So many ants, what do you think you have? In Virginia Beach, there are many species of ants. Here are some that we’ve identified over many years.
The acrobat ant gets its name from lifting its abdomen over its thorax and head when disrupted. These ants, which are actually several species, will bite on occasion and will give off a repulsive odor when disturbed.
Acrobat ants are black to light brown, and a few are multicolored with the head or abdomen a little darker than the rest of the body. Most of them range 1/16 to 1/8 inch long. One clue for identification is that they have a two segmented section called a petiole that attaches to the front portion of the abdomen with a pair of spines on the thorax. The abdomen is shaped like a heart and this can best be viewed from above.
Fire ants are several species of ants in the genus Solenopsis, which includes over 200 species. Solenopsis are stinging ants, and most of their common names reflect this, for example, Ginger Ants and tropical fire ants. Many of the names shared by this genus are often used interchangeably to refer to other species of ant, such as the term Red Ant, mostly because of their similar coloration despite not being in the genus Solenopsis. Both Myrmica rubra and Pogonomyrmex barbatus are common examples of non-Solenopsis ants being termed red ants.
Carpenter Anta aka Sugar Ant
They commonly build nests inside wood consisting of holes chewed out with their mandibles, primarily in dead, damp wood. However, unlike termites, they do not consume wood, discarding a material that resembles sawdust. Sometimes, carpenter ants hollow out sections of trees. They also commonly infest wooden buildings and structures, and are a widespread nuisance and major cause of structural damage. Nevertheless, their ability to excavate wood helps in forest decomposition. The genus includes over 1,000 species. They also farm Aphids. In the farming, the ants protect the aphids while they excrete a sugary fluid called honeydew, which the ants get by stroking the aphids with their antennae.
Little Black Ants
Little black “worker” ants are only about 1/16-inch long and their queens are twice the size at about 1/8-inch. Little black ant are actually be dark brown or black in color. These minuscule pests have an unevenly rounded thorax and two nodes on the petiole. Their antennae are divided into 12 segments that end with three-segmented clubs. Though tiny, these gleaming little ants are most easily identified by their shiny sheen and the unmistakable trails they follow from their nests to food sources.
Odorous House Ants
Odorous house ants, Tapinoma sessile, can be found across the region and are the most common ants found in and around structures in our area. These ants are known for their fondness for sugary foods and their distinctive odor when crushed. They are dark brown to black and approximately 1/8 inch long. Their petiole has a single flattened node, which may be difficult to see because it is obscured by other body parts. They also have 12-segmented antennae that lack a distinct club. Odorous house ants smell like rotten coconut or blue cheese when crushed. They are common household pests and are attracted to sources of water and sweets.