Guide to Ants in Washington DC

Ant carrying a piece of food

Ants come in many varieties that may infest or damage your home. Each can be destructive or harmful in its own way. Three of the ants we encounter the most are Pharaoh Ants, Argentine, and Carpenter Ants.

Argentine Ants

Argentine ants are one of the ant types we receive many calls about. They feed primarily on sweets, oils, and proteins- essentially the same things you do. For that reason, they are known to invade a home’s food supplies. Argentine ants do not pose health risks but do contaminate food supplies.

Odorous House Ants

Odorous house ants are so named because of the rotten coconut smell they give off when crushed…yes, they become odorous. They feed on sweets and therefore are attracted to certain foods we keep in the house. Like Argentine ants, they do not pose health threats but do contaminate food supplies.

Carpenter Ants

Carpenter ants are unique among ants in our service areas because they are wood-destroying insects that can infest and damage your home, necessitating expensive home repairs. Carpenter ants tunnel through wood and can cause serious structural damage to your home. Unlike Subterranean Termites, however, they do not consume wood for fuel – their tunnels, called galleries, are merely passageways for nesting. Like many insects, carpenter ants feed on common food items such as meats, pet food, honey, syrup, jellies, candy, sugar, etc.

Carpenter Ant Colonies

Carpenter ant colonies form around a queen and contain several types of workers and swarmers. As with other insect colonies, workers perform the menial tasks of foraging, construction, and defense. Swarmers, or winged carpenter ants, are reproductive queens and males. Seeing swarmers is a particularly important sign that you might have an infestation.

It is very common to see carpenter ants in the open. The first step in carpenter ant control is locating the nest, which can be a difficult task. Colonies can form almost anywhere in a house- inside walls, attic spaces, crawl spaces, etc. They can even form inside doors and within the insulation. Carpenter ants are particularly attracted to moist areas such as leaky spots behind bathtubs and showers, under dishwashers, and near sinks and toilets.

While seeing carpenter ants is not a sure sign of infestation, we recommend having a free infestation inspection at the first sign of their presence.

Identifying Ants vs. Termites

Flying ants can easily be confused for termites and vice versa. Below we point out the main visual differences so you can see if you have an ant or termite infestation. If you are unsure, please email a clear picture to

  • Termites have a thick waist and ants have a narrow waist.
  • Termites have straight antennae and ants have elbowed antennae.
  • Termites have four wings that are all equal in length.
  • Flying Ants also have four wings. However, two are larger and two are smaller.
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