Possibly the most social networking insects on Earth, ants have evolved to include 10,000 different species that fill various, unique niches. Some types are named for the work they do, some for their actions, like thief ants that rob from other ants’ nests. Ant colonies consist of one or more queens who lay thousands of eggs, female workers who gather food, care for the young and perform other essential colony tasks and male ants. It seems male ants have only one purpose in some ant societies— to mate with the queen after which, the male dies. Close relatives to wasps and bees, ant bodies consist of three distinctive sections, a head, a thorax and an abdomen. Also, ants love Atlanta.
With her peach trees, pecan trees and temperate weather, who could blame ants for wanting to live in Atlanta? Some of the most common ants in Atlanta include Argentine Ants, Carpenter Ants, Pavement Ants and Fire ants.
Well adapted to urban environments, dark brown to black in color and no bigger than 1/8,” Argentine ants nest in moist soil near buildings or under them, looking for a way to get inside. Marching up and down buildings and trees along driveways and sidewalks, Argentine ants forage in neat little lines, guided by pheromone trails set out by scout ants. Because they can form super colonies with multiple queens, Argentine ants can be difficult to control and eradicate on your own.
Balancing on their tiny front legs, acrobat ants can raise their heart-shaped abdomens over their heads when disturbed. No larger than 1/8” long, acrobat ants, who are yellowish brown to dark brown, with darker abdomens also put off an odor and have been known to bite when disturbed as well. Indoors, acrobat ants can cause damage to electrical wiring, as they infest damp places, often the foam sheathing behind siding. Because acrobat ants excavate former termite nests and other pest nests, homeowners may think they have a termite infestation, due to the debris acrobat ants leave in their wakes.
The black carpenter ant and Florida carpenter ant are some of the largest pest ants found in Georgia. Black, red or light to dark brown in color and typically 5/8” in size, Florida carpenter ants, like neglected moisture and can enter Atlanta homes through damp and decaying wood. Black carpenter ants are dull black in color with yellowish hairs covering their abdomen and typically between 1/4 to 1/2”. Once in your attics, ceilings, carpets and flooring, carpenter ants bore through wood, causing as much, if not more structural damage than termites. Carpenter ants forage for food in loosely defined trails or as aimlessly, wandering individuals, drawn to insects, sweets, meats and nectars.
Anyone in Atlanta who has ever disturbed a Fire Ant mound knows that their sting is no joke and burns like fire. Relatively small, measuring between 1/8” and 3/8” in length, reddish brown to reddish black, with copper colored heads, Fire Ants prefer the loose soil in landscape areas and around structural foundations to build their mounds. Also preferring dry, sunny, flat spaces, Fire Ant mounds can measure two feet in diameter. Mounds regulate the temperature of colony tunnels, allowing Fire Ants to survive significant drops in temperatures. If left undisturbed, Fire Ant colonies can grow to 250,000 members with multiple queens. As a result, Fire Ants have been known to sting with enough force to kill cattle and other large animals. Coming indoors through tiny cracks and crevices, Fire Ants are drawn to sweets and your pets’ food bowls.
Making inroads on the Atlanta pest scene, crazy ants aren’t called that just because of their erratic movements. These 1/8” black ants, covered with reddish brown hairs, are attracted to electrical wiring and components in peculiar ways. Sometimes crazy ants destroy electrical products and sometimes their carcasses wreak just as much havoc on electrical components. For example, one crazy ant may find its way into a transformer and is electrocuted. As the insect waves its abdomen in the air, it releases pheromones that attract more and more crazy ants who come into contact with the first ant or a hot spot and are electrocuted as well. As their carcasses begin to pile up, dead crazy ants can actually clog electrical switches, causing system malfunctions.
Also known as “sugar ants,” Pharaoh Ants, tiny 1/16” sized, light yellow insects with red and black markings may get their name from mistaken information about these busybodies causing one of ancient Egypt’s historical plagues. A worldwide pest, Pharaoh Ants are one of the world’s most common ants and are known to be difficult to control and also for their ability to “get into things” like sweet foods.
Giving off a lemon scent when crushed, these 4 mm to 5 mm long yellow ants’ eclectic diet consists of the “honeydew” secreted by aphids and other small bugs. Citronella ants pose no threat as home invaders, but can occasionally be seen flying around indoors while swarming.
One of the most diverse types of ants in the world, with over 150 species, at only 1/8” in length, field ants vary widely in color from yellow, red, black and bi-colored red and black combinations. Nicknames include mound ants, wood ants and thatching ants. Like citronella ants, these insects dine on the “honeydew,” secreted by mealy bugs and aphids, and pose no threat of indoor infestations. Field ants do, however, build unsightly nests on walking paths and can secrete painful formic acid when provoked.
Fond of building nests in cracks of sidewalks, driveways and slab foundations, pavement ants, who are dark brown or black and a mere 1/8” long, aggressively build nests of up to 30,000 individuals. Although pavement ants feed on seeds, grease and insects and don’t typically move into homes in Atlanta, they do forage up to 30 feet from their nests in search of sweets and fruit found in your kitchen, leaving convenient pheromone trails for worker ants to follow.
Big-headed ants are reddish and brown in color. Their name refers to the larger than life heads of the major workers, who are larger than the minor workers, 1/8” in length, as compared to the 1/16” length of minor workers in a colony. Major workers acting as soldiers, defend the colony’s nest, usually found in disturbed soils, lawns, flowerbeds, under bricks, cement slabs, walkways, rocks, logs and flower pots. Not given to moving indoors, big-headed ants will forage into your home for food.
As their name implies, odorous ants, who are dark brown or black in color and 1/8” long emit an odor similar to rotten coconuts when crushed. A frequent nuisance in Atlanta homes, odorous ants tend to infest indoor spaces near heat sources or insulation, in wall voids and beneath floors. Following long foraging trails, odorous ants contaminate sweets, meats, fats and grease found in your home.
With pale abdomens and legs, sporting dark heads and thoraxes, ghost ants are tiny – less than 1/16” long, making these tropical interlopers difficult to see. Like odorous ants, ghost ants give off a coconut-like odor when they are crushed. Seen in Atlanta kitchens and bathrooms on sinks, counters, and floors, these Florida natives easily hitchhike in boxes, crates, potted plants and shipped household goods and spread several strains of bacteria in your home.
On the rise in recent years, rover ants, 1/16” long and dark brown to pale blonde in color, adapt well to many habitats from kitchens and bathrooms to cinder blocks and wall voids, to light sockets and electrical sockets. Outdoors, rover ants nest under mulch and heavy vegetation and shingles, in potted plants and under stones, entering your home through openings around pipes, cracks, windows and tree branches that are too close to your home.
How to Prevent Ants in your Atlanta home
Following good sanitation habits will go a long way in deterring ants from your home.
- Trim trees so branches don’t touch your house.
- Secure outside trash receptacles and clean area around trashcans.
- Clean up all vegetation and old woodpiles near your home.
Inside your home:
- Clean all dishes and wipe down all food prep, dining and food storage areas.
- Keep all food and cooking ingredients in airtight containers.
- Sweep and vacuum floors on a regular basis.
Most importantly, contact Truly Nolen Atlanta to initiate an ant prevention program or to eradicate an existing ant infestation. Call us today to schedule a free inspection at (678) 561-2847.