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Controlling the Common House Ant

Camille Landry posted this on Aug 3, 2016


Ants are social insects, and as a whole can be the most difficult household pest to control.  With some ants spraying the ant trails only makes the infestations worse.  Included in this article are a few characteristics of the most common house ants, Pharaoh, Argentine, black ant, odorous house ant, thief ant and some recommended control methods.

Pharoah Ants

Pharaoh ants have become a serious nuisance, indoors, we get an email or phone call almost daily about these little guess.  They tend to feed on jellies, honey, shortening, peanut butter, grease, dead insects, etc.  Workers are very small only about 1/16 inch long.  the Pharaoh ants color is light yellow to reddish brown.  Nest of the Pharaoh ants are very small, located in wall voids, under floors, behind baseboards, light fixtures, etc.  These ants are trail making ants and treatment should consist of baiting and if the colony is located in wall use of a boric acid dusting product.

Thief Ant 

The Thief ant Feeds on grease, proteins, dead insects, and even dead rodents, they also sometimes feed on sweets.  Thief ants got their name because they often steal food and ant larvae from nests of other ants.  Trails can be located in cabinets, on walls, along baseboards and along branches of trees and shrubs.   They may travel from one room to another on electrical wires, and are commonly seen in electrical outlets.  The Thief ant are small enough to forage into pantry foods that are packaged.  They will nest in soil under rocks and in decaying wood outdoors.  Colonies will be found in cabinets or wall voids or behind baseboards.  Colonies of thief ants are small compared to many ant species and thief ants may have multiple queens.  Workers are all the same size, tiny 1/32 inch long.  Thief ants coloring is yellow to light brown and they will have very small eyes.


Argentine Ants

Feed like many on us on sweets, fresh fruit, and young buds of plants. Argentine ants tend honeydew-producing species as mealy bugs and aphids.  They travel rapidly in distinctive trails along sidewalks, up sides of buildings, along branches of trees and shrubs, along baseboards, and under edges of carpets. Colonies may split in spring and summer when queen and workers move to new site.  The workers are all the same size, small, 1/8-inch long and a dull brown Musty odor emitted when crushed Millions of ants per colony with multiple queens and sub colonies.


Black Ants

Black ants are common house ants which nest in woodwork, masonry, soil and rotted wood.  Black ants predominantly feed on sweets, meats, vegetables, honeydew and other insects.  Black ant workers are about 1/8 inch long, slender, shiny black, sometimes dark brown.  They will nest in the ground and are easy detected by very small craters of fine soil.


Odorous House ant

The odorous house ant is found throughout North America is a very common ant pest. This pest is often found foraging for food in long trails over household surfaces and can contaminate food products. These ants do not bite or sting but are huge nuisance ants and they will be found foraging in large number.  Odorous house ants are tiny, about 3 mm in length, and are dark brown to black in color. They will have single node on the petiole that is hidden from above by the abdomen. However, odorous house ants are most easily identified by the coconut odor that is produced when their bodies are crushed. This is how they got their name, odorous house ants. 

Outdoor nests are usually shallow.Look for outdoor nests in mulch, soil, debris, logs, stumps, under stones and under plastic outdoor tarps.  Indoors, Odorous House ant nests are usually found in wall voids, around hot-water pipes and heaters, behind paneling, under carpets or beneath the floor. House ant colonies can become so large that they create satellite colonies.Odorous house ants forage both night and day and eat many types of foods.  They will eat live and dead insects. Odorous house ants are very attracted to sweet foods.


  • We have put together some great ant control kits from all of these common house ants.  They are easy to use and will take care of the job and help you do your own pest control.
  • Want more information on ants?  Check out our Free advice on our Knowledge Base.
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