Ants come in many different shapes, sizes, and colors in Western Washington.
Two of the most common species we see in our region are odorous house ants and carpenter ants.
Odorous House Ants
Odorous house ants, more commonly known as sugar ants, are considered the most prevalent nuisance ant in Washington. Although the presence of this species in your home or business can be extremely annoying, it should be noted that they do not cause structural damage like termites and carpenter ants.
Odorous house ants vary in appearance from brown to black, and are approximately 1/16 inch long. They are commonly found in kitchens, as they have a habit of searching out human foods, but will nest anywhere conditions are suitable. Sugar ants will feed on raw and cooked meats, dairy products, vegetables, and sweets.
Carpenter ants, because of their habit of nesting in our homes and offices, are a problem to humans. Carpenter ants DO NOT eat wood, but remove quantities of it to expand their nests. This excavation of wood frequently results in structural damage, and can potentially cause unsafe conditions.
The vast majority of problems with carpenter ants in Washington State are caused by two species, camponotus modoc and vicinis. These species commonly nest in standing trees, stumps, or logs on the forest floor. Since many houses are being built in and around forested areas, these well-established, vigorous colonies are already prepared to attack.
Carpenter ants are large, with queens 16-18 mm long and workers that vary from 6-13 mm long. Color is not always a good means of distinguishing these ants from other ants, as Washington has several species of carpenter ants that range from black, to red thorax with black abdomen, to light brown. Camponotus modoc, the most common local species, is black with reddish legs.
SIGNS OF AN ANT INFESTATION
Some pests leave very little in the way of evidence. You will know you have odorous house ants because you see them crawling in your home. Carpenter ants are more easily discovered. Often, you will see the ants themselves; other signs include frass (sawdust expelled from the tunnels they make in wood) and the tunnels themselves.
A heavy carpenter ant infestation can also be audible. When things are extremely quiet, a home owner may listen very closely and hear a colony chewing through wood. Carpenter ant queens and reproductives also shed their wings, leaving evidence where the wings are dropped.
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