Common Ants Found in Southern California and Their Treatment
There are over 12,000 identified species of ants worldwide and over 200 species living in Southern California alone, but only a fraction of California’s ant species cause problems for homes in rural and residential areas. Native ant species are beneficial to both humans and the natural world by feeding on other pests such as termites, caterpillars, and fleas. While only about 25% of California’s ants are nonnative species, several of these species are the ones invading our homes.
Here’s a list of the most common ants found around Southern California homes and properties, and some solutions for preventing and removing them.
Argentine ant: This nonnative species is California’s most common household ant. In addition to invading your home and property with their rapidly multiplying colonies, the argentine ant kills off beneficial native ant colonies and harbors honeydew-producing pests such as aphids, mealybugs, and whiteflies that destroy plants.
Carpenter ant: This species is easy to identify because it’s one of the largest ant species in North America. Their nests are fairly easy to identify as well. Big, black carpenter ants burrow into wood to build their nests and leave fine piles of wood pulp behind. Look for this sign around your home to make sure you don’t have carpenter ants, because they can cause significant damage to wooden homes. They can also inflict a painful bite, so be careful when controlling them.
Carpenter ants like water and feed on honeydew and other sugars, in addition to live and dead insects, so limit these things in and around your home to help control them. Keep wood on your home and other structures properly sealed and remove any rotting wood from the property to help discourage them from building nests.
Thief ant: This very tiny ant is light brown to yellowish in color and earns its name by stealing the larvae of other ant species for food. In your home they’re attracted to greasy foods and sweets and can be seen carrying bits of food. They’re also small enough to get inside food packages that other ants can’t penetrate. Thief ants colonize under rocks and decaying wood around your yard, and behind baseboards and cabinets in your home.
Pavement ant: Pavement ants build their nests over cracks in pavement and cement and in lawns, giving them their name. Like most ants, they are attracted to sweets, and they also enjoy greasy foods. This ant is dangerous to homes because it can travel through electrical wires and plumbing pipes running into your home.
Odorous house ant: This ant will build a nest almost anywhere, and has been found nesting in insulation, houseplants, and heat sources in homes. It gets its name from the profuse smell it gives off when crushed, so this is one way you can test these ants to determine their species. They are attracted to heat and water, so keep this in mind when controlling their populations.
Pharaoh ant: The pharaoh ant is a nuisance because it will chew through almost anything, including rubber. They are light brown to yellowish in color but are not to be confused with the thief ant because they are much larger. The pharaoh ant is a nonnative African species that prefers the hot, dry climate of Southern California.
Imported fire ant: Southern California has recently seen spikes in this invasive ant species native to South America. It is more threatening than the native Southern Fire Ant because they are extremely aggressive and have painful stings. They can attack and kill smaller animals that step on their mounds and may hurt children or attack the leg of an adult. They kill other ant species, are very resilient, and spread their colonies quickly. They also destroy crops and plant root systems with their aggressive mound building. This is not an ant you want to mess around with!
Try the following solutions to remove ants from your home:
- Keep kitchen surfaces clean and countertop food items (fresh fruit, cooking oils, and sugars) hidden away.
- Store perishable foods in airtight containers that ants can’t penetrate.
- Caulk and seal spots where you can see ants coming in.
- Keep a spray bottle of soapy water on the countertop and spray ants as you see them.
- Look for signs of ants around your home outdoors and remove anything that’s attracting them, including populations of the honeydew producing pests they harbor.
- Remove indoor and outdoor plants that ants and honeydew producing pests have infested.
- Set out ant bait with delayed-release poisons that ants carry back to the nest and feed to other members of the colony.
“Working at the aphid farm” Jennifer Molajen