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Thief ants are one of the tiniest species of household ants. Scientifically known as Solenopsis molesta, thief ants got their name due to their habit of nesting near other ant colonies, stealing their food, and preying on their larvae. They often dig tunnels that connect to other ants’ nests. Due to their small size and color, thief ants are often confused with the pharaoh ant, but are distinguished by the club at the end of the antennae.
Thief ants tend to have smaller colonies than other ant species, but these colonies still contain multiple queens and thousands of workers, and they can be found in homes throughout most of the United States and into northern Mexico.
Identifying Thief Ants
As previously mentioned, thief ants can generally be identified by their size, but since they’re not the only small species of ant you might find in your home, you might need more than that to identify them. Features you can use to find out if you are dealing with thief ants or not include:
Color: They come in a range of colors, from yellow to light or dark brown.
Size: They are relatively small, measuring between 1.5 mm and 2.2 mm.
Bodily Features: Thief ants have six legs, with their bodies divided into three sections. Their abdomen has black markings, and their thorax, which is unevenly shaped, doesn’t have any spines. Their antennae are segmented ten times and feature a 2-segmented club. While they do have stingers, they’re too small to be used on humans.
Habitat: These pests can be found both indoors and out. Outside, you’ll find them nesting in exposed soils, rotting wood, underneath pavement, house foundations, and around walkways. Although they tend to prefer the outdoors, you can still find them nesting in masonry and woodwork inside homes.
Diet: Thief ants are often called “sugar ants” or “grease ants” due to their high affinity for sugary and fatty treats. They can feed on anything sweet, meats, and food with high oil content like peanut butter or nuts. Outdoors, these ants can forage on dead rodents and insects, as well as other ants’ larvae.
Are Thief Ants Dangerous?
Solenopsis molesta won’t bite or sting human beings, and can easily go unnoticed since their small size enables them to stay hidden. They aren’t as much of a nuisance as other insects can be, like fire ants, roaches, or spiders, but when you consider that they forage on other dead insects or even dead rats and mice, they can pose a serious health risk. They can transmit diseases they pick up while foraging outside and are small enough to easily infest food packaging, thereby contaminating it. They are also known to be intermediate hosts for poultry tapeworms.
How to Prevent and Control Thief Ant Infestation
Because they are so small, preventing thief ant infestation can be challenging. However, you can do a few things to help keep them out of your home.
Keep wood piles away from the house, don’t leave dirty dishes in the sink, and make sure to clean up after cooking. All food products, especially oily or sugary food, should be in tightly sealed containers. If possible, try to have outdoor trash bins as far away from the house as you can.
Controlling and eliminating thief ant infestations is a daunting task. Not just small in size, these pests nest in locations that are usually inaccessible or very difficult to reach. Hiring a professional pest control company is the most reliable means of getting rid of these ants for good. Give Domain Pest Control a call for a free quote on pest control services today!