Ants are one of the most common insects that humans deal with around the world. They live on every continent with the sole exception of Antarctica. Of course, that means you can also find ants in Seattle and all over Washington State. Ants are very prevalent in most areas of this state. However, they start being a problem when they come inside. Our homes and businesses make fantastic places for ants to seek food and get out of the weather.
Whether you see ants inside your home or outside of it, be on the lookout for the following five ant types. We’ll go over what each one is, how to try to eliminate them, and also when it’s time to call for professional help.
European Fire Ants
When you think of fire ants, you probably think of hot climates. They’re all over states like Florida, Texas, and California. Fire ants are aptly named because they have a potent sting. Colloquially, people talk about these stings as “bites,” even though that’s not technically accurate.
These stings pack a powerful punch. Typically, each “bite” results in a raised welt that becomes a white pustule. Naturally, if you get stung by more than one ant, you’ll get multiple of these. Deaths are rare but can occur, usually due to anaphylactic shock.
Fortunately, the European variety tends to be less aggressive than other species found in warmer climates. They are near Seattle as their first introduction to this region was near Lake Washington. Even though they’re not as aggressive, an infestation still has the potential to become a problem – especially if you have young children or pets who may not understand the danger that these ants pose. Baited ant traps usually work best with this type of ant, but, because of the possibility of a sting, the best solution is often to contact a pest control company. The professionals can identify precisely where the colony is and how to eliminate it best.
Odorous House Ants
These ants get their name from the unpleasant odor they emit if you crush them. Generally, people find these ants around the bathroom or kitchen – especially around something sweet. Due to their tendency to seek out sugary foods, you may also hear people call these ants “sugar ants.”
Unlike the European fire ant, these small insects won’t hurt you, but they are rugged insects. Queens can lay eggs with crushed abdomens. Injured workers can keep foraging for food. Colonies, once well-established, can be challenging to eradicate. Unfortunately, these colonies can have many thousands of ants, making the problem even more complicated.
There are a few ways to get rid of sugar ants. Throwing off their scent is one way. With soap and water, or vinegar, you can clean their trail, so they no longer know where the food is. If the ants come from outside your home, you can use a substance to block the entryway (e.g., coffee grounds). For more stubborn problems, you might consider Borax or diatomaceous earth. Both are not kid or pet-friendly, so please do not use them if you have non-adult family members.
People often mistake these ants for termites. Both species will destroy wood, but an infestation of carpenter ants is an entirely different problem than an infestation of termites. Most of the time, these ants live in the forest and help decompose deadwood. Like termites, in that capacity, they are incredibly helpful creatures.
The problem is that, like termites, they can mistake your home for a fallen tree. As such, they’ll establish satellite colonies around your home. Fortunately, unlike termites, carpenter ants don’t eat the wood in your home. They merely build their nests in it. It’s still damaging to the structure, but the damage takes much longer than with termites. Since damp wood attracts carpenter ants the most, the presence of these ants on your property may indicate water damage.
Typically, you’re best to call a professional pest control company when it comes to carpenter ants. Even if you eliminated the one colony, there’s no guarantee there aren’t others slowly damaging your home! A professional pest company can look for indicators of damage in multiple areas and develop a plan to address all of them, thereby eliminating the problem.
Typically, the presence of pavement ants is a nuisance at best. These small ants like to nest in the cracks of pavement, hence their name. If you were ever walking outside and saw some tiny ants scurrying around your driveway, there’s a chance you saw pavement ants!
These ants don’t do anything malicious, but they can enter your home in search of food. If your food source happens to be a box of sugar or some other fruit on your countertop, they could, in theory, contaminate it.
Since pavement ants are nuisance ants, you can sometimes treat the problem by sealing up any cracks around your home through which they might enter. If possible, remove the food source and make sure everything is clean. More significant infestations may require professional assistance to ensure that the problem doesn’t reoccur.
Velvety Tree Ants
Last but not least, homeowners in Washington State may encounter velvety tree ants. Although these ants’ names might not sound menacing, they, unfortunately, combine some of the worst traits of fire ants and carpenter ants. As the name suggests, they make their homes in the deadwood but can find their way into your home and make a nest.
What makes velvety tree ants so problematic is that they are aggressive biters that often inject poison with the bite. Some people have compared these bites to scorpion stings.
Unlike other ants, these insects are not in search of human food but rather other insects. Therefore, if you start noticing them in and around your home, it likely means you have another insect problem that is providing their food.
Due to the aggressive nature of these ants and the fact that they have a painful sting, if you see them around your home, call an exterminator immediately. You don’t want these ants to get too comfortable in your home!
There Are Many Ants in Western Washington and the Seattle Region
Due, in part, to the abundance of water and green foliage in and around Seattle, western Washington is home to numerous types of ants. These five most common ones range from dangerous (fire ants and velvety tree ants) to mostly benign (odorous house and pavement ants). You may wish to try treating ants that pose no threat by yourself and only call a professional if the infestation is stubborn.
However, if you have a colony of the velvety tree or fire ants, please call a pest control professional immediately. These ants pose a health hazard and are challenging to eliminate. Fortunately, a trained professional can terminate these pests once and for all!