Small Honey Ants

Facts, Identification, & Control

Scientific Name

Prenolepis imparis


What Do They Look Like
  • Size: They are about 0.08 to 0.2 inches long.
  • Body: Workers have a triangular-shaped abdomen that has a circle of hairs at the tip.
  • Color: Small honey ant workers are typically glossy variations of light and dark browns or black.

How Did I Get Small Honey Ants?

Small honey ants are also commonly called winter ants because of their activity in winter months. Shrubs or landscaping plants placed too close to a house may lead the pests inside. They make their way indoors through cracks to feed on sugary items in kitchens and pantries, so exclusion methods are important to help manage infestations from these ants. Also, the pests may be brought inside a home by hitchhiking on infested potted plants.

Hidden, poorly cleaned areas littered with crumbs and spills provide a steady food source for infestations. The pests may also nest in wall voids or flooring near their foraging sites.

How Serious Are Small Honey Ants?

Since they don't bite or sting, small honey ants aren't harmful to humans. However, they often contaminate stored goods like cereals and syrups, resulting in costly food waste and may damage outdoor plants such as roses. Because of the pest's tolerance for cold, an infestation may last longer than an invasion by a different species.

Signs of Infestation

Indicators of a small honey ant infestation include live or dead ants, the cone-shaped nests on the ground, winged males and females, and trailing ants.

How Do I Get Rid of Small Honey Ants?

What Orkin Does

Your local Orkin technician is trained to help manage small honey ants and similar pests. Since every building or home is different, your Orkin technician will design a unique program for your situation.

Orkin can provide the right solution to keep small honey ants in their place…out of your home, or business.

Behavior, Diet, & Habits

What Do They Eat?

They are very cold weather tolerant and often are the first ant species to send out active foragers from the nest during the cold weather months. During hot weather, they spend much of their time in below-ground nests that might be up to several feet deep. They are strongly prone to using foraging trails, normally nest outdoors in the soil, but may also actively forage for and feed upon sweets inside. Small honey ants prefer sweets and aphids for the honeydew they produce.

Where Do They Live?

Small honey ants construct their nests in open, shaded areas and may also nest in soil under shrubs, flower and garden beds, logs, or stones. Nests have many small galleries excavated in the soil with the excavated soil particles placed in a crater-shaped mound. However, if sweet substances are not sufficient to support a nest outdoors, workers may also forage inside for food and are known to actually build indoor nests. Still, another location for nests is the soil of potted plants.

Geographic Range

Small honey ants are native to the United States from the Canadian border to Nebraska, south to Texas and Florida and in New Mexico, California, Oregon, and Washington.


Small honey ant colonies usually have one active queen. In the northern portion of the ant's distribution, a mated queen sheds her wings, finds suitable shelter, and begins a new colony of her own. In the southern portion of their range, several fertile females that have all chosen the same nest site may start a colony.