Did you know there are about 20,000 species of ants roaming the earth? Dinosaur ants are an inch long, and they swarm and kill any of their own that they perceive as a threat to the queen. Amazonian ants make traps out of fungus to catch and kill large insects, and Dracula ants suck the blood of their own larvae to survive.
Thankfully, you won't find any of these terrifying ant species in South Carolina. However, you should watch out for these four less-threatening ant species in your home and yard.
Carpenter ants are named for their wood-excavating behavior. Although they do not eat the wood as do termites, carpenter ants burrow and tunnel into wood structures to build their nests. This behavior can cause serious damage to piece of wood. You may only see a few small, sawdust-lined holes on the outside of a board, but inside, it is riddled with tunnels.
Carpenter ants themselves are 1/2 inch long and red or black in color. You're most likely to see them if you have damp, rotten wood, since they need a water source and they prefer to nest in decaying wood. At the end of summer, winged carpenter ants begin a mating ritual called swarming, during which they gather and fly around in large numbers. Many homeowners first notice they have a problem with carpenter ants during swarming season.
Always hire a professional exterminator to deal with carpenter ants. They can be tough to exterminate since they hide inside wooden structures. To keep them away, you will need to seal any holes in your home or foundation and take steps to keep wood structures dry and rot-free.
Fire ants usually nest outside, sometimes in your landscaping, but individual ants may make their way into your home via foundation cracks or heating vents. Their nests look like large, irregularly shaped mounds. Fire ants themselves are dark reddish brown and about 1/4 inch long.
Fire ants are a threat because they sting readily, and their stings cause painful, red, and swollen welts. Never interfere with a fire ant nest; always hire a professional to come remove the colony. If you are bitten by a fire ant, apply a cold compress to the area for about 20 minutes, and consider taking an oatmeal bath to ease the itchiness.
These small, black ants are about 1/16 to 1/4 inch long, and although they are not dangerous, they do produce an undesirable musty odor. You'll usually find Argentine ants outside, but they will build nests indoors if the conditions outside become too moist or too dry. Their nests are typically well hidden between walls and in other secluded areas.
Getting rid of Argentine ants often requires several careful, professional applications of insecticides and baits. To keep the ants away, you should also trim back any trees or shrubs near your foundation, seal cracks in the foundation, and keep trash far away from your home.
Pharaoh ants are tiny, light brown ants whose bodies measure about 1/16 inch in length. They're frequently seen in kitchens and pantries, as they love sugary food. Pharaoh ants often move inside in the winter, building nests behind baseboards, inside curtain rods, and in other small, enclosed areas. They are not overly dangerous, although they can contaminate food with bacteria.
Exterminating pharaoh ants is tough because if the colony is not fully eradicated, the surviving ants will just scatter and build a new nest elsewhere. For this reason, you should always let professionals handle a pharaoh ant infestation.
Finding ants of any kind in your home can be a real nuisance. If you are having trouble with ants, regardless of the species, contact First Choice Termite & Pest Control, Inc. We'll take steps to get rid of the ants, and then keep them away for good.