Common household ant species

ant anatomy diagram

Effective management approaches vary with ant species. Use behavioral characteristics such as food and nesting preferences along with physical characteristics to identify ants.

A first step in identifying ants is to use a magnifier to determine if they have one or two nodes at the petiole of their abdomen. Locate the petiole, the first portion of the abdomen, and count the number of nodes present.

If you are not sure of your ant's identity from this page, or would like more detailed information on identifying ants, see the Key to identifying ants.

one-node ants

Common one-node ants

(Skip to two-node ants)

Argentine ant

1/8 inch, dull brown

Argentine ant

(Linepithema humile)

Food: sweets, sometimes proteins.

Nest: outdoors in shallow mounds.

carpenter ant

Large, 1/4 to 1/2 inch, black or bicolored red and black.

Carpenter ant

(Camponotus spp.)

Food: sweets.

Nest: in tree stumps, firewood, fence posts, hollow doors or window frames; deposit sawdustlike frass outside of nests.

odorous ant

1/8 inch, dark brown to shiny black; very strong odor when crushed

Odorous house ant

(Tapinoma sessile)

Food: sweets, sometimes proteins.

Nest: in shallow mounds in soil or debris, or indoors in wall voids, around water pipes or heaters.

velvety tree ant

1/8 to 1/4 inch, brownish-black head, red thorax, and velvety black abdomen; very distinct odor when crushed

Velvety tree ant

(Liometopum occidentale)

Food: sweets and insects.

Nest: in dead wood such as old tree limbs, stumps, and logs.

two-node ants

Common two-node ants

(Back to one-node ants)

pavement ant

3/16 inch, dark brown to black

Pavement ant

(Tetramorium caespitum)

Food: sweets, proteins, grease.

Nest: in lawns or under stones, boards; build mounds along sidewalks, foundations, and near water.

pharaoh ant

1/16 inch, yellow or honeycolored to orange

Pharaoh ant

(Monomorium pharaonis)

Food: fats, proteins, sweets.

Nest: in wall or cabinet voids, behind baseboards, or insulation or outdoors in debris.

red imported fire ant

1/16 to 1/5 inch, reddish with dark brown abdomen

Red imported fire ant

(Solenopsis invicta)

Food: sweets, proteins.

Nest: in mounds with multiple openings in soil or lawns and sometimes in buildings behind wall voids.

southern fire ant

1/8 to 1/4 inch, amber head and thorax with black abdomen, body covered with golden hairs

Southern fire ant

(Solenopsis xyloni)

Food: proteins and sweets.

Nest: in small mounds with flattened irregular craters in wood, under rocks.

theif ant

1/32 inch, yellow to light brown

Thief ant

(Solenopsis molesta)

Food: greasy and fatty foods, sometimes sweets. Steal food and ant larvae from other ant nests.

Nest: outdoors in soil, under rocks or decaying wood or indoors behind wallboards or baseboards.

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