With the exception of mice and rats, ants are the most commonly managed insect pests within homes and buildings in the northeast. Some common ant pests in Massachusetts pose nothing more than a nuisance when they become prevalent indoors, but many others inflict costly damage to woodwork, most notably carpenter ants (Camponotus spp.) The black carpenter ant (C. pennsylvanicus) is the most commonly managed and economically costly ant pest of finished and processed wood in the US, and they are particularly prevalent in eastern forested areas. These ants may also be the most recognizable ant pests in the country due to their unusually large body size, which ranges from ¼ inch to more than ½ inch in length. While species like the black carpenter ant, and to a lesser extent, the red carpenter ant (C. noveboracensis), are the most well known wood-destroying ants among homeowners, several other ant species in Massachusetts are economically costly structural pests.

Unfortunately, several of the ten of the most commonly managed indoor ant pests in Massachusetts do more than just damage structural wood, they also damage insulation, wiring, and they infest stored food packages in pantries and cupboards, resulting in food contamination. The indoor-nesting ant pests known as Pharaoh ants (Monomorium pharaonis) and thief ants (Solenopsis molesta) are the only two ant species that the Food and Drug Administration has categorized as a common source of food-borne pathogens, and the latter species often excavates nests in moist and decayed structural wood components and insulation. Acrobat ants (Crematogaster spp.) often nest within structural wood voids that had previously been excavated by other wood-boring pests like termites. These ants also nest within foam insulation and  narrow cracks in cement or brick masonry walls. Although rare, acrobat ants sometimes inflict electrical damage by stripping insulation from indoor wiring, leading to short circuits. It is important for homeowners to understand that most ant species that are considered nuisance pests are able to establish multiple nests within inaccessible indoor spaces like wall voids and ceiling voids. Obviously, these nesting habits make detecting and eliminating infestations a very difficult and challenging task, even for the most seasoned pest control professional.

Have you ever encountered more than one ant species in your home at one time?