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Ants are social insects that live in colonies. Worker ants work together to feed and protect the queen while she lays eggs and keeps the colony going.
There are many similarities between species of ants and some key differences. Knowing these differences is vital if you want to control an ant problem.
There are several ant species present in Salt Lake City, Utah, but if you see ants in or around your home or business, there are three likely suspects:
Are There Fire Ants in Salt Lake City?
Before we get into common ants in Salt Lake City, let’s address one of the most common ant questions Utahns have: are there fire ants in Utah?
In short, no. There are no fire ants in Utah.
The term ‘fire ants’ includes two species of South American ants: black imported fire ants and red imported fire ants. While fire ants are not known to occur in Utah (yet), they are present in some areas of the U.S., and parts of southwestern Utah would be suitable for them to become established.
If you find an ant near your Salt Lake City home and are concerned it could be a fire ant, snap a good picture if you can. First, compare the image to the field ant, which can easily be confused with fire ants because of their black and red coloring and the mounds they build.
Still unsure? Reach out to us at Thorn Pest Solutions. As pest control pros and leaders in the Utah Pest Management Association, we like to keep tabs on what ants are popping up around our state. We can help you identify the ants that are causing your concern.
These ants aren’t necessarily one of the most common in Salt Lake City, but they are very commonly confused with carpenter ants and fire ants, so they get an honorable mention.
Not sure if you have field ants? Field ants have some unique and not-so-unique traits, like:
- All black or reddish brown and black in color
- One node (bump) on their back
- Not likely to forage indoors like carpenter ants might
- Have a dip or indent on their thorax or mid-section (unlike the carpenter ant that has a smooth, rounded thorax)
- Most often found in lawns, gardens, fields, and woodlands
Field ants create mounds outside in loose soil and sometimes utilize plant materials like sticks and dried leaves to build their nests further. These ants are not frequently found inside, so consider other culprits if you see ants inside your Salt Lake City home or business.
3 Common Ants in Salt Lake City, Utah
North American pavement ants are the most common ants found in Utah.
You will likely see pavement ants outside, where piles of dirt or sand mark small entrances into their nest. Sometimes, however, pavement ants get inside homes and businesses, where they will happily feed on any available and appealing options, including dog food. Their food search often leads them to the kitchen.
Look for the following identifiers and signs of pavement ants:
- Little piles of sand popping up along patios, walkways, and driveway cracks
- Small (around 1/8” long)
- Light brownish black in color
- Two nodes (or bumps) on their back
- Six legs (slightly lighter in color than their body)
- Capable of occasional bites and stings (rare, with minimal damage or health risk)
If it’s springtime and you’re noticing tiny, winged ants around your home, these are almost certainly pavement ant swarmers. While they’re nothing to be alarmed about, it does indicate that a nearby nest is in the process of reproducing.
Keep an eye around your Salt Lake City property to ensure pavement ants don’t set up camp near (or in) your home or business. If it’s too late or you’re starting to get concerned, Thorn can help identify and eliminate your pavement ant problems lickety-split!
SOME QUICK ADVICE FROM THORN: As you’ll read below, pavement ants are easily confused with odorous house ants (sugar ants). It can often take a trained eye to spot the differences between the two, mainly because both are so small.
If you have ants and you’re feeling tempted to treat them yourself, please stay away from ant sprays! Opt for ant baits instead. Not only should baits and sprays never be used together, but spraying odorous house ants can worsen your problem over time.
Feel free to send us a description of your ant issue as well as any good quality photos you may have. From there, we can help identify what ant is present and devise a science-based management plan specific to your home or business.
Odorous House Ants (Sugar Ants)
Commonly confused with pavement ants, sugar ants (known to the pros as odorous house ants or OHAs) may be small, but they’re a BIG nuisance.
They’ve earned their nickname for a reason: Sugar ants love sweets!
If there are sticky spills on your patio or caramel popcorn crumbs under your couch, nearby sugar ants would love to come by for a quick bite to eat.
Just remember: seeing small, black ants near something sticky-sweet doesn’t necessarily mean they’re sugar ants. After all, pavement ants are tiny and black, too, and they’ll eat just about anything.
Here are some of the standout features of the sugar ant:
- Have a distinct, stinky smell when crushed
- Especially attracted to sweets
- Dark brown in color
- Small (1/16” to 1/8” long)
- One node (or bump) on their back
- No stinger, no bite
Sugar ants (odorous house ants) are a budding ant. Unlike pavement ants that have one queen and reproduce through swarmers, budding ants have multiple queens and reproduce through a replication process called budding.
Budding ants (like odorous house ants) are very sensitive to environmental changes. If the ants detect a threat in the environment, this will prompt the nest to bud or fracture. Therefore, DIY chemical sprays are a big no-no in ant control.
When sugar ants detect chemical sprays, they will quiet down for a short period while the colony splits, sending queen(s) and workers away to start new nests nearby, but give it a couple of weeks, and the problem can come raging back worse than ever.
The best rule of thumb? Stick with ant baits for your DIY pest control efforts, and if the sugar ants won’t stay away from your Salt Lake City home, consider contacting Thorn, your friendly neighborhood pest control experts!
Odorous House Ant
Carpenter ants live in wood and often prefer wood damaged by water.
Carpenter ants are large, but their workers vary in size. They consume sweets and insects and especially love honeydew, a sweet secretion produced by plant-chewing garden pests like aphids.
When it comes to appearance, look for these characteristics if you think you may have carpenter ants:
- Coloring is black or black with a reddish-brown body
- Love honeydew produced on plants
- Large size with varied size among trailing workers
- One node (bump) on their back
- Evenly rounded mid-section
Carpenter ants can pop up inside unexpectedly. They are often confused with field ants and termites, but carpenter ants kick out winged swarmers in spring, like pavement ants. This can make proper identification tricky.
For carpenter ant control, it’s essential first to identify and remove or replace any moisture-damaged wood around your Salt Lake City home. This is especially true inside. Carpenter ants primarily nest outside but produce ‘satellite colonies,’ smaller colonies that are happy to move inside if there’s moist wood to nest in.
If you need help identifying and controlling carpenter ants around your Utah property, Thorn Pest Solutions will leave no stone (or stump) uninspected. Drop us a message, and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible.
How to Get Rid of Ants in Salt Lake City
Need to get rid of ants around your Salt Lake City property? It can be challenging to know where to start.
Regardless of the ants present in your home or business, there are some general ant control steps you can take, such as:
- Keep plants, shrubs, and trees trimmed back from any buildings on your property. When left untrimmed, plants and tree limbs can become ant highways, giving ants easy access from the landscape to come to explore inside for food.
- Seal all potential ant entry points, especially around windows, doors, and wherever utility lines enter the structure.
- Keep food (including pet food) in sealed bins, and don’t leave spills around to entice ants.
- Use ant baits to draw ants away from high-traffic areas. Just don’t place baits in areas where you don’t want ants congregating, as baits are formulated to encourage ants to feed on them.
- Remove and replace wood damaged by water, moisture, or termites.
Ant control is tricky! If you’re feeling discouraged in your ant control efforts, Thorn can help. Our pest control experts have had great success keeping ants out of homes and businesses all over Salt Lake City, Utah, and we’d love to share our ant control successes with you!