Like HowStuffWorks on Facebook!

Types of Ants

How many ants can you identify?
How many ants can you identify?

Ants may not be the creepiest bugs found in nature, but they are the most highly invasive insects. Ants are truly uninvited guests, as they can find their way into each and every room in your home. There are estimated to be more than 12,000 different species of ants worldwide. In some environments, ants are thought make up more than half of the insect population!

With so many ants ambling around, it's no coincidence that ants are found in most American households. Ants are found in kitchens and baths, and can enter through small cracks from the outside, including windows, vents and under doorframes. Ants are attracted to everything from water and sugar to grease and other food traces. Colonies of ants can be established both in your home, including under foundations or within wood paneling, or directly outside, such as in trees or in the grass. While you could spend weeks learning about the various ant families, there are a few that you may come face-to-face with.

Carpenter ants are a larger ant species, and are often mistaken for termites because they nest within damp wood. Carpenter ants get their name because of their tendency to excavate damaged wood to create a nest in beams, floors, walls or hollow doors. The ants scavenge the house for food crumbs and insects, usually at night. Carpenter ants may occur in several colors, although the most common species are black.

Sugar ants are a common name for tiny pharaoh ants or Argentine ants that like warm climates (the actual "sugar ant" is found in Australia). They love sweets but will eat anything, and they'll swarm a treat left out in the open. Sugar ants are considered hazardous as they can contaminate food and spread salmonella.

Thief ants are another tiny ant variety, with colors ranging from yellow to light brown. These ants prefer greasy foods or proteins, such as cheese, and can easily enter food packages. Thief ants are considered hazardous because of their tendency to forage for animals outside, such as dead insects and rodents.

Pavement ants are small, reddish-brown ants you usually find in your kitchen and bathrooms, as well as outside swarming on sidewalks. They're known to feed on both greasy and sweet foods. Pavement ants build their nests along sides of garages and houses constructed on concrete slabs. They enter dwellings through cracks in basement walls or concrete floors, or through basement windows and doors. Pavement ants are more likely to be found indoors during the winter months, because the ants prefer to forage for food outdoors during the summer.