Field ants can be confused with Carpenter ants but are less likely to forage indoors for food. These ants are red, black, brown, or a combination of all three colors. Occasionally Field ants may also be golden yellow in color. They are between 1/8 and ¼ inch in length. Field ant colonies consists of both minor and major workers, the major workers being larger in size. Field ants have a petiole with one node, an uneven thorax when viewed from the side, and simple, distinct eyes on the top of their heads. Queen and male ants possess wings, but worker ants do not.
Field Ant Habitat and Food Source
The Field ant is common throughout the U.S. from New England to the Pacific Northwest and south to Florida and Mexico.
These ants build low-profile, medium-sized mounds up to a foot in diameter in fields and wooded areas as well as lawns and gardens of homes. The Field ant also commonly nests under landscape timbers, stones, logs, and porch slabs. Field ants do not establish mounds indoors, but will come indoors in search for food.
Field ants eat both living and dead insects, small invertebrates, as well as the honeydew produced by aphids, soft scale insects, mealybugs, whiteflies, and planthoppers. These ants may forage for sweets, fats, and proteins inside homes but it is not common. Most often, Field ants are seen on porches or near foundations of homes.
Field Ant Life Cycle
Field ants are most noticeable during reproduction times when the winged ants emerge from underground colonies in search of nesting sites. Male and female Field ants mate in the air where the male deposits a large amount of sperm cells into the female. Once fertilized, the females remove their wings and begin to lay eggs in a nest of their own construction. Male Field ants die soon after mating. “Mating swarms” are seen from July to September.
Field Ants and Humans
Winged Field ants undergoing a reproductive cycle will leave the colony in search of a mate in mid to late summer. This is referred to as swarming and is the most bothersome feature of a Field ant. They may enter through cracks of slabs or basement walls and become quite a nuisance for a homeowner. Although the Field ant does not nest indoors, a mound outdoors is also bothersome and should be eliminated from landscapes immediately.
The Field ant does not sting or cause any serious structural damage, and usually does not bite unless the mound is disturbed.
Field Ant Bites
If the Field ant does bite, it is typically not painful and does not exhibit any symptoms. If symptoms do occur, however, positive identification of the species should be done immediately. Apply an antibiotic ointment and apply ice to the affected area.
Field Ant Control
The Field ant will often build a mound around homes. Field ants will also nest in gardens and lawns and in this case can become a problem for homeowners. If an ant infestation has grown large in numbers, a professional will be required to eliminate this pest.
Anthills are a destructive and obtrusive part of a garden landscape, but can be a quick and easy way to identify colonies of the Field ant. Once all mounds have been identified, they will be drenched in insecticides. Chemical application is concentrated to the openings and may be applied only after all tunnels have been exposed. Where colonies are widespread, dust insecticides may be used to cover a greater surface area.
Lure them in with a tasty treat: Drax, Pic, Terro, and other commercial baits containing boric acid have been found to be effective in controlling Field ant populations. A homemade mixture of peanut butter, honey, and boric acid will also do the job.
DIY and Green Solutions for Field Ant Control
If you’re concerned about using insecticides in or around your home, employ some prevention methods to keep the ants out in the first place. Once an infestation occurs, you may use homemade baits or organic pesticides to eradicate the colony. Many companies specialize in “green” pest control and will do the job of ant extermination from start to finish using “green shield certified” measures.
Make your house less enticing to insects: This isn’t a bad idea, even if you don’t have an infestation yet. At the first sight of insects indoors, find out what’s drawing them in. Clean up spills, keep food in airtight containers, and limit all food consumption to the kitchen where it can be monitored.
Prohibition: keep those guys out of the house! Caulk openings inside – especially check areas where window or door trim is missing, weather stripping is worn down, or foundation or siding has cracked. You may also have some ant deterrents in the kitchen: chili powder, cinnamon, or salt can also lure the ants away from your house.
Landscape: Consider planting trees and shrubs that are natural repellents for insects like aphids that are part of the Field ant’s diet. Also clear all material away from your house: firewood, mulch, loose soil, and rock piles are great nesting sites for ants.
Make a homemade bait out of honey, boric acid, and peanut butter to gather the ants to one location. This will help you identify the nest if you haven’t already, and control numbers left indoors once nests are eradicated.
Aerosol or Dust Insecticides containing cypermethrin are not a green solution, but they can be applied by anyone. It is not advisable to apply insecticides on your own, but if the problem is not widespread you may be able to control the colony fairly simply on your own.