Ants are a persistent problem in Houston, and many of these ants will invade your home. But there are many types of ants that live in the city, and these ant species are all very different from one another. This means that knowing how to get rid of ants means knowing what kind of ants you're dealing with.
Different kinds of ants will have different behaviors, different places they build their nests, and a pest control method that works on one species may not work on another.
Here you'll find information on all the most common types of home-invading ants found in Houston, with information on how to identify them by their appearance and habits, and some tips on getting rid of them.
Acrobat ants get their name from a unique way of running they have when they're disturbed or threatened, when they hold their abdomens above their thoraxes, making them resemble an contorted acrobat walking on his hands. Easily identified by their brownish color and heart-shaped abdomen, these ants like to nest in sheltered places and particularly like rotting wood and dead tree limbs. When they infest houses, they prefer to nest around door and window frames. These ants will feed on most nay kind of sugar or protein found inside the home. They are found all over Houston.
Acrobat ants usually don't respond to ant bait or traps, and their colonies are very large. For outside infestations, eliminating the rotting wood they are nesting in can be very effective at getting rid of the ants. For indoor infestations, professional spraying is generally required.
Argentine ants are one of the most successful invasive species on the planet. These small, dark brown ants originated in South America and now inhabit warm climates across the globe. Unlike most other ants, Argentine ants won't attack other members of their own species. This means that multiple colonies of these ants can exist close to each other, effectively forming cooperative supercolonies that can grown to incredible proportions. One super colony of Argentine Ants in Southern Europe was found to stretch over 3,000 miles, another in California covered over 500 miles. Closer to home here in Houston, this ability to spread can mean that Argentine ants can be especially hard to get rid of. Also unlike other ant species, Argentine ant colonies have multiple queens. Each queen can lay as many as 60 eggs a day, so with multiple queens in multiple colonies Argentine ants spread very rapidly.
Argentine ants are household pests. They feed on sugary foods and will invade kitchens, cabinets, and pantries in massive numbers when foraging. These ants can also be a pest animal for gardeners and for lawns. They force out helpful insect species and have a symbiotic relationship with destructive species of aphids. Argentine ants will essentially farm aphids by providing waste for the aphids to feed on. The aphids in turn produce honeydew which feeds the ants.
Eliminating Argentine ants usually involves multiple treatments over multiple days, and thoroughly surveying the infected property to make sure that all of the colonies are eliminated.
As you might suspect, bigheaded ants are identifiable by their heads which appear to be proportionally large for their bodies. These ants are a dark brown to black in color. These ants nest underground in large, underground colonies that can have multiple queens. Each of these these queens can lay nearly 300 eggs in a month. In summer months, some of these queens will take flight and start a new colony.
Bigheaded ants will infest a home in search of food. Their natural diet consists mostly of dead insects, so they'll seek out high-protein foods such as cheese or peanut butter when foraging indoors. Bigheaded ants are relatively easy to control by spraying. Locating and destroying the nests can usually contain an infestation in a single treatment.
Carpenter ants are named for their habit of destroying wood. These large, black ants will hollow out trees and wooden structures and carry off pieces of wood to build their nests. They don't eat wood like termites, but they can be nearly as destructive as termites, particularly to older wooden and wood-framed homes. These ants are highly destructive and can be a significant problem pest if left untreated.
Carpenter ants leave behind sawdust-like particles similar to those left by termites, but their damage can be easily distinguished from termite damage by the nature of the holes they leave behind. When termites attack wood, their damage looks rough and gnawed, while carpenter ants will leave smooth round holes that look like as if they were made by a drill or bore.
Carpenter ants are particularly attracted to homes with water leaks or damaged or rotting wood. They will usually gain access to a home by crawling along pipes. In an infested home, a main colony will usually be found nearby outdoors and smaller sub-colonies within the home itself near the damaged wood. Repairing and replacing rotting wood and securely sealing the gaps around pipes will help keep carpenter ants out of your home. Infestations can usually be destroyed by locating and destroying the outdoor main colony and eliminating any sub-colonies inside the home.
Crazy ants are one of the newest and most problematic invasive species of ants in Houston. These ants were first identified in Houston in the early 2000s, where they seem to have been introduced from South America. They can be identified by their light tawny-brown color and habit of swarming in large numbers. Since their discovery, crazy ants have begun spreading across Texas and across the entire southern US. These ants are rapidly becoming one of the most significant pests in the Southern United States.
