What Type of Ant Do I Have?

October 10th, 2013 by ecoelite

There are two publications in the pest control industry that are produced monthly. Each year one of the magazines has an entire issue devoted to ants.  When I first entered into pest control I was astonished that so much emphasis was given to ants.  Having been in the industry for years now, I now understand why.  Ants are by far the most common pest we treat…hands down!  Ants keep us busy year round, obviously in the summer months, but we continue to get ant calls even when it’s snowing.  They are everywhere In the Seattle area and their numbers are increasing.  The most common ant question I receive is, “what type of ant do I have?”  Allow me to introduce the ants we have here in Seattle.


Odorous House Ant (OHA)

This is by far the most common ant we have and these little buggers are active year round.  These ants are tiny black ants that you see in kitchens, bathrooms, outside, or really anywhere.  Most people call them sugar ants.  The problem with these type of ants is that they have multiple queens and multiple nests.  Our staff recently attended a training from one of the leading ant researchers in the world and said they believe they discovered a nest in California over 100 miles long!  We have some very large nests here in the Seattle area.  The Ballard and Fremont area seem to have been built on a giant OHA hill.  West Seattle through Des Moines also seems to be a hot spot for these ants.  Another large nest seems to stretch through the Highway 167 valley, from Sumner to Downtown Renton.  Those are some of the larger nests, but these ants are everywhere.  We’ve seen large nests in peoples walls and we’ve seen small nest in computers.  Control of OHA’s is very difficult.  To eradicate them certain baits work really well on these types of ants.  We also use sprays that are non-repellent that are very effective.  They key phrase there is “non-repellent”.  Spraying these ants with a repellent, such as you’d buy from the store, can cause these ants to spread to other areas.  Instead of killing the ants, they are just splitting up and moving to other areas.  I get the question all the time, “how many treatments does it take to get rid of them?” and there is not a good answer to this question.  Many houses only require one or two treatments, but there are many houses that need much more than this.  Our company has done a lot of research on what products are most effective, and also safe to use, and I feel that we use the best products out there.  Compared to other companies, our call-back rate seems to be one of the lowest, but these ants can sure put up a battle sometimes.


Carpenter Ants

Here in the Seattle-area we are lucky not to have a big termite population; however, Carpenter Ants fill that void.  Carpenter Ants love moist and damp locations, so the Pacific Northwest is ideal for these ants.  Carpenter Ants are easy to identify…they are BIG!  If you look at an ant and think, “that is one big ant”, you’re looking at a Carpenter Ant.  There are different types of carpenter ants and different sizes, but most Carpenter Ants range from ½” to 1”.  Compare that to an OHA, which is about 1/8th of an inch.  Unlike Termites, Carpenter Ants do not eat wood, but they chew it up and spit it out.  They can cause extensive damage to homes because of this.  If you’re seeing Carpenter Ants inside the home and around outside, you’ll definitely want to get it treated to prevent damage.  They are attracted to water damaged wood, so fixing leaks is an important factor of keeping them out.  Carpenter Ants start showing up in March and are active until fall.  In winter, they become somewhat dormant and are not seen as frequently.  If you see Carpenter Ants in the winter months, it means they have setup a nest in your home.  Because they are not as active in the winter months, it can be very difficult to eradicate them this time of year.  When it’s warm outside and they are active, they are generally pretty easy to get rid of.  Many people with Carpenter Ants will do our quarterly service to help prevent them from returning.


Moisture Ants

Moisture ants, like Carpenter Ants, are considered Wood Destroying Organisms.  They get their name because they are attracted to moisture, so many times people will see these type of ants in walls where water damage is present.  These ants are also small and have a reddish-brown color to them.   In late summer, male moisture ants will swarm.  They tend to show up all of sudden and take over an area of the house.  Many people confuse these swarmers with termites because of this.  Getting rid of moisture ants in usually pretty easy, but sometimes can present some challenges.  If moisture problems are not fixed, there is always a chance that these ants will return or make it more difficult to completely eradicate.


Pavement Ants

Pavement ants are also small black ants, like the Odorous House Ant, but are primarily found outside.  These are the ants that make tiny little dirt and sand mounds on your patio or driveway.  They are a little bit larger than an Odorous House Ant, but look very similar.  Even though they are usually found outside, we do see them inside from time to time.


Thatching Ants

Thatching ants are generally found in more rural areas and rarely infest a home.  They are known for making large mounds in people’s yards.  Their mounds are usually at least 1-foot high and can get much larger.  These ants are larger ants and are often confused with Carpenter Ants.  They are usually very easy to get rid of….if we can find the nest.