Ants are considered hymenopteran insects (two pairs of wings) the wings being in the reproductive forms. Ants are closely related bees and wasps, and are social insects that have specialized groups, called castes. Most ants are the workers, they do not have wings, they forage for food, they rear the young, and defend the colony.

The Queens lay the eggs, and have wings until they mate. Males with wings are called drones. The body of the Ant has the head, the thorax, and abdomen. Ants have a petiole (pinched waist) which is used for identifying of Ant groups. Ants have antennae that are elbowed.

Ants go through a complete metamorphosis, eggs are small .5mm and white. The Larvae are legless and fed by workers, and go through several instars. The pupae are immobile and do not eat. Ant nest are usually underground and can contain 10,000 workers.

Mating occurs in flight, while the males and females are swarming. The males will die after mating. The females will lose their wings after mating, and create a nest underground.

Some ants are omnivores, some are herbivores, and some are carnivores. Ants will consume a large amount of decaying material. The main problems with ants arise when they invades human habitats. Some ants can also cause damage to structures, and others can bite and sting. A few types of ant can transport disease to humans.

There are over 12,000 different species of ants in the world, this article will focus on the ants in the Northern Nevada area.

Carpenter Ants

Camponotus sp

The reason for the carpenter ants name is due to them tunneling into wood for nesting purposes. They do not eat the wood like termites do, but they nest in it. That is why if a Carpenter Ant nest is in your home, you will see sawdust. They can cause considerable damage to a home. Carpenter Ants try to find wood that has been softened by water damage.

They are the largest species of ant in north America, 6-12mm. They are mostly black, but some can be dark brown.Carpenter Ants do not sting but can give a painful bite.

Harvester Ants

Pogonomymex sp

There are 2 types of harvester ants in Nevada, California harvester 5-6mm and red, and western harvester 10mm dark red.

Nest can be a cause of lack of plant growth in an area, due to the harvester ants feeding. They are herbivores, feeding on seeds and other vegetation.

Harvester ants do not enter homes. They do have a painful sting, reactions to the sting can persist for a very long time in allergic individuals.

Pavement Ants

Tetramorium caespitum

The pavement ant is a small, 3-4mm, blackish brown ant, that will commonly invade homes for food. If you can get a close enough look you will notice that the legs and antennae are much paler than the body.

Pavement Ants will nest under pavement, mostly by lawns. They usually will enter homes in the summer, but if a nest is close to a home, they can be a year round problem. Pavement ants are omnivorous.

Pharaoh ant

Monomorium pharaonis

The Pharaoh Ant is the hardest ant to control in our area. They are very small, and yellow to re in color. They will nest indoors, and can form new colonies without swarming. If their nest is disturbed, they will split into smaller colonies, making them very hard to control.

Pharaoh Ants eat pet food, syrups, and grease. They can also be a huge problem in hospitals because they will feed off of a patients wound. Yuck!!!!

Theif Ant

Solenopsis molesta

Thief ants are similar to the pharaoh ant in size, shape and color. They will develop with other colonies of ants and steal food from that colony, giving them their name. In homes they like grease fats and proteins, have also been called grease ants. In nature they are omnivores.

They nest most commonly outdoors in soil or wood. The mating flight takes place July to early fall.

Acrobat Ants

Cremastogaster sp

The Acrobat ant is 3mm long, 2 nodes on the petiole and can be black, brown, yellow, or red. They have a sharp, heart shaped abdomen, that is raised when they are threatened, giving them the name. Acrobat Ants are sluggish when they move.

They will feed on other insects live or dead. And they will steal honey dew from other insects such as aphids, mealy bugs, and tree hoppers. Acrobat ants nest in trees or stumps, or under stones. When they are crushed they smell like poop.

Odorous house ant

Tapinoma sessile

The odorous house ant  is small 2.4-3.5mm, has a soft body brown to black in color. It occurs throughout North America and is very common in the west.

They will eat  dead insects, sweets, and foods with high protein. They will make nests outside or inside in wall voids near hot water pipes. They are a very common household pest. When they are crush a very musty odor that is similar to rotten coconuts is emitted.

Odorous house ants will transport aphids and mealy bugs for honey dew. If a shrub has aphids on it and it is touching a house odorous house ants will become attracted to the building.

Velvety tree ant

Liometopum luctousum

The Velvety tree ant has a soft almost velvet exterior. 2.5-6mm long, and has a black abdomen and head and a red thorax. They have very large colonies, and make nests in trees or tree stumps. Velvety tree ants will typically enter a home where limbs of trees touch the house.

They will look for food at night. It eats honeydew secreted by aphids, but will eat other insects. It will bite and inject a poison into the wound. A foul odor is produced when they are crushed.

If a nest is in the home, they will excavate wood to expand a nesting chamber. You will notice sawdust to indicate where the nest is located. Their trails can extend over 200 ft.

Argentine ant

Linepithema humile

The Argentine Ant is invasive introduced from South America. It is 3mm and  brown. The workers are Monomorphic, one size. They infest landscapes and homes. The trails are very visible being that they are strong foragers.

Argentine ants will feed on a variety of food, but they prefer sweets.  It will protect aphids and mealy bugs, homopterous insects, so that it can feed on the honeydew they produce. During the warmer months it prefers nectar and honeydew.

They are a very competative ant, and will become the predominant species with very large colonies. Argentine ant colonies have multiple queens, allowing many colonies to become interconnected to make super colonies. The term budding when one or more queens and workers move to a new site. Because of their large colonies and multiple queens, makes the Argentine ant very hard to control. Nests can be in many locations outdoors, and in structural voids indoors.

Fire ants

There are 2 type of fire ant in the area the southern fire ant and the red imported fire ant.

The southern fire ant is common in Southern Nevada. They have red brown head and thorax and dark brown to black abdomen. Worker are polymorphic and belong to 2 different castes. Small castes are called minors 1.6mm and large castes are called majors 5.8mm.

They are very aggressive and have a painful sting. It is an omnivore but likes grease, live insects, small birds carcasses seeds.

The impotrted red fire ant is 1.6-5mm and is all dark brown to red. This ant is of public concern for its aggressive nature and painful sting. The sting can cause allergic reactions and sometimes death. It will prey on ground dwelling birds.

It is a quarantined pest, and laws state that this ant can not be moved. If it is found in Nevada, the area must undergo treatment by the department of ag.

Ant Control

The first step to control ants is to identify which ant you are dealing with. The next step is to use proper and good sanitation. All foods that are attractive in the house should be cleaned.

Most ant species nest outdoors, so a perimeter spray around the foundation can prevent ants from going inside. If you can find the nest, treating it will give the most effective control of ants. If the colony can not be located, bait are an effective control measure. Baits include food that the ant likes to eat along with a poison.