Common Missouri Ants

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There are more than 450 species of ants in the United States, making them one of the most prevalent insects in human habitats. In mid-Missouri, only five of the roughly 25 species that infest dwellings on a regular basis are particularly concerning. Ants are gregarious insects that usually reside in underground colonies with a queen, workers, and males. These colonies can be found in the ground, in buildings, beside foundations, under slabs of concrete, rocks, or planks. While they will consume almost everything, ants are drawn to sweets in particular. Because they have three different body regions—the head, thorax, and abdomen—as well as antennae, ants are reasonably easy to identify. Ant infestations account for the majority of calls to a pest control specialist, and ant extermination can occasionally be a very challenging task for a pest control technician.

Why are ants an issue?

Despite their diminutive size, ants can be very dangerous since they can contaminate food and cause property damage. If left unchecked, an ant infestation can expand swiftly. Ants can contaminate food by tracking bacteria onto clean surfaces where food is prepared or stored. Pavement ants and acrobat ants can sting, and ants can harm your property value by hollowing out cavities in dead and decaying wood to form a nest or by using existing voids in the building as a nest site. These excavations may be quite large, and if you’re seeing sawdust in unexpected areas it’s very important to contact a pest control specialist.

The most prevalent home-invading ant species in Missouri is the odorous house ant. It is 2 to 3 mm long and has a color range of dark brown to black. When crushed between the fingers, it releases a fruity-coconut scent, which is its most distinguishing characteristic. Odorous house ants nest in crevices both indoors and outdoors and can  have several queens per nest. They typically feed outside on plant nectar and honeydew, but during inclement weather they often invade homes in vast numbers in search of sustenance.

By budding from colonies that already exist, or by using recently mated queens, the odorous house ant develops new colonies. Shallow nests in the ground are frequently found under large objects like stones or boards. They particularly enjoy using material heaps as places to build nests. They also build their nests behind loose bark on houses or trees. The majority of colonies that infest houses are found outside but they are also frequently found in wall cavities next to pipes, heaters, bath traps, toilets, and other fixtures that provide warmth and a damp environment.

 Pharaoh Ants

Pharaoh ants are also frequent structural pests. They have a light tan tint and are only 1 to 2 mm in length. Their most distinguishing characteristics are their modest size and color. Large colonies of pharaoh ants, consisting of several queens, build their nests in interior areas. This species does not swarm and a queen can establish herself in practically any small place. They are frequently found in electrical outlets, baseboards, wall voids, and other tiny hidden areas. They scavenge both inside and outside and can eat a wide variety of materials, and have even been found feeding on human wounds in hospitals.

 Pavement Ants

Pavement ants are dark brown to black in color, with light-colored antennae and legs that measure between 2-1/2 and 3 mm. The parallel ridges and furrows on the head and thorax are what make them most easily recognized. They get their name from their penchant for building their nests next to and beneath driveways, sidewalks, and foundations. You can often find them tending and protecting aphids and other honeydew producing insects.

If you’re seeing winged ants indoors, it’s most likely pavement ants. In the spring, they can be seen swarming out of false ceilings, heat registers, expansion joints, and baseboards. This might go on for weeks and requires the services of a professional to reliably control.

 Larger Yellow Ant

The Larger Yellow Ant is reddish-yellow, with a length of 4 to 4-1/2 mm. The characteristic smell of lemon that workers of this ant release when startled or crushed is one of its distinguishing characteristics. This ant’s scent has given rise to many names for it, including the citronella or perfumed yellow ants. There is just one queen each colony. These ants like to build their nests in the ground near a building’s foundation. Larger Yellow Ants eat mostly honeydew that is made by root eating insects.

When alates congregate indoors or when laborers discard soil from floor or basement wall fissures, this ant becomes a problem. In these cases, a lot of people mistake them for termites. .

 Acrobat Ant

Occasionally, Acrobat ants can be structural pests. This group of ants vary in size from 2-1/2 to 3 mm long and in color from light brown to reddish brown to black. Their heart-shaped abdomen makes these ants easy to identify. They nest in wood and have a single queen per colony. Acrobat ants can actually build small ‘sheds’ in which they house honeydew producing insects as a food supply. They are drawn to greasy and sweet foods when they are indoors.

Acrobat ants like to build nests in dead and decaying wood, and will frequently infest window and door frames that have been harmed by dampness. They are also known for infesting foam panel insulation.

 How to avoid problems with ants

It is better to leave ant management and extermination to professionals as they can be quite difficult to eradicate, but there are steps you can take to make an infestation unlikely.

  • Seal all of the gaps and cracks around the house, particularly those where utilities are present.
  • Use trash cans with sealed lids and dispose of waste on a regular basis.
  • Sweets like sugar and honey should be kept in airtight containers.
  • Use a dehumidifier as needed and fix leaky pipes to get rid of extra moisture.
  • Seal all of the gaps and cracks around the house, particularly those where utilities are present.
  • Remove potential ant nesting sites by removing extra plants, yard waste, and outdated landscape materials from the property.

 Carpenter Ants

Carpenter ants are a problem in Missouri as well, but they are a very different problem than house infesting insects. More information on Carpenter ants can be found in our wood-destroying insects section.