Ant Identification Guide

Ants look different when they are in a certain stage of their life cycle. They start with eggs, larvae, pupa, and then adult. When they enter the adult stage, they assume different roles in the nest. Ants have different sizes and colours and these are factors that can help you know the specific role of an ant inside the nest. Furthermore, identifying household ants from those living outdoors plays an important role to get the right treatment.

Their bodies are segmented in head, thorax, and abdomen. The species of ants vary with their body shapes, colour, and sizes. Though most ants are considered pests, there are some that are beneficial while some are considered slightly annoying.

Identifying Different Ant Species

With the different ant species that can be found in Canada, how can you easily identify one type from the other? The following are the species of ants that are predominantly found in Canada and how you can identify each one.

Carpenter Ants

These ants live in wooded areas. They excavate wood to form smooth tunnels to create nests. They don’t eat the wood though. They just chew through the wood to build a nesting place. Their characteristics include:

  • Colour is usually black and red or a combination of these colours.
  • They have 6 legs
  • Their body shape is oval and segmented
  • The size is about 5/8 of an inch
  • They have antennae

Common Field Ants

The name came from its nesting preference, which is outdoors or the field. These ants are the largest genus and are also often mistaken for thatching ants. The following are characteristics of this species.

  • Their colour can be reddish brown, black, or pale yellowish. It can also be a combination of these colours.
  • They have 6 legs
  • Their bodies are segmented and the upper side of their profile is unevenly rounded
  • The size of this species range from 1/8 to 3/8 of an inch
  • They have antennae

Common field ants are usually considered a pest during the late summer as the winged ants start swarming out of their nests. They feed on honeydew from plant-sucking insects while others are scavengers and like meats.

Odorous House Ants

They got this name because of the strong, foul, rotten coconut smell that these ants give off when they are crushed. Other characteristics of this species include:

  • Black or brown colour
  • 6 legs
  • Oval segmented body
  • Length is 1/16 to 18 of an inch
  • Has antennae

These ants love sweets and honeydew and are known for moving their colony after every three months or when they sense that it will be raining.

Pavement Ants

These ants build their nests under or in pavement cracks. Thus, the name pavement ants. Learn more characteristics of these ants below:

  • Blackish to dark brown colour
  • 6 legs and oval and segmented body
  • Measures 1/8 of an inch
  • They also have antennae

These species can eat almost everything. They can also forage in trails in long distances of account 30 feet and can climb up masonry walls to gain access to occupied areas.

Pharaoh Ants

Aside from their painful sting, it was mistakenly taken as among the plagues of Egypt. To identify them properly, the following are characteristics you should look out for:

  • Though their bodies are usually pale, their colours can also vary from yellowish to reddish with an abdomen that are either darker colours or black.
  • They have 6 legs and have the monomorphic body shape with segmented body
  • Their size is about 1/16 of an inch and has antennae

These ants are large and have thousands of workers. When disturbed, they usually migrate to other locations to build new colonies through the budding process.

Citronella Ants

When crushed, citronella ants give off this lemon or citrusy odour. More characteristics of this species are the ones below:

  • Their colours are yellowish to yellow-brown
  • They have 6 legs and their body shape unevenly rounded with a segmented body
  • Their size is about 1/18 to 3/16 of an inch and they have antennae

They are nocturnal and swarms between June and July during humid, warm, and windless late afternoons.

Acrobat Ants

Being able to raise their abdomen part when disturbed, these ants are not really a nuisance. Find out more characteristics below:

  • They are light brown colour to black and sometimes multicoloured
  • They also have 6 legs and a heart-shaped abdomen
  • Their size is approximately 1/8 to 3/18 of an inch and they have an antennae

They may bite sometimes whenever their colonies are disturbed, but they are less likely to be a nuisance.

Thatching Ants

Also called as mound ants, thatching ants are known for constructing mounds using grass stems, small sticks, fir or pine needs, and grass stems. Other known characteristics are:

  • They can be found in black or red colours while some are bi-coloured
  • They measure 3/16 to 5/16 of an inch and their bodies have depression or notch on top of their thoraxes.
You’ll notice these ants swarming during early fall or late summer. These ants are also considered beneficial as they eat insects, but become a nuisance when they nest around outdoor areas near human habitation.