Carpenter Ant, Field Ant, Pavement Ant, Odorous House Ant, Pharaoh Ant

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There are more than 700 ant species found in the U.S., although only about 25 species commonly infest homes. Ants are social insects that typically live in underground colonies, made up of workers and a queen. Ants will eat practically any kind of food, but are especially attracted to sweets. Ants are easily identifiable due to their three distinct body region: head, thorax and abdomen, as well as antennae. Some of the more common ants found in Wisconsin are the Carpenter ant, Pavement ant, and the Odorous House ant.

Carpenter ants get their name because they excavate wood in order to build their nests. Their excavation results in smooth tunnels inside the wood. Carpenter ants range in size from one-quarter inch for a worker ant to up to three-quarters inch for a queen.

All species of carpenter ants mainly attack wood that is or has been wet and damaged by mold. Even though these ants first invade wet, decayed wood, they may soon begin building paths through dry, undamaged wood. They usually come into buildings through cracks around doors, windows, or through holes for wires. They will also crawl along overhead wires, shrubs, or tree limbs that touch the building far above the ground.

Carpenter ants build their nests outdoors in various wood sources, including tree stumps, firewood or landscaping. They need a constant water source to survive. Carpenter ants will enter the house through wet, damaged wood. Carpenter ants damage wood through their nest building. If they gain entry to a structure, over time they can damage the structure.

Pavement ants get their name because they make their nests in or under cracks in pavement. They can infest structures. These black ants will eat almost anything, including insects, seeds, honeydew, honey, bread, meats, nuts and cheese.

These black pavement ants do not pose a public health risk, but they can contaminate food.

The odorous house ant gets its name from the strong, rotten coconut-like smell it gives off when crushed. These tiny insects range in size from one-sixteenth of an inch to one-eighth of an inch long.

Odorous house ants like to eat sweets, especially melon. Typically living for several years, odorous ants make their homes in exposed soil and wall cracks. Odorous house ants do not pose a public health risk, but they can contaminate food and should be avoided.