You've most likely seen this tiny ant walking on the kitchen floor in search of a crumb, climbing on your picnic table following the fresh BBQ scent, or crawling around a small mound of soil pushed up through a sidewalk crack.
One of the most common ants in the U.S., the pavement ant is found in all 50 states. They are so common, we often don't think of them as much of a problem … until they decide to join our outdoor picnics or enter our homes in search of food.
- The pavement ant is 1/10 - 1/6 of an inch long
- It is brownish black with pale-colored legs
- With a magnifying glass or microscope, it can be seen that it has two spines at the end of its thorax (between its body parts) and stiff hairs covering its body.
When the pavement ants' colony is located outdoors, it can be easily found by the mound of soil over top the nest. This ant builds its colony beneath pavement, rocks, driveways, sidewalks, and logs. As it tunnels into the soil to excavate its colony, it pushes the soil debris up through the top of its nest, forming visible mounds of sandy-looking soil.
These mounds are often seen between cracks of pavement, beneath which the ants have built their nest, thus the common name of "pavement" ant.
A typical colony will have 3,000 to 5,000 ants, but colonies have been known to grow as large as 30,000 ants at a single site. This is due, in part, to this ant's ability to have multiple queens in a single colony, whereas most ant species have only one queen per colony.
The activity of this ant may be hard to detect, because it is most active at night. However, if you have neighboring pavement ant colonies, and you happen to be out at the right time, you just might witness the unique sight of an ant battle. In a fight for territory, these battles can leave hundreds of dead ants on the "battlefield."
Not a Termite
The pavement ant can cause concern when its winged "swarmers" emerge in the spring through mid-summer, as they are sometimes thought to be termites. However, pavement ants can be differentiated from termites by their:
- Wings: ants' front wings are longer than the back wings; termite wings are equal length.
- Body: ants have a narrow waist; the termite's thick waist gives it the appearance of having a single body part.
- Antennae: ants' antennae are elbowed; termites' are straight.
- Size: the pavement ant is much smaller than the termite.
Activity and Behavior
Because they are so tiny, pavement ants can enter buildings and homes through cracks, around doors and windows, and beneath spaces under siding. One of their most common entry points is beneath sliding doors.
The ants will also nest inside houses, setting up their colonies within walls, under flooring, and in woodwork, masonry, or insulation. These colonies can be much more difficult to locate and eliminate than those that are built outdoors.
The ants can also enter homes in large numbers in search of food. They will eat almost anything that humans eat, and some things we don't, such as live and dead insects. But their real preference is for meats and grease.
This ant is rarely aggressive, but it can bite and sting when disturbed. Though it is generally too weak to penetrate human skin, it can cause allergic reaction or rash in sensitive people.