Little Black Ant Control for the Home
What Are They?
Little black ants got their name from their size and color. They are tiny black ants. The workers are about 1/16″ long. When these bugs invade homes, some people call them “sugar ants”.
What Do They Do?
Despite their tiny size, little black ants are very aggressive and will often assert their dominance over much larger insects in order to maintain access to food sources. While they rarely travel indoors, they wreak havoc on residential lawns and public parks.
Confused with Other Ants
Though only one ant species is officially known within the scientific community as the little black ant, many other types of ants fit the general description. Other species often confused with tiny black ants include the odorous house ant (Tapinoma sessile), the crazy ant (Paratrechina longicornis), and the black carpenter ant (Camponotus pennsylvanicus).
What Do They Look Like?
Size: Extremely miniscule, little black ants range in size from 1/10 to 1/8 of an inch. They are monomorphic, which means the colony workers are all the same size.
Color: As their name implies, little black ants are black in color.
Characteristics: All ants have a head, thorax, and abdomen. They also have segmented antennae and a petiole, which consists of one or two nodes, which is situated between the thorax and abdomen. Workers are wingless, while queens and reproductive ants each typically have many wings.
The little black ant can be found throughout the United States and much of Southern Canada.
What Do They Eat?
Honeydew is the primary source of nutrients for ants. Most species are omnivorous and will also eat dead insects, spiders, fruit, some fungi, and human trash.
Winged females establish new colonies, usually after overwintering, by producing an initial brood of workers. She will tend to these eggs and the nest until the workers mature, at which point they become responsible for raising any new young and maintaining the colony. Ants develop through complete metamorphosis from eggs to larvae to pupae to adults. All eggs produced in the spring and early summer become workers.
During late summer, colonies start producing winged ants capable of reproduction. At the onset of cold weather, the reproductives mate and then find suitable locations to overwinter (though nests inside can remain active all year). Once winter dissipates, the cycle repeats. Worker ants typically live four to six months, while queens may live as long as a year.
Little black ants nest in the ground outdoors. They often use logs or firewood a shelter and nest underneath. The workers gather insects and honeydew for the colony to eat. It is common to see the workers moving along a sidewalk in a line.
How They Get Inside
Sometimes the line of workers moves across the foundation or over a windowsill and into the house. The colony makes its home inside of a void space – inside a wall or in a cabinet base. Even though the colonies are small, there are usually several queens. If the colony is disturbed, it will migrate to another nesting site.
When they are indoors, the workers follow baseboards and cabinets when they are trailing. In rooms with carpeting, the workers often trail along the edge of the carpet. If possible, follow the trail of ants and they will lead to the nest. If the trail disappears under an exterior wall, the ants may be coming from a nest outdoors and leaving again.
How to Find Them
- Trees: Look for adult ants crawling up trees
- Pavement: Look for them traveling along pavement to a food source.
- Mounds: May notice mounds in infested yards.
- Swarms: Look for swarms of winged ants during late summer.
Problems Caused by Little Black Ants
Are They Dangerous?
Little black ants themselves are rarely problematic; they do not typically bite, spread disease, or even seek food indoors.
The issues linked to their presence are mostly cosmetic, as their nests frequently crop up in lawns. Occasionally, they will be attracted to crumbs and spilled substances indoors.
Signs of Infestation
The most apparent sign of a little black ant infestation is spotting the adult ants traveling to and from food sources or nests. Infested lawns may also feature mounds of dirt that materialize as the ants colonize the area. Swarms of winged ants looking for new nest locations will appear in the late summer and signal an infestation problem as well.
How Do You Keep Them Out?
To keep little black ants out of the house, residents should eliminate possible entrances and sources of food. Since this particular ant species is so tiny, it is especially important to seal cracks around windowsills and doors, replace broken screens, and caulk cracks in the building foundation. Any spills should be cleaned up immediately to avoid enticing ants inside, and foodstuffs should be stored in tightly sealed containers.
Check the foundation for obvious cracks that the ants could use to get into the home. Trim tree limbs and shrubs that touch the house. Rake dead leaves and mulch away from the foundation. Stack firewood on a rack and move it away from the house.
How Do You Get Rid of Them?
If an adult ant is spotted inside the home, thoroughly vacuuming can eliminate the problem.
In cases of larger infestations, homeowners should seek professional help. Pest control specialists have the necessary knowledge to identify the invading species of ant and treat the problem accordingly. Additionally, professionals have the tools and experience to help homeowners set up prevention plans to avoid future infestations.