There are over 12,000 ant species worldwide, making them the world's most abundant and widespread species. Some of the common types of ants include yellow ants, cornfield ants, and winged ants, each with unique adaptations.
Ants are social insects with intricate and organized societies. Exploring this list of the types of ants–beyond flying ants and other common ants–shows us nature's wonder and reveals how these tiny insects dominate the animal world. Plus, check out our ant pictures (where available) to aid in ant identification.
Related: Check out our list of ant facts to learn more about ants.
Fun Fact: Argentine ants build supercolonies extending for several hundred miles and comprise millions of member ants.
Originally from South America, Argentine ants are typically dark-brown to black and measure no more than 2.8 mm. Despite their size, they are one of nature's greatest architects, building some of the largest colonies found in nature2.
Argentine ants inhabit Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay, and other countries in South America. They can establish new colonies quickly, often housing multiple queen ants. They can live in nature and cities so long as the soil is moist, allowing them to build colonies; in cities, they make their homes under buildings and sidewalks.
Their diet includes sweet substances, insects, seeds, and household waste. Argentine worker ants can forage up to 200 meters from their nests.
Fun Fact: Black garden ants build intricate underground tunnels and chambers extending several meters. Their tunnels house their colonies, store food, and protect them from predators.
The black garden ant commonly lives in European grasslands. These black ants have glossy ebony bodies that span only 3 to 5 millimeters, blending well with the undergrowth. Despite their size, their colonies can house 15,000 individuals, each with a role in their complex societal structure.
Regarding their diet, you'll find these ants foraging for fruit, other insects, and nectar. However, they have formed a unique relationship with aphids, "farming" them for their sweet honeydew secretions, similar to how humans rear cattle. This practice helps regulate aphid populations (similar to the ladybug who loves aphids, too).
Their worker ants also create nests in the soil, often under stones or grassy areas. Besides sheltering the ants, these nesting ants also aerate the soil as they build.
Fun Fact: The bullet ant has the most painful sting among all insects worldwide. People have compared its sting to being shot, hence its name. According to the Schmidt sting pain index, the Bullet Ant sting pain can last up to 24 hours.
The bullet ant builds colonies at the foot of trees, and they do not have a queen. Instead, female ants lay eggs that become workers.
Bullet ants have keen vision and smell, helping them to track intruders over long distances, find food, and navigate the forest. These ants eat small arthropods, nectar, and plant juices, controlling pest populations and aerating the soil.
Fun Fact: Carpenter ants chew through wood and create tunnel systems inside the hollow.
Despite chewing wood, Carpenter Ants do not eat it. They carve up decaying wood and build homes inside them; they do not require wood particles to survive. Moreover, carpenter ants are nocturnal, weakening wood without detection.
Moreover, carpenter ants are natural foragers, traveling up to 100 yards in search of insects, proteins, and sugars. Carpenter ants also practice trophallaxis, where they share food and fluids. In addition, the carpenter ant builds satellite colonies to house their young.
Fun Fact: Tawny crazy ants often display erratic and unpredictable behavior, which explains their name. They perform quick and unexpected movements, giving the impression that they are agitated or like a child on a sugar rush.
Crazy ants originate from Africa but have since spread globally to tropical and subtropical regions1. These ants can thrive in dry and moist environments, although they prefer the latter. Moreover, they are curious about electronic devices and often live inside them, causing short circuits.
Unlike other ants, they have multiple queens that govern over "supercolonies." Combined with their rapid breeding, their social structure makes them difficult to eradicate. They eat insects, seeds, fruits, and human leftovers.
Fun Fact: Fire ants are not native to North America. In the early 1900s, they arrived by accident from South America through the delivery of shipping materials. Consequently, fire ants have spread rapidly and become a pest in many parts of the US. Moreover, seeing fire ant mounds indicates an ant infestation.
Fire ants are aggressive, dark, reddish-brown types of ants. Their name, "fire ant," refers to their bright color and their sting, which causes a burning sensation3. These ants build their nests in sunny areas, which mimic small hills. In urban settings, they build nests in lawns, some of which run two meters underground with multiple entry and exit points. Fire ants plant matter, seeds, and other insects.
As invasive creatures, fire ants threaten small animals and other local wildlife. They relentlessly sting their prey and intruders when threatened. Moreover, fire ant venom causes burning pain and abscess formation. Likewise, fire ants attack as one, stinging the intruder all over its body.
Fun Fact: The ghost ant has an incredibly light color that makes them nearly transparent. They can also infest a home quickly if given the opportunity.
They are a unique ant species with pale, nearly transparent legs and abdomen. Moreover, they are elusive bugs known to disappear quickly. They usually live in tropical regions, though they can thrive in cooler climates, particularly indoors. While their bodies are light, their heads and thoraxes are dark.
Ghost ants occupy indoor potted plants and cool and shaded outdoor areas as long as they are moist. These ants will also consume other insects, grease, and sweet substances, preferring honeydew, a sugary substance created by aphids and mealybugs. Moreover, Ghost Ants can pack up their bags and move their nesting site when required, making them challenging to eradicate.
Fun Fact: Harvester ants are dark brown and can carry objects 20 times their body weight. They are one of the strongest insects in the world.
Harvester ants live in the arid environments of North and South America. Moreover, they have earned the name 'Harvester' due to their unique survival strategy of collecting and storing seeds. They keep their haul in a pantry or granary to prepare for the winter. Unlike other ant species, they remove the tough outer layer of the seeds before eating them.
Despite their size, Harvester ants can deliver painful bites. They are not afraid to go to war against neighboring colonies; they also disperse seeds and aerate the soil.
