How to Identify Common Household Ants and Keep Them Out

Written by Wasatch Bug Busters on . Posted in I.D.

“The ants go marching one by one, hurrah, hurrah . . .”

Does this sound like something that has happened at your house? Ants are one of the most common household insects in the U.S. and some of the hardest to get rid of. They love to invade homes because human food contains so many of the natural sugars they enjoy. They find a food source, and then they tell their colonies to move in. Within a short time, you may have some unwanted houseguests.

In this blog post, we’ll discuss the most common types of ants in the state-including carpenter, pavement, and little black ants-and describe what they can do to your home. We will also what these different species look like, what they eat, and where they live in each of the sections below.

The Big Guns: Carpenter Ants

Carpenter ants range in size from 1/4 in. to 1/2 in., making them one of the largest ant species in the United States. They usually appear black, but some subgroups of carpenter ants have a reddish brown or yellow color. The worker class of carpenter ant has noticeably large mandibles.


Carpenter ants forage, which means they eat anything from dead insects for the protein, to fruits for the sweets. You will find them around aphids since they make the honeydew that they thrive on. They also tend to feed at night, when they work in groups to find food. Once these ants locate the food, they create the shortest path possible from the food source to the colony. This path is called a foraging trail. It continues until the ants deplete the food source.


Carpenter ants live in areas where they can find moist, decaying wood. Contrary to popular belief, these ants do not eat wood-they excavate it to form galleries in which they nest and build to form their colonies. If you see a pile of wood shavings mixed with insect remains on your property, those shavings called frass, signal that a carpenter ant nest lies nearby. Potential Problems

Watch for a line of workers and swarmers (winged ants) entering your home to look for food, or scout out a new site to start a satellite colony. Perfect sites for satellite colonies may include porch columns, soffits, hollow core doors, moisture areas like bath, showers, and hot tubs, ceiling beams, skylights, stored items, crawlspaces, and attics, etc.

However, those leftover wood shavings we mentioned earlier signal a deeper problem. If the ants borer through the wood too much, they could undermine your house’s structural integrity. Avoid property damage and call your pest control experts at the first sign of trouble.

The Common Invader: Pavement Ants

The pavement ant is the most common species of ant in the country. These ants grow much smaller than their carpenter cousins and span about 1/8 inch in length. They have a light brown or black color. These ants got their name due to the fact that they usually build their nests in the cracks & under pavement. Sidewalks and driveways often show small mounds of soil indicating an ant nests.


Pavement ants eat almost anything. They will invade a home searching for vegetables, fruits, sweets, cheese, meat, and even other insects. If they get into your home, pavement ants can also contaminate your food.


Pavement ants build their nests both outdoors and indoors. Outdoors, they live in pavement cracks, along curbs, or under rocks. Indoors, they prefer to nest under floors or in walls.

You can often see pavement ants carrying food and ant eggs on the sidewalk. After a queen ant lays eggs, her drones and workers transport them to a different nesting site to form a new colony.

Potential Problems

Pavement ants are generally harmless until they find your food. Once they find a few crumbs, the drones and workers swarm the food source and bring it back to the colony.

The Small Fry: Little Black Ants / Sugar Ants

Little black ants are the smallest of the three ant species mentioned here. A little black ant measures approximately 1/16 in. long and has a shiny black appearance.


Little black ants have an omnivorous diet, which means they eat pretty much everything. However, they commonly prefer aphids’ honeydew. If they invade a kitchen, large numbers of little black ants will travel through tiny cracks and form foraging trails to and from your pantry.


Little black ants can live almost anywhere. Though they generally build their nests outside, these insects can build their nests in any dark and protected area, such as a foundation wall, baseboard, or wall void.

Potential Problems

Due to their short reproductive cycle and large colony size, little black ants represent one of the hardest species to eradicate. Mating season occurs during the summer months when mated females form rapidly expanding new colonies.

Some types of ants may carry and transmit disease organisms such as Pseudomonas, Staphylococcus, Salmonella, Clostridium, and Streptococcus.


Odorous House Ants

All brown in color, have a one-segmented petiole (connecting middle), 2.4 to 3.3 mm long, and when crushed emit a rotten, coconut-like odor.


Workers forage both day and night for honeydew, their favorite food, and both live and dead insects.


Build shallow nests under rocks, firewood, cardboard, bricks, etc. when they invade a home, their nests are often outside. Indoor nests usually found in areas associated with moisture i.e. bathrooms, kitchens, & utility/hvac. They are active in as low as 50 degrees outdoors and can be active all year indoors.

Still have questions about ants in your home? Contact your pest control experts if you suspect an infestation. Only then can you rest easy knowing you’ve cleared every ant out of your house. Keep in mind that the eradication process may take time. After all, ants are resilient, and some of them may escape the first few treatments-especially if you attempt the treatments on your own.

In the meantime, throw away any food ants have touched, keep any additional food containers closed or in the refrigerator, and try to locate where the ant colonies might be. Then you can call your exterminator and eradicate the ants in no time.