This seems to be the case, though no one is quite sure why. Crazy ants seem to be drawn to electrical wiring and will often build their nests in electrical junction boxes. The sheer size of their colonies means that they can often cause short circuits and present a genuine fire hazard. An infestation of crazy ants destroying electrical equipment managed to shut down NASA operations in 2008.
Crazy ants are immune to many conventional pesticides, and over-the-counter pesticides are completely ineffective against them. Getting rid of them requires professional treatment. The US Department of Agriculture has labeled stopping the spread of these invasive pests as a high priority.
Ghost ants easily recognized from their transparent-looking bodies capped with dark heads. They are are a tropical species that was introduced to America and they need warm, humid climates to survive, so Houston is unfortunately an ideal breeding ground for them.
Ghost ants will build colonies inside human homes if they can find an available source of sugary foods. Ghost ants can reproduce by budding into separate colonies an an infestation can consist of several colonies, each with multiple queens.
Ghosts ants can be a nuisance pest and can be difficult to control with baits or traps. Professional pest control treatment is usually required to rid a home of a ghost and infestation.
As their name suggests, little black ants are little and black. They're also species that is native to Texas, and they're voracious scavengers, eating pretty much anything and everything. Little black ants can also nest most anywhere, inside or outside.
Eliminate the nest. Little black ants can find their way into a home through even the smallest crack. They usually forage in long, straight trails and homeowners will usually become aware of an infestation when they see a large number of ants at once. These foraging trails helpfully lead straight back to the nest, but because they often build their nests in concealed places, getting access to the net itself can still be difficult. Little black ants will often respond to baits, but a professional exterminator should be called for major infestations.
Odorous house ants are small, resilient, brownish-black ants that get their name from the turpentine-like smell they emit when they are crushed. They are also called stink ants and coconut ants. These ants are extremely durable and extremely difficult o get rid of. Even severely injured workers can continue to function, the queens can go without food for months, and they are highly resistant to extremes of heat and cold.
Odorous house ants are omnivorous scavengers inside the home, eating almost any kind of food they can get access to. They also have the nasty habit of nesting inside insulation in the walls, making their nests particularly hard to locate and eliminate. These ants will typically come inside the home during cooler weather and after rainstorms.
Fortunately, odorous house ants are susceptible to many insecticides, but they breed quickly and can build large colonies in a very small amount of time. Treating for these ants when they're first spotted and before they can get established is highly recommended.
Pharaoh ants, or sugar ants, are one of the most common ant pests in Houston. The name describes several closely-related species of ants that commonly come indoors. All of these ants are very small and have a body color that ranges from a light, tawny yellow to a dark reddish brown. Pharaoh ants will often build their nests inside buildings or homes, occupying space in the walls or under floors. They like to build their nests near readily available food supplies, and because they will feed on grease or sugary foods are often found near kitchens.
Pharaoh ants also reproduce by a process called budding, where several times a year the colony produces a new queen who will leave the nest and set up a new colony nearby. These colonies will then bud themselves, meaning that pharaoh ants can reproduce exponentially, and within the course of a year a healthy colony can produce enough ants and offspring colonies to fill an entire city block. This method of reproduction makes them a particularly hard pest to get rid of, because a single household can contain multiple colonies of ants.
One common home pest control remedy for pharaoh ants is to lay traps. However, traps can be ineffective because the ants will vary their food supply and rarely change that source until they are satisfied. They may feast on a bag of sugar one week and move on to a box of cereal the next, all the while ignoring the traps. And because of the way these ants reproduce by budding, even if the traps are effective against one colony there may be multiple other colonies inside the house that are unaffected by the traps. Professional pest control is the most effective way to thoroughly eliminate an infestation of pharaoh ants.
Pyramid ants are native to the Americas, their range stretches from the Southern US all the way down into Central and South America. These small, dark brown ants prefer to build their nests in sandy soil, with the entrance to the underground colony forming a small, pyramid-shaped mound on the surface. Pyramid ants will eat sugary foods and will often be seen foraging in kitchen cabinets or pantries.
These ants can become a pest with major infestations. Getting rid of pyramid ants requires identifying and eliminating the colony and sealing any entry points into the home. Baits can occasionally be effective, but a thorough solution usually requires spraying insecticides deep into the nest.
Rover ants are small ants that can range in color light brown to black. These ants are native to America and have become more of a pest in recent years as they've adapted to move their nests indoors. Rover ants will seek out areas where there is damp wood and fungus growth. While they don't sting, rover ants can be a nuisance because their colonies can contain several thousand members and when established in a home can overwhelm the property.
