If you’ve never heard of rover ants, that’s probably because they’re pretty new to the United States. They came here from South America just a few decades ago. They have since spread throughout the Gulf states and as far west as California. While they don’t bite like fire ants or chew through homes like carpenter ants, they are still a nuisance.
Rover ants feed mostly on sugars. They live outdoors but will infest people’s homes if they can find a way in. In nature, these pests feed on plant nectars. Inside our homes, they forage for food on kitchen countertops and floors. They are especially attracted to sugary foods, like juice spills or crumbs from bread or muffins.
Wiping up spills and crumbs will help keep these ants away. So will giving your kitchen countertops, stove top and sink a good daily cleaning. But rover ants are good at using tiny cracks in our homes’ foundations or exterior walls to get inside. Once they’re in, they’ll stay as long as they keep finding the shelter, food and water they need to survive.
What Do Rover Ants Look Like?
When you see ants swarming over your kitchen counter, you’ll probably wonder what type of ants they are. If they’re very small, they could be rover ants. Rover ants are tiny—just a couple of millimeters long. They vary from a light yellowish-brown to dark brown in color. They have the same segmented bodies that all species of ants have, with six legs attached to their thoraxes and antennae attached to their heads.
If you looked at a rover ant under a magnifying glass, you’d see that its antennae have nine segments. This is one of the characteristics that sets this ant apart from lots of other ant species. Of course, these ants are so small that their special antennae are hard to see with the naked eye.
When lots of rover ants are out foraging for food together, you might see them moving around in quick, excited-looking patterns. This can make it look like there are even more ants present than there really are. These ants actually live in relatively small colonies. There might be just a few hundred ants together in one colony, with just one queen. Many other types of ant colonies can number in the hundreds of thousands.
Rover ant colonies are relatively small, but there may be quite a few of them located close together. This is often the way a full-blown infestation occurs inside a home. If you have an ant problem in your house, the best way to identify the exact type of ant you’re dealing with is to hire a pest control specialist. An accurate identification made by a reputable professional will help to determine the best approach to getting rid of the ants.
The Rover Ant Diet and Habitat
Where do rover ants live, and what do these ants eat? These are good questions to ask, since knowing the answers can help you identify these pests if they invade your home. Outside in nature, rover ants often build their colonies in mulch. If you have mulched garden beds right next to your home, this could be a source of rover ants getting inside the house.
These ants also build colonies in piles of trash or yard litter. Having these near your house can also draw these ants inside. It’s always a good idea to maintain your yard as much as possible, to decrease all kinds of pest activity. Throwing away litter, dead logs and unused items like cinder blocks or old planters will help to keep pests away.
Rover ants feed mostly on sugars, in many different forms. In nature, they usually eat plant nectars, but they can also feed on dead insects. They’ll even feed on the excrement of other insects, like aphids, that feed on tree and plant saps. Since they are foragers, they might be drawn to your outdoor garbage or recycling bins in search of food scraps of all kinds.
Inside your home, rover ants will feed on whatever they can find. This usually means crumbs and spills in the kitchen. Even though rover ants prefer sugary foods, they can feed on lots of different things. Meats, vegetables, foods, breads, sweets—it’s all fair game when ants are foraging for sustenance they can bring back to feed the other members of their colonies.
Rover ants can build their colonies inside your home in lots of places. Pest management specialists often find these pests living inside wall voids or crawl spaces. They might also build colonies inside potted plants. They are drawn to places where they can be hidden from view and tend to venture out only when they need food and water.
There is one other time when rover ants venture out of the colony: during spring and summer, when it’s swarming time. This is when the winged reproductives leave to find mates and build new colonies.
When and Why Rover Ants Swarm
Just like termites, rover ants swarm in the spring and early summer, when it gets warmer and wetter outside. Swarming refers to these insects’ mating season, when they fly out of their nests to find mates and establish new colonies.
Since swarming requires flying, only the winged reproductives of a rover ant colony are swarmers. They typically fly out at dusk, and they are attracted to light. Once they find a mate, they shed their wings before starting a new colony together.
They swarm most often outdoors, but swarming can also happen inside. When they swarm out of a colony located within a wall void, for example, the reproductives might come out into plain view in the house.
Reproductive rover ants are a little bigger than the workers. This is why many people actually mistake them for termites. They do look a bit similar, but there is a giveaway that the winged insect you’re seeing is a rover ant, not a termite: Look at their body shape. Ants have segmented bodies. Termites’ bodies are straight up and down, without the large abdomen and narrow “waist” that ants have. If you can see the winged insect you’ve found has a noticeably segmented body, it’s probably not a termite.
As creepy as a swarm of ants might be, they are actually pretty harmless. They also don’t swarm for long. You might see them just for a day or two, and then they’re gone. That’s not much comfort, of course, if you aren’t sure whether they’re winged rover ants or winged termites. A pest management specialist can accurately identify what type of winged insect you’ve found. They can find the colony and formulate a multi-point plan to eliminate the ants from your home.
How to Get Rid of Rover Ants
Rover ants are foragers, and they’re also opportunists. This means their workers go looking for food to bring home to their colonies. If they keep finding it, they’ll keep coming back for more. This is why prevention is the best way to keep rover ants away from your home.
Rover ants usually get into people’s houses through tiny cracks in the home’s exterior or foundation. Thus, to prevent them from getting inside, you’ll have to find all the cracks and seal them off. This can be tough to do thoroughly. Most homes have plenty of exterior cracks, both big and small. Most homes also have larger gaps around hose bibs or vents that lead from the inside to the outside. All of these openings will need to be closed off to prevent rover ants from getting inside.
Clearing away underbrush, litter and unused items from your yard is another good way to keep rover ants away from your home. If you have a compost pile outdoors, make sure it’s located well away from the house. Mulched beds should also be as far from the house as possible, since rover ants love nesting in mulch.
You can also make the inside of your home less attractive to rover ants by keeping your kitchen clean. Be careful about sweeping up crumbs, wiping away spills, and cleaning the counters and stove every day. These simple daily steps will go a long way toward keeping lots of pests away, including rover ants.
These preventative steps don’t help much, however, if rover ants have infested your home. The problem with rover ants is that they can be hard to treat with the usual insecticides you might use against other types of ants. Additionally, the interior spaces where rover ants typically build colonies can be hard to find or reach. While many homeowners try DIY methods, like using baking soda to kill ants, these efforts typically aren’t enough.
This is why hiring a pest control specialist is often the way to go. A pro knows how to find ant colonies, even in hard to reach areas like inside wall voids or within your home’s foundation. They also have access to lots of different types of products to treat rover ants. They might use aerosol or contact insecticides, if the granular type of product used for other ants is determined less effective with rover ants. Specialists also have the right training and equipment needed to ensure these products are handled and applied safely.
ABC Can Treat for Rover Ants
Don’t let rover ants take over your property. Instead of dealing with these pests, contact ABC Home & Commercial Services. Our professionals will create an effective pest treatment plan, so you have more free time to do what you want to do.