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What Do Ants Eat? Your Questions Answered

a kitchen with an ant infestation which leads a homeowner to wonder what ants eat

If you’re dealing with an ant problem in or around your home, you are probably frustrated. What are these tiny pests doing here? Is there something I did that attracted them to my home or yard? And, most important, how can I get rid of them?

Ants might have chosen to live on your property for many reasons. One reason that ants may have chosen your home or yard is that they have found some source of food. Ants eat a wide range of different things, but their food of choice usually depends on what kind of ants they are.

Let’s start by identifying the type of ant you’re dealing with, so you can take steps towards eliminating their food source.

an odorous house ant on a rock

Odorous House Ants

Odorous house ants love sweet things like honey. These are the tiny, blackish or dark brown ants that you might see rush to the scene if your ice cream melts or your kid drops their lollipop. This ant is very small—about one-sixteenth of an inch long—and they have segmented bodies with antennae.

One of the most unique characteristics about odorous house ants is that they give off a rotten, sweet smell if you smash them. They live throughout the U.S., and they can build their nests anywhere near moisture. Outside, you may find them under wood, in mulch, under stones or in exposed soil. Inside, you may find them in wall voids, bricks or other areas near pipes and leaky fixtures.

a crazy ant on a leaf

Crazy Ants

Crazy ants (Nylanderia fulva and Paratrechina longicornis) are another type of ant that eats sweet things. They like foods such as “honeydew,” which is a sugary substance produced by insects like aphids and mealybugs. However, these ants are not too particular in their diets. Besides honeydew, they’ll eat almost anything, including other insects, overripe fruit and a variety of household foods.

Some unique things about crazy ants are that they look hairy, and they tend to run around quickly and erratically. These pests are usually around one-eighth of an inch long, and they can range in color from dark brown to reddish-brown to a lighter tan. Crazy ants are pretty versatile, so they can live in a number of places inside your home or outdoors. However, they do not like very cold climates, so they are most often found in southern states, especially in spots along the coast.

Crazy ants do not build typical nests. You are most likely to find them in large groups that are in or under piles of debris, soil, raked leaves, stumps, rocks or landscaping objects outside. Indoors, you can find them in or under any area that is humid or moist. This includes the soil of potted plants or inside electrical equipment. These types of ants do not have stingers, and although they can bite humans, they are typically more harmful to wildlife, livestock and crops.

fire ants on a leaf

Fire Ants

Fire ants have one of the meanest bites around. Unfortunately, these are some of the most common types of ants in the southeastern region of the United States. Fire ants most often feed on greasy and oily foods, but they will also eat pet food, seeds and other insects.

They are typically reddish-brown and about one-sixteenth to three-sixteenths of an inch long. They look like they have more segments to their bodies than other kinds of ants. This is because they have a double pedicel, which is a pair of nodes towards the abdomen or back end of the ant’s body. These ants usually live outside, although they will come inside your house looking for water and food. This holds especially true in the later months of summer.

Their nests look like cone-shaped mounds and can contain hundreds of thousands of ants. If you disturb one of these nests, the ants will react aggressively and may attack anything in their path. Fire ant mounds might be more obvious after it rains. This is because they dig their nests deep into the ground during dry and hot weather. Then, they come to the surface after rain to escape getting flooded out. They also often begin mating after rainstorms in warmer months.

a carpenter ant

Carpenter Ants

Carpenter ants are one of the larger types of ant species at around a quarter of an inch to half an inch long. These critters can be many different colors—from red-orange to brown to black to a combination of colors.

While carpenter ants don’t eat wood, they do chew through wood when they are building nests. Instead, they feed on plant juices, other insects and honeydew. In a home, they might eat sweets, meat or grease. They primarily come out at night, and they mostly build their nests inside of trees, landscaping or rotting wood outside. However, they may also build nests indoors in areas like inside walls and ceilings, boxes or hollow doors. Although they do not sting, carpenter ant bites can pack a powerful punch because of their strong jaws.

While these are some of the most common types of ants you might find around the house, the U.S. is also home to many other kinds of ants. These different species feed on everything from sweets to plants to proteins. Some other species of ants that call America home include acrobat ants, rover ants, pharaoh ants and leaf-cutting ants. All these ants are pretty small, which can make it difficult for homeowners to figure out what kind of pests are invading their home or yard.

However, no matter what type of ants you have in your home, the best way to deal with them is to contact a pest control specialist. Professionals can take care of all your pest problems for you, so your life can go back to normal.

herbs sprouting in a garden

What To Do About Ants in Your Garden

Some ant species can actually be beneficial in the garden because they eat other pests, such as aphids. However, other species, like fire ants, can destroy some vegetables, including potatoes and okra. Also, their bites can make gardening an unpleasant task. Unfortunately, it is often difficult for homeowners to figure out what kind of ants they might be dealing with.

This is why it is best to hire a pest control professional, who can figure out what kind of pests have invaded your space. Then, they can explain your options for treatment and take care of getting rid of these pests. If you choose to deal with the ants yourself, you can find several different types of home remedies for these pests in your garden.

For example, some people recommend spreading cornmeal over the area. However, it will take a while before you start to notice a difference. Additionally, this method will not actually eliminate the colony—rather, it just encourages the ants to move to another area. This means they could move to an area that is still within your garden or lawn.

Another method that some gardeners suggest is to create a mixture of powdered borax and jelly or another sweet substance in a bowl and put it in the area where the ants are. The idea is that not only will the ants that ingest the mixture die from the poison, but they will also get coated in the mixture and poison other ants back in their colony. However, this method of do-it-yourself pest control can have several unintended consequences.

Because some ants can be beneficial to the garden, some homeowners don’t mind having them around. However, fire ants are a different story. Learn what steps you can take to control these pests.

a fire ant on a rose stem

How to Get Rid of Fire Ants

Fire ants are most likely to come inside your home when it is very hot or dry outside because they are looking for water and food. Pet food is one of their favorite things, plus they also like to eat greasy and oily household foods.

A first step you can take to address a fire ant problem is to clean up anything that might be attracting these pests. For example, store pet food in a sturdy container with a tightly-sealing lid. Also, promptly clear out any food in your pet’s bowl that they do not eat.

Taking steps to prevent fire ants can be helpful. But, if you already have a fire problem, you will likely need to take additional measures. There are many home remedies out there to control fire ants, but many of these methods typically only cause the ants to move to another spot.

One method that some homeowners have found to be effective is pouring several gallons of boiling water on freshly built ant mounds. However, it is wise to be careful if you try to do this on your own. For one, there is the risk that you might burn yourself while you are hauling boiling water out to your yard.

Additionally, if you are not successful in eliminating the pests, then you might also expose yourself to angry fire ants looking to bite whoever tried to flood their home. That is why it is best to reach out to a pest control professional, who can take care of everything for you.

ABC Can Identify and Treat the Ants on Your Property

Instead of trying home remedies while the ant colony on your property grows, contact ABC Home & Commercial Services. Our pest control professionals are highly trained and will be able to create a pest control plan that gets your problem under control. This way, you and your family members don’t have to deal with these tiny nuisances.

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