What Are They?
Viewed from above, acrobat ants have a heart-shaped abdomen. They elevate the abdomen in the air when they are disturbed. This is how they got the name “acrobat”.
They bite aggressively and produce an unpleasant odor when they are threatened.
What Do They Look Like?
Light brown, black, or multicolored, acrobat ants have a unique look. Their large abdomens are heart shaped, and most of these insects are between 1/16 and 1/8 of an inch long.
Acrobat ants are usually about 1/8″ long.
The color can vary – some colonies are light brown and some are black. Occasionally there is a colony of acrobat ants that are multicolored.
In a colony of acrobat ants, all of the workers are the same size. Scientists use the word monomorphic to describe this.
Where Do They Live?
Outdoors, the pests often nest in decaying trees or under rocks and soil. In houses, they colonize wood frames, walls, and insulation. Any water-damaged timber or holes left by other pests, like termites and carpenter ants, are potential nesting sites. They are more common in Southeastern states like Georgia, Florida and Texas.
What Do They Eat?
They eat insects and honeydew. Aphids that suck the juice from leaves produce the honeydew. The acrobat ants often make tiny shelters to protect the aphids while they are feeding. When they move indoors, the ants eat sweets and meat if it is available.
Winged, swarming acrobat ants surface from existing colonies to start new ones. After mating, the queen finds a nest to lay her eggs. This produces the new colony’s first workers, who maintain the nest and enable the queen to lay more eggs.
Indoors, they frequently nest in wood that is rotting or has been damaged.
When they find wood that has been damaged by termites, the acrobat ant workers clean out the galleries and use the wood as a nesting site. Acrobat ant workers have often been found excavating galleries in Styrofoam sheathing and insulation.
Indoors, acrobat ants often make nests in the wall voids around windows and doors. They have been found removing the insulation from electric wires.
Problems Caused by Acrobat Ants
These insects are primarily nuisance pests. Outdoors, an acrobat ant colony may infest trees or decks with rotting wood. The pests also bite people who disturb their nests while attempting removal or doing yardwork.
In the house, noticing acrobat ants around wood can alert homeowners to rot or other problems. Unlike termites or carpenter ants, this species rarely adds to the damage. However, acrobat ants could contaminate pantry food, and large populations are unsightly and annoying.
Do You Have Them?
Many times homeowners are unaware that acrobat ants are active until they start to see the debris that the ants push out of the nesting sites. When the ants are nesting in an exterior wall, the homeowner often finds Styrofoam debris on the ground outside.
Additional signs of acrobat ants include:
- Leaks or water damage, which attract the pests.
- Flying swarmers around roofing, siding, or stumps in the yard.
- Small holes in structures, especially where other insects previously infested.
- Sawdust or other debris near wood.
How to Get Rid of Them?
A careful inspection is the first step in preventing acrobat ants from invading. Trim tree limbs that touch the house. Make sure exterior doors close tightly and replace missing weather-stripping. Small pieces of plastic screen can help keep the ants from entering through weep holes.
To deter acrobat ants from entering the house, store food in sealed containers to mask its smell. Homeowners can also eliminate entry points. Seal cracks, such as gaps where utilities enter walls, and trim any trees or plants that touch the house.
Once an infestation begins, it’s unlikely to stop until the nest is located and removed. Enlisting the help of pest professionals can ensure that this process is safe and thorough.