Ants have a wide variety of nesting habits and food preferences. Some ants build nests in soil, producing characteristic mounds, while others nest in buildings behind moldings, baseboards, countertops and similar places. Ants may also nest in decaying or moisture damaged wood. Ants feed on many different types of foods including starches, meats, fats and sweets. Many ants take on nourishment from honeydew, a sweet liquid produced by aphids and scale insects. Common ant infestations include pavement ants, pharaoh ants, carpenter ants and odorous house ants.
Pavement ants are reddish brown to black. The workers are about 1/8 inch long. They feed on a variety of foods including pet foods, meats, sweets, breads, nuts and insects. Pavement ants nest in soil under sidewalks, driveways, stones, logs and other concealed sites. They are also commonly found under homes and businesses with concrete slab construction where they enter through the cracks.
Pharaoh ants are light yellow to red with their thorax darker in color. The workers are about 1/16 inch long. They feed on a wide variety of foods, especially those containing grease or fats. They like dead insects, many types of sweets, other foods that other ants rarely attack, toothpaste and soap. They often seek out water in kitchens and bathrooms. Pharaoh ants nest strictly indoors in the North Central States, often near dark, warm sites and close to sources of moisture. Their nests are very difficult to find. Because of their tropical origins, they do not survive outdoors.
Some species of carpenter ants are the largest ants in the North Central States. They are black or red and black. The workers range in size from 3/16 to 1/2 inch long. Colonies consist of major and minor workers. They feed on other insects, both living and dead. They also feed on meats or sweets including honeydew, syrup, honey, sugar and jelly. Carpenter ants DO NOT eat wood; they chew wood into sawdust during the process of creating galleries and tunnels. Carpenter ants nest in all types of moist or rotting wood including trees or tree stumps. They can be found indoors behind bathroom tiles and around tubs, sinks, showers and dishwashers. Carpenter ants may also be found under roofing, in attic beams, under subfloor insulation, in hollow spaces such as doors, curtain rods and wall voids and in soft polystyrene or other forms of insulation.
Odorous House Ants
Odorous house ants give off an unpleasant smell when crushed. Some people compare it to rotten coconuts. Odorous house ants are brown to dark brown. The workers are about 1/10 inch long. They feed on insects and sweets, especially honeydew. When honeydew is in short supply, odorous house ants can forage indoors for sweets and other foods including meats. Odorous house ants nest in soil under stones, boards, patio blocks, mulching plastic and nearly any other object laying on the ground. They can be found in wall voids and under floors of the home as well. Odorous house ants do not cause structural damage to buildings.