Rover ants are also very difficult to get rid of. Their colonies contain a single queen who must be eliminated to destroy the entire colony, but rover ants are resistant to many insecticides. They also generally aren't attracted to ant baits. Having a professional locate and destroy the nest, repairing any damp wood, and sealing entrance areas is the best way to rid your home of rover ants.
Small honey ants are smallish ants golden-yellow in door with smooth shiny bodies. They are native to Texas and can thrive in colder temperatures than many other ants in the region. They can pose a significant problem when they move indoors. Honey ants will eat sugar and starchy foods, and they also contaminate the foods they consume with their droppings.
Small honey ants are also extremely damaging to gardens. They cultivate aphids to feed on their honeydew, and these aphids can be very damaging to plants. Honey ants will also damage roses, fruits trees, and other flowering plants by chewing away at the buds to obtain nectar. They have been known to establish indoor colonies in potted plants.
Small honey ant colonies are usually limited in size, but they can be difficult to control. Small honey ants like to build their nests in tight cracks or crevices, and reaching the nest to apply spray can be difficult. If they have infested a home, they will often be found nesting underneath carpeting or floor panels. Professional least control may be needed to locate hidden sources of infestation.
Texas leaf cutting ants are one of the more common native ants species in Houston. These ants are a tawny brown color and are easily identified by the small spines on their thorax and the bumps running down their backs, giving them a slightly fuzzy appearance. They're also easily identified by their habit of marching along in long, straight lines carrying the small pieces of leaves they've cut off, a habit which also gives them their name. Texas leaf cutting ants carry these small pieces of leaf back to their nest, where they use them to form a compost pile that grows the fungus they use as food.
Gardeners may find Texas leaf cutting ants to be pests. Texas leaf cutting ants can do significant amounts of damage to plants and ornamental gardens. They are particularly attracted to young pine trees, and can do significant damage to pine saplings.
Texas leaf cutting ants build large colonies which can contain millions of ants and can stretch as far as 80 feet across underground. Because of the sheer size, the presence of one of these colonies can undermine the support for walkways, patios, driveways, even roads, and cause significant subsidence.
Texas leaf cutting ants usually do not come indoors and can coexists peacefully with humans, but they become pests when they begin to do significant damage to plants or to cause damage through building their colonies. For any insect infestation of this size, professional treatment is usually needed.
Thief ants, also called grease ants, are very small ants that are a light, yellowish-brown in color. Thief ants get their name from their habit of nesting near larger ant colonies and stealing food from those colonies. When they move indoors, they will feed on grease, meat, and packaged foods. Their small size makes it easy for them to enter food containers, and they will be very persistent when foraging. Thief ants prefer to nest outdoors, often building nests by home foundations. They are most often found indoors during hot weather
Thief ants can be very difficult to eliminate. Their small size and ability to evade detection makes them difficult to find, and nests are often well established by the time they are discovered. Their nests are often concealed in very small crevices or cracks and can be very hard to find. Colonies can also contain multiple queens, making baits less effective. Thief ants are also resistant to many over-the-counter insecticides, so professional treatment is usually required for serious infestations.
Tramp ants are large ants with a reddish-brown head and black abdomen. These ants were introduced into Houston from West Africa and have become very common pests, preferring to nest outside around driveways, foundations, sidewalks and pavement. Although usually content to stay outside, tramp ants will come indoors and when they do they will eat pretty much any kind of food found within the home.
Because they nest outside and only come indoors to seek food, controlling a tramp ant infestation requires tracking down the and destroying the nest. Tramp ants can forage over a considerable range, and so the nest may be some distance from the home. Once the next is eliminated, the soil should also be treated to prevent re-infestation.
White-footed ants are large ants with black bodies and distinctive pale yellow or white markings on their legs. Whit footed ants are relative newcomers to Houston, having arrived in America from Indonesia via South Florida in the 1980s. They have begun to spread into other hot, humid areas in the United States and are rapidly becoming established as significant nuisance pest in Houston.
White-footed ants usually make their nests inside of walls, locating and destroying these nests can be difficult, and may require professional treatment. They most often find their way inside a building by crawling along tree limbs that touch the house. Eliminating holes in the walls and cutting bak any tree branches that are touching the house are both essential to keeping these ants out of the home and preventing re-infestation once the colonies are eliminated.