Pavement Ants

Get Rid of Pavement Ants in Your Home or Business

General Information

Scientifically known as Tetramorium caespitum, pavement ants are among the most common ant species found in New England. Though more prevalent in natural environments, pavement ants are one of the most commonly encountered indoor pests in the area.

The small bodies of pavement ants enable the insects to move easily through cracks in the foundations of homes and build indoor nests or search for food in kitchens and pantries.

Though not considered a major health threat, pavement ants can contaminate food and dining areas by leaving dirt and bacteria/germs behind on the surfaces that the foraging insects contact.

Picture of Pavement Ant
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Appearance & Identification

What do pavement ants look like?

  • Fully grown worker pavement ants are wingless.
  • They typically measure about three or four millimeters, or roughly an eighth of an inch in length.
  • Pavement ants are dark brown or black in color.
  • Rows of parallel furrows or grooves run lengthwise across the head and thorax, creating a ridged appearance useful for differentiating pavement ants from other ant species.
  • The back of the thorax features a pair of spines that jut upward at an angle and point toward the two nodes that make up the petiole, or waist.
  • Pavement ants have a stinger on their posterior abdominal body segment, though the stinging apparatus is too small and weak to have an impact on humans.

Habits/Habitat

Urban Nesting: Named for their tendency to build nests in the soil under the pavement of driveways and sidewalks, pavement ants also set up colonies under patios and building foundations constructed on concrete slabs. The insects often take advantage of cracks in the concrete to enter homes/structures and establish nests in walls and insulation as well as underneath floors.

Rural Nesting: In more rural areas of New England, pavement ants are frequently found under rocks, leaves or mulch, wood, and other debris in open fields. Though generally more active at night, foraging pavement ants also emerge during the day in the warmer months of spring and summer. Pavement ant colonies can grow as large as 10,000 members or more.

Diet

What do pavement ants eat?

The diet of pavement ants includes a wide range of different food sources, as the insects are known for eating virtually anything available.

Pavement ants feed on:

  • Subterranean termites and other soil-dwelling insects
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Bread
  • Meats
  • Grease
  • Sweets like honey and sugar
The indiscriminate insects travel as far as 30 feet from the nest to forage and leave a chemical trail that leads other members of the colony to the food source.

Reproduction

Mating: Like many other ant species prevalent in New England, pavement ants produce winged males and females that emerge in the spring to mate. Also known as swarmers, the winged ants are exclusively responsible for reproducing and creating new colonies.

Eggs: After mating, winged females look for a suitable place to lay eggs and establish a colony. The newly mated queens typically lay the eggs in soil protected by pavement, concrete, or rocks.

Development Time: Pavement ants generally take about two or three months to complete all stages of development (egg to larva to pupa to adult).

Mating Season: While reproductive swarming naturally occurs in the spring, colonies living in/under heated indoor spaces may produce swarmers and mate at any time throughout the year.

Life Expectancy: The life expectancy of a typical adult worker pavement ant is several years.

Problems Caused by Pavement Ants

Health Issues: While pavement ants are not known to cause structural damage or major health problems, the ease and frequency with which the insects enter homes in New England can become a nuisance to area residents.

Food Contamination: Because of their willingness to eat almost anything, pavement ants can contaminate and ruin a variety of pantry staples and other food items when foraging.

Chemical Trails: The chemical trails created by foraging pavement ants enable the rest of the colony to locate the food source, resulting in the emergence of unsightly hordes/trails of ants and causing further contamination.

Indoor Nests: Throughout the year, indoor nests of pavement ants can produce winged reproductives that swarm by windows and other light sources, creating an unwelcome sight and potentially forming new colonies in or in areas around a structure.

Signs of Infestation

Swarmers: The presence of foraging workers or reproductive swarmers flying around or inside is a strong indicator of a pavement ant infestation, especially during colder months.

Piles of Soil: Small piles of soil particles that look like sand also indicate the existence of a pavement ant colony, as the insects push dirt and debris out the entrance of the nest as they construct or expand the underground colony. The piles are commonly found straddling cracks in the floor/foundation or driveway/sidewalk.

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Prevention

  • Seal Cracks: Because pavement ants often live beneath the foundation of a house, homeowners need to make sure that all external cracks and other small openings are tightly sealed.
  • Remove Debris from House: Residents should keep potential nesting sites, like piles of leaves and wood, safely away from the house.
  • Clean Kitchen: Kitchen areas within the home should remain free of crumbs, grease, and standing water.
  • Properly Store Food: Homeowners should store food items in sealed canisters, rinse out food and beverage containers before throwing them away, and take the trash out on a regular basis.
If an infestation problem arises, contact a pest control specialist with the ability to identify the ant species and implement an effective course of action.