Ants in Alabama

Common Pest Ants Found in Alabama

Entomologists within Alabama have recorded about 170 species of ants, but only about 57 species are considered to be common, important pests. Of these ants, they are categorized as:

  • Ants that cause significant nuisances to homeowners
  • Ants that cause structural damage to homes and businesses
  • Ants that may cause health problems from their stings and bites

COMMON NUISANCE ANTS

Nuisance ants are typically those ants that produce large populations and have the tendency to move inside homes or businesses. The primary ants of the nuisance ant group are:

Dark Rover Ants

These ants prefer to nest outdoors in the soil. Generally, they can create a problem for homeowners by nesting in mulch and frequently entering houses searching for food sources and protected places to nest.

Inside homes or buildings, they often construct nests inside wall voids. Since their colonies are generally large, rover ants present a big control challenge to pest management professionals (PMPs).

Their primary source of food is honeydew they get from other insects, or from sweet foods they find when foraging both outside and indoors.

However, on the positive side, rover ants are known to suppress established colonies of the red imported fire ant since rover ants often coexist with fire ants and subsequently outcompete them for available sources of food.

Argentine Ants
labeled Argentine ant drawing

Argentine ants are a major pest in Alabama since they produce extremely large populations. Argentine ant colonies become huge due to their ability to populate diverse habitats, they have numerous reproductive queens in a colony, and their behavior of surviving on a wide variety of food.

For example, these ants are likely to be found in soil, rotten wood, standing dead trees, piles of debris and even bird nests, just to name a few potential habitats. When they infest homes and businesses, they are extremely difficult to get rid of and unquestionably pose a big challenge to PMPs.

Argentine ants also are known to outcompete fire ants for available resources.

Additional Information: www.orkin.com/ants/argentine-ant/

Pharaoh Ants
Pharaoh ants drinking water on leaf

Pharaoh ants are another of the serious nuisance ants found in Alabama. These ants have the unusual behavior of spreading by budding, which means they begin a new nest by responding to signals given off to alert the nest of danger and causing nest members to split off from the established nest and form new nests.

They are omnivores and will eat practically any type of foods, preferring greasy foods, meats and sometimes sweets.

They are serious pests within homes, businesses and most importantly hospitals where they often infest moist wounds and dressings, potentially transmitting hospital acquired infections.

Therefore, pharaoh could also be considered a health related as well as a nuisance ant species. Pharaoh ants present a very challenging task to PMPs and homeowners.

Additional Information: https://www.orkin.com/ants/pharaoh-ant/

Odorous House Ants
labeled pictures of odorous house ants

Odorous house ants (OHAs) are one of the more easily identified ants since when crushed they give off an odor that resembles rotten, coconut-like smells. Often one may observe a PMP using this method to assist in identifying these ants.

OHAs generally nest in the soil under rocks, boards, mulch, firewood and other objects on the ground. Once they move inside homes, their nests are often built in wall voids. One of their behavioral traits that makes them challenging to control is their habit of moving nests from one place to another every few weeks.

Colony sizes of OHAs range from several hundred to many thousands of individual ants. While these ants consume protein-based foods, they are especially fond of sweets, which partially explain why OHAs are commonly found in the kitchen and pantry of homes. Also, OHAs will often nest under floors and in wall voids.

Additional Information: https://www.orkin.com/ants/odorous-ant/

Pavement Ants
Drawing of labeled pavement ant

Often during the spring months homeowners come across large numbers of ants that appear to be fighting or else just wandering around on surfaces such as sidewalks, patios or driveways. Also, if the homeowner finds ants around small piles of excavated soil or other materials within an expansion joint, more than likely pavement ants are the suspects.

These ants have a wide variety of food sources and may feed on honeydew, meats and grease. Sometimes, pavement ants become pests of gardens and flowers since they may girdle and kill plants.

Inside homes, pavement ants will nest under floors, in wall voids and within insulation.

Additional Information: https://www.orkin.com/ants/pavement-ant/

Tawny Crazy Ants (a.k.a. Raspberry Crazy Ants)
Labeled picture of a tawny crazy ant

Tawny crazy ants are small in size, but mighty in number. They have earned this reputation due to reported circumstances of tawny crazy ant populations sometimes being somewhere near one hundred times greater than all other combined ant species within an area.

