Because there are over 12,000 species of ants in the world, it can be difficult to determine what kind of ants you’re seeing in and around your home…which is an important step in getting rid of ants.

Ants are social insects, similar to termites, and live in large colonies where each ant has a specific role. So if you’re only seeing a few ants inside your home, it’s an indication of thousands more nearby. And if you’re supplying them with a steady food and water source, it’s likely you’ll soon have an ant invasion.

Since different types of ants require different treatment methods, you’ll first need to identify your specific ant issue. Here are 4 common ants you’ll see in and around your home, and tips on how to get rid of them:

1. Argentine Ants

argentine ant with a trail of sugar crystals on a gray floor

Sometimes called a sugar ant, argentine ants are one of the most commonly found ant species inside homes throughout southern states. They’re tiny, as small as 1/8 of an inch, and vary from shiny brown to black in color. While they prefer sweet foods, they will eat almost anything. Argentine ants can easily squeeze through small cracks and holes, and set up quarters in the ground, in concrete walls, in between boards and timbers, or among belongings in your home, and are often seen in higher numbers during dry or hot weather or after heavy rainfall.

Because argentine ants exhibit very strong trailing behavior, exist in large groups, and move quickly, an infestation occurs quickly and can be hard to control. Using spray pesticides can often make the problem worse since this can stimulates egg-laying by the queens in the colony. Instead, it’s best to thoroughly inspect your home to find ant entry points and use sweet baits that the ants will feed on and take back to their colony. This method can take time to eliminate the entire colony, but will ensure that you’re attacking the problem at its source.

2. Odorous House Ants walking on stone walkway

odorous house ant

As the name suggests, odorous house ants produce a strong smell when crushed, similar to rotten coconuts, and nest in and around homes. They’re dark-colored and about 1/8 of an inch or smaller. Odorous house ants exist in large numbers when there’s a nearby water source and are one of the hardest ants to get rid of once an infestation is established.

Treatment of odorous house ants can vary but usually include a variety of applications – including granular baits around the perimeter of your home, gel baits inside and in exterior stations, and perimeter sprays with non-repellent products.

3. Fire Ants

swarm of fire ants carrying pieces of food on red concrete floor

Fire ants are one of the easiest ants to identify because of their reddish-brown color and by the distinct dirt mounds they build. They’re also one of the most aggressive ant species and cause painful bites when they attack. Fire ants prefer to build mounds (nests) in open areas including yards, fields, and roadsides.

Fire ants are a common problem for homeowners for many reasons: they pose a threat especially to pets and small children who are likely to be bitten if they come in contact with fire ants, they build unsightly, damaging mounds in your yard, and can cause severe reactions to those who are allergic. Granular baits work well to treat fire ants and can even eliminate entire colonies within 72 hours with a fire ant control service.

4. Carpenter Ants

carpenter ant walking across beige carpet

The various species of carpenter ants are the largest domestic species of ants. They’re larger than sugar ants and odorous house ants – usually 1/4 to 1 inch in size – and black. They’re also different from other ants as they cause structural damage. They like to nest inside the wood your home is constructed of, usually near a source of moisture. They’re nocturnal so you’re most likely to see them in the evenings or at night during summer months, when they leave their nest in search of food and water.

To prevent carpenter ants, eliminate sources of food and moisture, including repairs to any areas around your home where there’s evidence of water damage. Granular baits applied around the perimeter of the house and within the landscape work well to eliminate carpenter ants, in addition to gel baits applied along known trails, and perimeter treatments with non-repellent products.