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How to Manage Pests

Key to Identifying Common Household Ants

Biology and life cycle—Nesting sites

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Nest locations

Most ants nest in soil, but some will nest in wood or wall voids. They choose sites that are close to moisture and food. Nests must have a protected area for the queen and for rearing the larvae. The best way to find an ant nest is to follow a trail of ants that are carrying food for the colony. (Empty-handed individuals are foraging.) Look for nests

  • Next to buildings, especially where there is moisture or plants
  • Near honeydew-producing plants
  • Along sidewalks
  • Under boards, stones, mulch
  • In tree stumps, piles of firewood, under wood decks
  • In wall voids or near leaking plumbing in or under the house

Colonies of some ant species, such as carpenter ants, may remain at the same site for many years. Others move their colonies frequently in response to flooding, temperature changes, physical disturbances, or insecticide treatments. Nests of Argentine ants are usually shallow in the summer—2 inches or less beneath the soil. During the fall, Argentine ants may move close to structures or to deeper locations. Several colonies join together and overwinter in huge nests with hundreds of queens.

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Statewide IPM Program, Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of California
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