Ants, Ants and More Ants!
We have a variety of different ant species here on the West Coast including carpenter ants, pharaoh ants, cornfield ants, pavement ants, odorous house ants, and field ants. There are a few others but these are the most commonly found. Most of the "garden variety ants" or "little nusiance ants" or "picnic ants" are actually one of many different local species listed.
Carpenter Ants (Camponotus sp.) are very common throughout Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley, and they are often mistaken for their less harmfull relations - click here to read about these strucuturally damaging pests. There are 10 different local species of carpenter ant, not all of them are big and black, and all species have multiple sizes of workers, so carpenter ants are often mistaken as "simple little nuisance ants". This mis-diagnosis can be a costly mistake!
Pharaoh Ants (Monomorium pharaonis)- Very tiny and prolific, these ants can be a real nuisance. This is another one comonly mis-diagnosed but with pharaoh ants if you spray them, they will actually spread and get worse!
How can you tell what type of ant you have? Collect a sample and keep them for us!
Cornfield Ants (Lasius sp.) - Light brown to dark brown in color, workers are typically 2 to 3.5mm in size. Cornfield ants are common in cornfields, hence their name, but locally they are found in and around homes often nesting in wet or rotting wood and other moist areas. They are sometimes referred to as "moisture ants". The winged female cornfield ant is much larger than the workers (6 to 8 mm in length) and looks similar to a winged female carpenter ant in both size and color. The winged male cornfield ant is significantly smaller, about the same size as the workers. Their mating flight, or swarm, occurs in the late summer (August) as opposed to carpenter ants which typically swarm in spring and early summer. Cornfield ants do not typically cause any more damage to the wood they are nesting in than was caused by the moisture, but they do build extensive galleries in wood. Like many other ants, they feed on a variety of foods including honeydew (the nectar produced by aphids), dead insects and will venture indoors for sweets.Odorous House Ants (Tapinoma sessile) - These ants are brown to black in color, range in size from 2.5 to 3.5mm in length and when crushed emit an odor often described as a rotten, coconut-like smell. When nesting outdoors, they are often found underneath objects such as under lumber, firewood, bricks, potted plants sitting on the patio, etc. Indoors they often nest in areas with moisture, such as in wall voids near pipes and heaters, in and around showers, and even right under a concrete foundation. This ant can be active all year and forages both day and night - their favorite food is honeydew.
Field Ants (Formica sp.) - This is a large group of ants referred to as field ants due to their preferred nesting habits - they tend to prefer nesting in open areas in grass or soil or decayed logs. Some of them are often referred to as "thatching ants" because some of these ants will construct nests from "thatch" - small twigs, dead leaves and grass and tree needles and bits of other vegetation that they gather together and build into mounds of various sizes. These ants are typically found nesting around the exterior of buildings and out into the landscape, sometimes in the shade and sometimes in full sun. Because this is a group of different species, size and color vary greatly between the various species. An unusual trait of this group is that several species will spray small amounts of formic acid when defending their nest.
Are you finding swarms of winged ants? Identify your pest by season...
- If you find them in the spring, they are carpenter ants
- If you find them in the late spring to early summer, they are pavement, field, thatching or odorous house ants.
- If you find them in late summer, they are cornfield ants.
- If you find them in early fall, in the evening, they are very likely dampwood termites, not ants
- If you find them inside, high up in a tower, in the winter, you are very lucky (?) because you are seeing the rare emergence of winged reproductive pharaoh ants
Pavement Ants (Teramorium caespitum) - Pavement ants variy in color from light brown to black, are 2.5 to 3mm in length and have a pair of small spines on their thorax (although they are tiny and difficult to see). Nests are often found beside and under sidewalks, driveways and foundations, hence the name pavement ant. These ants tend to be more active at night foraging for food. They feed on a wide variety of foods including honeydew, insects and some vegetation - although they are attracted to both greasy and sweet foods.
Pacific Dampwood Termites (Zootermopsis augusticollis) - This is the most common species of termite we have in Metro Vancouver, and it is largely dealt with through structural repair. As the name suggests, they only infest damp wood, so if you can locate and repair the wet wood, and stop whatever leak happened to get the wood wet, you often do not need a pesticide application. The winged reproductives of this species are the biggest insect flyers we get on the coast, and they can commonly be seen fluttering weakly about in the evening in late August and early September. Termites actually do feed on wood and they can do serious damage, so if you find these inside get it looked after sooner than later.
Proper identification of the species visiting your property is the key to effective control.