ants are only about 1/16” long, and have a pale yellow to reddish body with black shading on top. They have parallel lines on their head and thorax, and three body segments.
Thief ants: These ants get their name by sneaking into nests of larger ants and eating their larvae. Like Pharaoh ants, thief ants can also use their small size (1/16” long) to nest inside small spaces indoors, such as countertops, in wall voids, in cabinet voids, and behind baseboards, making their nests difficult to find. Also like the Pharaoh ant, the thief ant is pale yellow to light or dark brown in color, but the difference is that the thief ant has two body segments, as opposed to three.
After learning to identify the type of ant, it is important to consider the number you see, where you see them, and other factors, such as the season. You can decide if action is necessary, and if so, how to go about controlling the problem. We are always happy to help here at Batzner.