Homeowners are often concerned when they discover a winged ant on their property. The picture above should help you to make that distinction. Note that all ant species have a body structure different from termites. Although termites have three body parts there is very little definition between the three, whereas ants have three distinct body segments.
If you discover a winged insect and would like a professional identification, place some of the insects in a glass container and we will be happy to help you identify them upon inspection. Note: Try not to flatten insects that you want us to identify.
Identification is important for so many reasons. Control measures depend on properly identifying the species that you are seeing in your home along with their habits, the source of the infestation, and their food preferences.
Although ants may seem like a good pest to control with do-it-yourself measures like over-the-counter ant spray or simply stomping on them, note that for long-term control you must identify and destroy the nest.
Many of the over-the-counter consumer products contain active ingredients that can cause certain ant species to defend themselves by going through a process called budding. Nuisance ants generally have multiple queens, when a nest is under pressure from competing ants or chemical attack (over-the-counter control sprays) the queens will collect a group of workers and eggs and start a new nest away from the initial nest area. Budding can turn an easy control situation into a very difficult one in almost no time.
To avoid budding we use mainly bait formulations to control the difficult ant species. In more extreme ant invasions, we can use a non-repellant liquid residual.
One of the most common ant species to invade homes in New Jersey is the odorous house ant. They are brown or black in color and range in size from 1/16-1/8 inch. Just as their name suggests they give off an odd smell when crushed that is often described as a rotten coconut. These ants prefer to feed on sweets but will eat foods high in protein. They have multiple queens and nest populations can range from hundreds to hundreds of thousands.
Pharaoh ants are quite small (1/16 long) light yellow to red in color with a dark abdomen. Colonies tend to be large, numbering up to the hundreds of thousands, and contain multiple queens. These ants are of significant importance in the medical field because they have been found to carry more than a dozen pathogenic bacteria. If treated incorrectly these ants will bud (the queens will collect a group of workers and eggs and start a new nest away from the initial area), you may feel that you have control but then about 10 days later they are back and are re-enforced.
Normally these ants are found in cracks or under pavement. The workers are 1/16-1/8 long, dark in color and have grooved heads and thorax. Colony size is moderate ranging from 3-4,000 workers and have multiple queens. It is rare that they will establish colonies in homes, but will come inside foraging for food.
Citronella ants are small, reddish in color, and when stepped on smells like citrus. They are most typically noticed during a reproductive swarm on your basement floor, your lawn or building exterior. Often times they alarm homeowners when they swarm inside of homes and are often confused with termites.
If you have properly identified the ant as a citronella ant then very little control measures are necessary. They are considered simply a nuisance pest, are harmless, do no damage and typically require no pesticides. They may be living under the basement floor, but they really will do no harm.