Ants

Quick facts

  • Ants are some of the most common pests found in and around homes.

  • Most ants are primarily a nuisance and cause little damage.
    • Some ants infest food.
    • Carpenter ants can weaken wood in structures.
  • The species of ant determines the nesting site, food preference and the best method of management.
  • The most effective way to get rid of ants is to find and treat the nest. 
  • Queens must be killed to properly eliminate a colony.

Ants are social insects and some of the most common pests found in and around homes. They are divided into castes: workers, males and queens.

Damage from ants varies. Most are primarily a nuisance and cause little damage. Some, such as Pharaoh ants, may infest food. Others, like carpenter ants, can weaken wood in structures. Generally, there are no disease problems associated with ants. 

Knowing what a particular ant species likes to eat and where and how they nest is very important in controlling ant colonies.

Identifying ants

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How to get rid of ants

Knowing where a specific type of ant likes to nest and what they like to eat is the key to finding the best way to get rid of them. 

Some ants build nests in soil, producing mounds, while some nest in homes behind moldings, baseboards, countertops and similar places. Other ants nest in decaying or moisture-damaged wood.

Ants eat different types of food, including starches, meats, fats and sweets. Many ants also feed on honeydew, a sweet liquid produced by aphids and scale insects.

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Common household ants

Open a drawer for more specific information and photos of each type of ant listed. It is often challenging to recognize ants from a picture. Because different species may be treated differently, be sure an ant problem is correctly identified before attempting control.

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Less common household ants

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Jeffrey Hahn, Extension entomologist and Phillip Pellitteri, University of Wisconsin-Extension

Reviewed in 2018

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