Because of sheer numbers, these crazy ants may consume so much available food that other ant species do not have enough to eat and will decline in population size and distribution. This is true for fire ants since they can be displaced or else reduced by tawny crazy ants.

While displacing fire ants sounds good, colonies of tawny crazy ants are known to infest electrical equipment in such huge numbers that they will cause short-circuits that make the equipment unusable.

Tawny crazy ants do not sting, but do have the protective behavior of biting and emitting chemical compounds that protect them from harm. One of the more useful ways to identify these ants is to observe their erratic, "lost" behavior when moving around – hence, being somewhat "crazy" in appearance.

Additional Information: https://www.orkin.com/ants/tawny-crazy-ants/

MEDICALLY IMPORTANT ANTS

(Always Seek The Advice Of A Medical Professional If Stung or Bitten By Ants)

Asian Needle Ants

The Asian needle ant was first identified within the U.S. in 1932 and has since advanced its distribution throughout the coastal states of the eastern part of our country. Typical habitats of Asian needle ants include hardwood forests, agricultural lands and both urban and suburban areas.

Nests are generally built in soil, decaying logs, dead trees, piles of leaves, mulch, railroad ties, and under pavement or brick patios. Unfortunately, sometimes these ants will forage inside homes.

Asian needle ants have difficulty climbing vertical surfaces, so they almost always are found on the ground. When foraging for food, Asian needle ant workers have an unusual behavior known as tandem carrying. When they find large prey or other foods that one ant cannot carry back to the nest, ant scouts return to the nest and enlist of other ant workers to help transport food back to the nest.

The ant worker recruited to help bring back food will fold its legs into its body and enable the scout ant to pick up the recruit and carry it to the food source. Once they reach the food source, the scout releases the recruit who pulls apart the food into smaller portions and carries the smaller portion back to the nest.

Asian needle ants eat many kinds of insects and other invertebrates as well as meat, rotting fruit and termites. In fact, sometimes termites become an important part of their diet.

As this ant's name implies, the ant's sting may be painful and cause symptoms that are long lasting. In addition, this ant may establish large populations that can displace other species of ants.

Fire Ants
labeled drawing of a fire ant

The red imported fire ant probably arrived in Alabama during the 1930s in a shipment of infested cargo sent to the port of Mobile. Since that time, these aggressive, painful stingers and biter have spread to most Southern and many Midwestern states.

While fire ants usually live in the soil, they will go inside a home or other building seeking food, moisture and shelter. Outdoors, the usual locations of fire ants are open, sunny sites such as lawns, fields and pastures.

If not controlled, red imported fire ants are reported to kill calves and other small livestock. The most obvious indication of fire ant colonies is above ground dirt mounds created by soil the ants excavate to form their colony's tunnels and nest cavities.

Colonies may grow to number from 100,000 to nearly half a million members, so when fire ant colonies are disturbed, the results can be an overwhelming number of painful stings and bites, which can also cause serious medical problems for those who are allergic to the ant's venom.

Another fire ant found in Alabama is the black imported fire ant, which was introduced sometime around 1918 from South America into the port of Mobile. Of at least 6 species of fire ants in Alabama, the red imported fire ants are generally thought to be the most important species.

Additional Information: https://www.orkin.com/ants/fire-ant/

COMMON STRUCTURALLY IMPORTANT ANT

Black Carpenter Ant
drawing of a carpenter ant

Carpenter ants typically nest in limbs and trunks of both living and dead trees, plus the wood of large shrubs. Some other nesting sites include fences, poles and wooden components of buildings.

When carpenter ants infest structures, they no longer are simply a nuisance, but become important to the integrity and cosmetic value of the structure.

The black carpenter ant is the most important of the approximately 10 species of carpenter ants found in Alabama and is one of the larger ant species, some being nearly 1/2 inch long.

These ants are called carpenter ants because their behavior is to excavate the wood in their chosen nesting site in order to establish galleries and chambers to house the members of the ant colony.

Carpenter ant damage is often misdiagnosed as termite damage, but an important difference between carpenter ants and termites is the fact that while termites consume and digest the wood, carpenter ants only excavate and deposit the wood shavings outside of their nesting site.

Additional Information: https://www.orkin.com/ants/carpenter-ant/