Read more: Strongest Animals in the World.
Fun Fact: Unlike other ant species that scavenge for food, leafcutter ants cut and transport pieces of leaves to their nests. The ants use the leaves as a substrate to grow a specific type of fungus, their primary food source. Moreover, the ants remove harmful molds or bacteria from their "farms."
Leafcutter ants also carry leaf fragments in a distinct pattern along a well-traveled path. They predominantly live in warmer climates, such as South and Central America, Mexico, and the southern US. However, their behavior can strip entire fields of vegetation, causing problems for agriculture.
Fun Fact: Odorous house ants produce an unpleasant smell when crushed; their odor is like a mix of rotten coconut and blue cheese.
These ants live in the varied terrains of North America. Despite their size, they can survive in the soil under rocks, logs, carpets, and walls.
Moreover, adult ants will eat dead insects, sweet confections, dairy, meat, vegetables, and honeydew from aphids, scale insects, and mealybugs. Odorous house ants also follow a network of trails–indoors and outdoors–to find food and nest around hot water pipes and heaters.
Fun Fact: Pavement ants form distinct paths to food sources, using landmarks and following the Earth's magnetic field to find the way home.
Pavement ants live in urban areas across the globe. These tiny ants build underground colonies under concrete foundations and footpaths.
Besides invading human homes for food, they battle with neighboring ant colonies during summer. Despite their reputation as invaders, pavement ants are invaluable to the ecosystem, breaking down organic matter and aerating the soil.
Fun Fact: Pharaoh ants can form large supercolonies, a network of interconnected nests covering entire buildings. If you spot a Pharaoh ant in your kitchen, that means there are thousands of them nearby.
This Ant is native to Africa but has spread worldwide. Their love for warm and humid places has caused them to become a major pest in hospitals, hotels, and apartment buildings. Moreover, they can transmit disease and contaminate objects. You should call ant control to handle an ant invasion.
These ants live in multi-queen colonies with hundreds of queens and thousands of workers. Since they have no territorial instinct, they merge colonies. They also have a unique "budding" behavior.
Fun Fact: Red Imported Fire Ants have a painful sting and can build floating rafts during floods. When water levels rise, these ants connect their bodies to create a buoyant raft-like structure that supports the whole colony. Moreover, these rafts can support thousands of ants for weeks until they find dry land.
This Ant originates from South America and has spread worldwide4. Their queens are larger than the average Ant, and some colonies may have multiple queens, a rarity in the ant world. They build nests in open, sunlit areas resembling giant, dome-shaped earthen fortresses that can rise 18 inches off the ground.
Fun Fact: Sugar ants, true to their name, love sugary substances. While looking for sweets, they form long chains to transport their haul back to their colonies. If you see a procession of worker ants leading to spilled soda or cookie crumbs, you are most likely seeing sugar ants at work.
The sugar ant originates from Australia and can adapt to urban and forest environments. Moreover, it is a nocturnal insect with a light orange coat and a dark head and abdomen. Despite their name, sugar ants do not limit themselves to sweet foods and will also consume dead insects or sip on nectar.
During the spring and early summer, winged queens leave their colonies to establish new territories. Sugar Ants will make their homes in rocks, soil, wood, or twigs. While these ants may appear harmless, they fight fiercely to protect their homes.
Fun Fact: Thief ants are kleptoparasitic bugs, habitually stealing food from other ant nests, raiding them, and stealing their food reserves and larvae instead of foraging.
Thief Ants have a pale yellow to light brown hue and can quickly go unnoticed. Moreover, these ants hide within nest walls and steal resources. Thief ants live in various parts of the world, living in soil, rotting wood, under rocks, kitchens, and pantries; they like grease, proteins, and sweets.
However, protein-based ant baits are more effective than sweet ones. In their natural environment, they eat insects, their larvae, and occasionally honeydew from sap-sucking insects.
Fun Fact: As a defense strategy, acrobat ants lift their abdomen above their head to fend off predators.
Acrobat ants have heart-shaped abdomens that help them arch their abdomens over their head and body in a perfect backbend when they sense danger. Moreover, they emit a foul smell when upset.
There are also 400 acrobat ants worldwide, including 30 in North America. They can build their nests in forests, backyards, or rotting wood. Additionally, they can occupy abandoned ant nests. These ants are hunters and farmers, feeding on insects and tending to aphids for the honeydew they produce. They control pests and do organic recycling.
The world of ants is a fascinating and complex one. From their ability to establish nests in diverse environments to their mutualistic relationships with creatures like scale insects and aphids, these industrious insects truly are marvels of nature.
However, their presence can sometimes become a nuisance despite their ecological importance. In such instances, it's crucial to engage the expertise of a pest control professional to ensure safe, effective, and environmentally responsible solutions.
We hope this article about the different types of ants has allowed you to appreciate the diversity of tiny creatures!
LeBrun, E. G., Plowes, R. M., & Gilbert, L. E. (2012). Imported crazy ant displaces imported fire ant, reduces and homogenizes grassland ant and arthropod assemblages. Biological Invasions, 14(10), 2107-2120.
Suarez, A. V., Tsutsui, N. D., Holway, D. A., & Case, T. J. (1999). Behavioral and genetic differentiation between native and introduced populations of the Argentine ant. Biological Invasions, 1(1), 43-53.
Jouvenaz, D. P., Allen, G. E., Banks, W. A., & Wojcik, D. P. (1977). A survey for pathogens of fire ants, Solenopsis spp., in the southeastern United States. Florida Entomologist, 60(3), 275-279.
Tschinkel, W. R. (2006). The Fire Ants. Harvard University Press.