What’s The Difference Between Carpenter, Odorous, and Pavement Ants?

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Ants are some of the most common nuisance pests you can encounter in your house. These insects can nest anywhere from the walls of your rooms to a tree in your garden, and (if the conditions are right) can create extremely large nests that are difficult to get rid of. If you think you’re dealing with a potential ant infestation, it’s important to know which ant type you’re dealing with so you have the best possible chance of getting rid of them.

So what’s the difference between carpenter ants, pavement ants, and odorous house ants? These are the common insects that can invade your home, and they differ in many sorts of ways from their size, nesting habits, and even preferred source of food. Knowing their differences and similarities is the key to getting out of them, and ensuring that your home remains ant-free.

What Are Carpenter Ants?

Carpenter ants are extremely common in places where there are a lot of trees and foliage. While they’re easily confused with termites, they have a few key differences that set them apart.


Carpenter ants are some of the larger ant species, measuring anywhere from 1/2 inch to 1/8 inch in size. Most carpenter ants are black in color, though some have mixtures of black and red in their coloration, depending on where they’ve been nesting. There are different species of carpenter ants, which can make them easily mistaken for other ant species without closer inspection.

Nesting Habits

Carpenter ant colonies seek out wood for their nests, usually burrowing into a tree or other similar piles of dead timber. They can get attracted to your home if some of your exterior walls have been exposed to moisture, or if water has seeped into any structural wood, turning it into damaged wood. Where there’s water and wood, that’s the most likely spot where you’ll find carpenter ants.

Preferred Food Source

This type of ant can consume almost anything, up to and including dead insects. But given the choice, they tend to seek out sweet food like honeydew, or protein-rich foods like dead animals. These ants can forage for up to 100 yards away from their nests and colonies to look for sources of food, and will readily snack on sweet material or greasy materials nearby.

However, it’s also equally important that they settle near water sources. Their ant nests are often near water leaks or anywhere that has access to water, since it may contain run-offs of salt and sugar that they can also feed on. Worker ants will often look for places with ideal moisture levels, and individual workers will quickly establish ant trails that the colony can follow.


Carpenter ants are nocturnal, and will usually avoid moving in direct sunlight if possible. However, if climatic conditions allow their colonies to grow extremely large, they’re capable of simply overtaking an entire area by sheer numbers alone. Most of the time, carpenter ant colonies go unnoticed until they’ve already consumed significant amounts of building materials, which makes it crucial to catch them early.

What Are Odorous House Ants?

An odorous house ant is a common household pest that you can find almost anywhere, as this species spreads quickly and adapts easily to new conditions. They’re named for the odd, coconut-and-cheese-like smell that they emit when killed.


Odorous house ants are fairly small and usually measure around 1/8 inch in size. They come in different shades of brown, though you’re more likely to find the dark brown variety in your home. Some of them are also black, though this may be a difference in the caste of the ant that you see. If you find a dark brown to black ant in your home, it’s most likely an odorous house ant.

Nesting Habits

Odorous house ants have a wide variety of choices for nests – this is because they’re one of the types of ants to not be limited by a single queen. The entire colony can have hundreds of queens and thousands of workers and can spread across multiple satellite nests if the infestation is big enough. They can nest almost anywhere, from indoor insulation to exposed earth in your garden.

Preferred Food Source

Like most ant species, odorous house ants will usually prefer sweet food. However, they can easily transition to a protein-based diet if that’s what’s readily available – for example, if they have access to pet food or other similar food stuff. They’ll also attack greasy foods if it’s been left around, which can often result in a few painful stings if you aren’t aware of their presence when you eat.

Some odorous house ants will even feed on the natural sugars found in fruits and flowers, which is why this particular species also likes hanging around gardens and ornamental plants. While they don’t normally make their homes in moist soil unlike other plant species, they can create temporary nesting sites in these places if they’ve found a large enough food source to feed on.


This species of ant dominates an area with its numbers, which makes it a particular health risk as they can easily contaminate any food sources they come across. Because they snack on almost anything, large numbers of odorous house ants can easily spread viruses and bacteria. Given the large number that they need to support in a single colony, it’s not uncommon to find worker ants and foraging ants all over your kitchen no matter the time of day.

What Are Pavement Ants?

Most pavement ant colonies usually keep to themselves since they prefer the outdoors, but their wide foraging habits mean they regularly make contact with humans. They tend to excavate soil instead of burrowing, which makes them easier to spot.


Pavement ants are tiny, usually measuring around 1/16 of an inch in size. They usually come in dark brown or black but are easily differentiated from other ant species by their size and the parallel lines formed by the grooves in their exoskeleton. If you see an ant trail on the street near or in front of your home, they’re most likely pavement ants.

Nesting Habits

Pavement ants usually make their homes in the cracks in the pavement. underneath stone slabs, or anywhere where they can burrow and fit into. Large rocks in gardens or stone steps are also ideal nesting sites since there’s plenty of displaced soil at entrances where they can easily exit in search of food.

Preferred Food Source

Pavement ants will usually look for sweet foods, though their palates can also extend to dairy-based products like milk and cheese. They’ll also eat other insects, though they’ll usually scavenge from dead insects rather than taking them out actively like other ant species. Because of their nesting habits, they’re excellent foragers that can travel for up to 30 yards in search of food.

Pavement ants have highly potent pheromone trails, which makes them establish a food trail to a food source extremely quickly. Any type of food within their reach gets quickly dragged back to the colony to eat – if they’re in a pinch, they can even target seeds from plants and fruits.


Pavement ants are more nuisance pests than anything – while they can sting, their small size and non-venomous stings make them fairly harmless. They’ll also keep to themselves or at least quite close to their colonies most of the time since they rarely nest indoors. However, a big enough infestation can bring them close to human contact, which can be dangerous for pets and children.

Professional Pest Removal Services With Midway Pest Management Today

Making sure that you know the species of the ants that you’re dealing with can be extremely helpful when dealing with their colonies. Since different species of ants will differ in nests, preferred food, and even foraging trails. Understanding their biology can also help, but it’s the proper identification of their behavior that can give you the best chance of getting rid of an infestation for good.

For an out-of-control ant infestation, it’s best to bring in professionals. Midway Pest Management has plenty of experience getting rid of ant species of all types, making sure all nesting sites and satellite nests are removed. As pest management professionals, we understand the common species that can infest houses and deploy the ant control methods needed to remove them. For more information about us and how we can help you with your ant infestation, schedule a consultation with us today.

Learn More: How To Get Rid Of Pavements Ants Naturally With Baking Soda