Facts, Identification & Control
Acrobat ants (Crematogaster spp.) get their name from their habit of acrobatically raising their abdomen above their head, especially when they are disturbed. When viewed from above, the abdomen is heart-shaped. There are several species of acrobat ants in the United States. Acrobat ants are small; most species are less than 5.4 mm in length. Many emit an unpleasant odor when disturbed.
Behavior, Diet & Habits
Outdoors, acrobat ants nest near moisture such as under stones, in stumps, in rotting logs and under woodpiles. When they invade homes, acrobat ants often nest in damp areas such as in foam sheathing behind siding, and they even have been found nesting in roofing near a leaking skylight.
Acrobat ants often nest in wood that termites or carpenter ants have damaged. It is common for acrobat ants to clean out the galleries that other insects have made in the wood. They push the dirt or wood scraps out of the galleries. Sometimes homeowners find this debris and think there is an active termite infestation.
Acrobat ants normally eat insects and honeydew, a sugary waste excreted by sap-feeding insects like aphids. Acrobat ants protect the aphids that produce the honeydew. If acrobat ants come into a home, they usually prefer sweets and meat.
The acrobat ant workers enter homes in several ways. Sometimes they make a trail across the ground. Door thresholds and construction gaps are common entryways. Workers can also follow tree limbs or shrubs that touch the house. They have even made their trails on utility lines. The ants can enter the home through the same opening that pipes or wires go through.
Not much is known about the biology of acrobat ants. Like many other ants, they produce winged males and females called swarmers which fly out of the nest and mate. The mated females then disperse and become queens of their own colonies. Queens begin laying eggs which, in turn, are tended by workers.
Signs of an Acrobat Ant Infestation
Acrobat ants are capable of nesting inside buildings, sometimes inside insulated spaces. The most visible sign of acrobat ants are the trails of ants as they forage for resources. A second sign is the debris they deposit as they excavate their nests. This often consists of foam insulation and dead ants near the nest.
Preventing acrobat ants begins with a thorough inspection. Sometimes there is evidence to show where they made their nest. For example, if there are bits of foam on the ground by the foundation, it may be a sign that acrobat ants are nesting behind the siding. Ants that are moving in a trail can lead to their nest and their food supply. It is very often necessary to correct a moisture problem before it is possible to eliminate acrobat ants.
It may be necessary to trim shrubs or tree limbs to stop acrobat ants from invading. Check attic vents and repair any damaged screens. Caulk openings around pipes and utility lines. (Do not handle electric wires; contact the utility company or an electrician.) Move firewood piles away from the home. It may even be necessary to remove a tree stump that the ants have used for a nesting site.
Because the nest can be difficult to locate, it is usually preferable to let a pest control professional treat an acrobat ant infestation.