With an estimated 22,000 species of ants in the world, and only 12,500 are identified, it is safe to say everyone will encounter an ant or two at some point in their lives. Ants are among the most common pests and can easily infest any home, business or structure. Driven by the need to forage food for their colonies that can have thousands to hundreds of thousands of members in them, most ants will wander into homes and businesses. There are a handful of species of ants found in California but today we would like to share the fundamentals of the Thief Ant, which is among the most common in the area.
Thief Ant Identification
Thief ants measure about 1/16 inches long and are one of the smallest ant species. These ants range from a yellowish color to brown. Several characteristics of the thief ant can ensure proper identification, but thief ants and pharaoh ants resemble one another. At a closer inspection thief ant have 10 segmented antennae ending with a two-segmented club where pharaoh ants have 12 segmented antennae ending with a three-segmented club. Anther identifying trait is that pharaoh ants are not as well-defined with their foraging as thief ants are and only tend to become more organized once the scouts have found a food or water source. Additionally, thief ants have small compound eyes, a waist with two nodes, and a thorax without spines.
Where Do Thief Ants Live?
Thief ants frequently wonder inside homes or business through cracks in woodwork, holes in walls, and open doors. They favor your greasy, protein-rich foods and sweets; their diet also includes nuts, meats, cheese, peanut butter, dead insects and rodents. Because of their feeding habits, it is possible they can transmit pathogens from a food source to human food. On a hot day, homeowners can almost expect their intrusion as they search for a food and water source. Once inside, thief ants will nest in cabinet voids, under countertops, wall crevices, and behind baseboards. Due to their size and discrete hiding locations, they can be difficult to efficiently eliminate. Professional assistance is recommended for people dealing with a thief ant infestation. Outdoors, thief ants have a list of a variety of locations to nest but are particularly drawn to under undisturbed rocks as well as rotting wood and soil.
Are Thief Ants Harmful?
With their tiny stature, thief ants can be a problem as they can wiggle into your unopened-packaged food. As mentioned, their feeding habits can transmit disease. These ants are also sometimes referenced grease ants and sometimes sugar ants. Rightfully named thief ants because they have a habit of stealing larvae and pupae from neighboring colonies. Seeing these ants forage is the only indication due to how tiny they are. The queens laid eggs incubate and take about 50 days to a couple months to fully develop into adults. From June to September, thief ant mating swarms are noticeable, and these swarmers, or reproductive ants, might easily be seen in the summer indoors as well.