Ant with Open Mandible

4 Steps to Help Identify Ants at Your Business

The last time you saw ants crawling around your business, you pulled out a magnifying glass to count their antennae and inspect their thorax, right?

Probably not. (And we don’t blame you.)

Even so, partnering with your pest management provider to identify the ant species at your facility is critical to addressing the problem (for a detailed guide, download Orkin’s free Antcyclopedia). Before you invest in a microscope, here are four steps to help you figure out what type of ant is establishing colonial rule on your property before your provider arrives.

1. Look for signs of invasion. Different ant species leave behind different calling cards. Here are some of the most common red flags:

  • Frass (powdery sawdust) left behind by carpenter ants as they bore in wood to make room for a nest
  • Sandy mounds outdoors created by fire ants
  • Cracking and settling concrete caused by pavement ants
  • Short-circuited electronics or conduit boxes can be a consequence of tawny crazy ants, a relatively new species in the U.S.

2. Track the ants to the source. If you can spot the ants’ nest, you can start to narrow down what type of ant you’re dealing with. Argentine ants and odorous house ants might make their home under mulch, while carpenter ants hollow out cavities in wood to build a nest. Where they call home can be your first clue to the type of ants.

3. Note what attracts them. Many ant species are attracted to sweets, but some have a completely opposite taste palate. Pavement ants prefer greasy foods, including much of the food consumed by people. You might catch Argentine ants and fire ants eating meat, and odorous house ants are known to seek out dairy products for sustenance.

4. Pay attention to their physical features. Ants differ in shape, size and color. While it might be difficult to identify a species from the ants’ physical features alone, you may be able to narrow down the playing field. Pharaoh ants, for example, are very tiny and a yellowish-brown color. Carpenter ants, on the other hand, are one of the largest ants, sizing up to ¼ to ½ of an inch.

Even if you have a microscope, differentiating between ant species can pose a challenge to the untrained eye. A pest management professional will know what to look for and can help identify the type of ant you’re dealing with – and how to help stop the invasion.

To learn more about the big differences between these small (but annoying) pests and best treatment solutions, download Orkin’s free Antcyclopedia, your quick reference guide to the #1 pest problem.*

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*Source – Ant Survey Executive Summary: Exploring America’s #1 Nuisance Pest (

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