News > Ants in Ontario: The basics
Ants in Ontario: The basics
January 21, 2021
Ants are more interesting than you might think.
There are estimated to be about 13,000 different species of ants around the world, and at one time it was thought that the total weight of ants actually exceeded the total weight of humans on earth at any given time. Though that estimate is probably no longer quite accurate, it’s definitely true that there are more ants than people.
Between trap-jaw ants (with the fastest-recorded movement of a living species at 143mph, but aren’t dangerous to humans), bulldog ants (who are in fact capable of killing humans), exploding suicide ants and velvet ants who look furry like tarantulas but pack an even bigger wallop, there’s a huge amount of variation – and deadliness.
What ants can you expect in Ontario?
Canada is thought to have about 100 species of ants, most of which can be found in Ontario. But the ones you’re most likely to see in or near your house or building are:
- Black carpenter ants: These are large black ants which chew through the wood in buildings to form tunnels and nests. They tend to prefer damp, humid areas since they need water (and wet/rotting wood is easier to build nests in). They don’t often bite humans, but when they do, it can hurt a lot.
- Argentine ants: Once found mostly in south American countries, Argentine ants aren’t harmful to humans, but their practice of using aphids makes them a danger in the garden.
- Pavement ants: These are the small, blackish/reddish ants you’ll see swarming on a curbside in the spring and summer. They create annoying little sand piles on your patio, but they generally aren’t harmful to humans. They will, however, take up residence in your home if you aren’t careful – and then they’ll start raiding the kitchen.
- Pharoah ants: These are tiny but insidious, and one small colony can easily take over an entire office building. They don’t bite humans, but they can carry diseases like salmonella, which can be transmitted to humans, making them unpleasant to live with.
- Odorous house ants: If you’ve ever found a trail of black ants heading for a bit of fruit you dropped near the front door or some leftover food in the dog dish, you’re probably looking at odorous house ants, who get their name from the ‘rotting coconuts’ smell they produce when squished. Not particularly harmful to humans, but very annoying and persistent.
- Thief ants: Also known as grease ants because of their fondness for high-fat foods like cheese, thief ants are small and don’t bite humans – but they will contaminate stored food in the kitchen, so they should be eliminated indoors.
Why are ants in your home?
It’s not complicated: Ants, like other pests, are always on the lookout for food – and an easy way to get to it. If scouts find easy access to your home via cracks around windows and doors, they’ll come on in and see what they can find. They’re attracted to food which has been stored without being sealed, or unattended garbage, or even a room that consistently has half-eaten food (like a teenager’s bedroom or a rarely-cleaned kitchen).
Seal up the entryways and make the food sources less accessible, and ants will stay out.
Should you worry about ants in your home or office in Ontario?
Generally speaking, ants shouldn’t be a topic that keeps you up at night – there are very few ants in the province which can cause serious injury or death.
However, ants can cross the line from ‘annoying’ to ‘dangerous’ when they damage structures or carry diseases to humans. If you suspect you have a chronic ant problem that you haven’t been able to eradicate by diligent cleaning and over-the-counter treatments, it’s worthwhile to call a professional. (This is especially true for carpenter ants: Those small exterior holes can camouflage a serious amount of structural damage that is only discovered too late. If you suspect you have carpenter ants in your home or other building, call a professional immediately.)