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Ants can be a frustrating nuisance in your home, costing you money, causing damage, or just plain being annoying while you’re trying to eat, watch TV, or get your work done.

And while it can be easy to lump all ants under the “annoying” and “pest” category, it’s also important to remember that all Ants are not the same — they have different needs, behaviors, and attributes, and should be controlled in their own specific way.

In today’s blog post, we’ll review the three most common types of Ants found in the Portland metro area, some of their common characteristics, and what you can do to keep them out of your home. Let’s get started!

Soil Ants

When we say Soil Ants, we are referring generally to a number of different species of ground nesting Ants. Although the name “Soil” implies they would be found outside, if you spot an ant cruising around your kitchen, it’s most likely a soil ant. Soil Ants come from large colonies, sometimes up to 200,000 ants or more!

Characteristics

Soil Ants are no more than ¼ of an inch long and are dark brown or black in color. 

They are good for an outdoor ecosystem, as they help to aerate soil when they dig their tunnels, and enrich soil by breaking down organic matter as they move through it. That being said, Soil Ants will go where the food is, and unfortunately, they will eat just about anything that provides nutritional value, including: 

  • Any sugars or carbohydrates
  • Syrups 
  • Dry pet food 
  • Dried meat or other proteins
  • Fruit 
  • Fats and oils during the spring and summer season
  • Other insects

Soil Ants are food scavengers, which is usually why they end up in your kitchen. They don’t cause structural damage to a home, but they will likely cost you money when you have to throw out your ant-infested food. 

Warning signs

A few signs you may have a soil ant infestation include: 

  • Visibly seeing Ants exploring your counters, cabinets, pantries, etc. — unlike Moisture Ants and Carpenter Ants, Soil Ants don’t work as much behind the scenes
  • Noticing pathways around your house or kitchen — Soil Ants leave a scent trail to communicate to other worker ants where to find food 
  • Nests outside your home — these look like piles of dirt  

Prevention

Since Soil Ants enter your home on a quest for food, the easiest way to prevent them is to keep all food in storage containers and to regularly clean your kitchen to keep surfaces clear of any spills, crumbs, or scraps that a Soil Ant would find appetizing. 

How to get rid of them

If you can identify where they are coming in, seal off their entry points so Soil Ants have a harder time getting in. From there, take steps to identify the source of the problem: the colony. This, or simply calling EcoCare Pest Control, is your best option for treating bad Soil Ant infestations.

Moisture Ants

Unsurprisingly, Moisture Ants get their name because of their penchant for high moisture areas. They tend to build their nests in moist, rotting wood, but unlike Carpenter Ants, they do not usually cause much structural damage. You can look for them in high moisture areas of the home, like in crawl spaces, near leaking pipes, or behind tub wall tiles. Outside, you’ll find Moisture Ants inhabiting damp soil or rotting wood. 

Characteristics

Unlike soil ants, Moisture Ants are a yellowish, yellowish-brown, or a dark brown color. They are found all over the country, but are especially common here in the Pacific Northwest. Moisture Ants measure no more than ⅛ of an inch long, and can also be identified by a notch on their back, best seen from a side view. 

Moisture Ants feed on insect honeydew and unlike Carpenter Ants, they actually digest wood when they tunnel into it. 

Warning signs

Due to their proximity to moist environments both inside and outside, you can sometimes spot a Moisture Ant infestation when there are colonies built around the foundation of the house.  

Prevention

To keep moisture ants away from your home, simply eliminate the environments they like best: moist wood or humid soil. Keep woodpiles and tree branches away from your house. Also make sure to regularly inspect your bathroom, under your sinks, and your crawlspace for moisture issues. 

How to get rid of them

To get rid of Moisture Ants, you need to eliminate the environment they are being drawn to. This usually means identifying the moisture source, and then fixing any leaks or replacing rotting wood inside your home. Once those steps are complete, it’s a good idea to call in a pest control professional to ensure the infestation is properly treated.

Carpenter Ants

Carpenter Ants are considered pests in our homes, but did you know they are actually very important to the ecosystem of our local forests? It’s a common misconception that Carpenter Ants eat wood — in fact, they actually chew tunnels into wood to form a nest. This is great for forest decomposition, but very bad when it concerns your home. 

Let’s review more about how to recognize Carpenter Ants and signs of an infestation.  

Characteristics

Carpenter Ants are the biggest ants you’re likely to see in the Portland/Vancouver area. They range in size from about 1/8 of an inch to nearly a full inch long! They have black bodies, black or reddish legs, and a small bump between their thorax and their abdomen. 

During mating season, Carpenter Ants also have two pairs of wings, one large and one small. This is a sign of a mature colony and indicates that the colony is about to reproduce and start more colonies. 

Carpenter Ants aren’t really interested in eating human food. Instead, they feed on other insects, plant and fruit juices, and insect honeydew. 

Warning signs

The tricky thing about recognizing a Carpenter Ant infestation is that they hardly leave any signs. Unfortunately, this usually means a costly repair by the time you identify you have a problem. 

An infestation is typically an indication of some kind of moisture problem in your home. Carpenter Ants prefer tunneling through moist wood, which means they typically target windowsills, roof eaves, and decks. 

A few signs of a Carpenter Ant infestation include: 

  • Unexplained sawdust – especially near window sills, baseboards or door frames. This sawdust, also called “frass”, is what the ants spit out while they are tunneling and indicates there is a nest nearby. 
  • Wings – if you notice winged ants in your house, or observe discarded insect wings, you probably have Carpenter Ants. 
  • Structural damage – typically recognized through bending, warping or buckling. 

Prevention

Carpenter Ants love chewing into rotten or very soft wood. With that in mind, one of the best ways to prevent a Carpenter Ant infestation is to regularly inspect your home for signs of cracks or rotten wood and to keep things like wood piles and tree branches away from your home.

How to get rid of them

Due to the nature of the damage caused by Carpenter Ants — that is, structural damage — it’s important to call a pest control professional as soon as you suspect an infestation. This is the only way to ensure the infestation is completely taken care of.

Spot the differences

Here’s a quick breakdown of the similarities and differences outlined above:

 

Type Appearance Warning signs Prevention Control
Soil Ants
Black or brown, no more than ¼ inch Visibly seeing them in your kitchen or around food Keep food stored in airtight containers and your kitchen clean Keep your kitchen clean, seal off entry points, locate their colony
Moisture Ants
Yellowish brown or light brown, no more than ⅛ inch Colonies built near the foundation of your home Keep commonly moist areas like bathrooms and crawl spaces dry. Remove wood piles and tree branches close to your house. Manage moist environments and replace rotting wood as soon as you find it in your home.
Carpenter Ants
Black bodies, from ⅛ inch to nearly 1 inch long Sawdust near windowsill, baseboards, or winged ants in your home Watch for signs of rotting or moisture in your home, and keep woodpiles and tree branches trimmed away from your house Call a pest control professional

Need help? Contact EcoCare today

There are many things you can do to prevent and try to control pests, but the best and easiest way to handle them is to work with the professionals! EcoCare can help. 

We take an eco-friendly approach, using non-toxic treatments that are 100% safe for humans and pets. You don’t even have to leave your home! Not only does our team of licensed and insured professionals target and eliminate pest infestations, they also help to prevent future infestation too.

If you are seeing signs of an ant infestation in your home, or would like to take steps to prevent one from happening, contact us today to schedule your inspection! 

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