Fire Ants and Carpenter Ants: How to Tell the Difference

Fire Ants and Carpenter Ants: How to Tell the Difference


Among the most common ant species found in Phoenix are fire ants and carpenter ants. Little as they may be, ants come in large colonies, groups, and armies. Because they work together very well, they can cause a lot of damage to properties and in many cases, serious injuries to humans and pets.

There are plenty of ant species found in the state of Arizona. Aside from fire ants and carpenter ants, you may come across harvester ants, odorous house ants, Argentine ants, Pharaoh ants, and pavement ants among others.

Identifying Features of Fire Ants and Carpenter Ants

Because they look quite similar except for their huge size difference, some may confuse fire ants and carpenter ants with each other. If you’re dealing with an ant problem at home, the best way to come up with a solution that will work is to know about their appearance, usual habitat, food source, and other identifying factors.


carpenter-antCarpenter ants are much larger than fire ants. They measure about a quarter of an inch to an inch. Fire ants, on the other hand, can grow anywhere from 0.12 to 0.24 inches. When it comes to color, carpenter ants also vary and can be dull black or even red. Fire ants always have a dark abdomen and copper brown head and body.

Habitat and Food Source

In a residential property, you will most likely find fire ants in the garden. They are social insects and they don’t bother hiding themselves. They will build their colonies in open areas such as gardens, parks, playgrounds, golf courses, and other places that have a lot of sunlight and soil. You can also find their mounds and tiny hills in decaying wood, logs, and around tree stumps. They may sometimes build their homes underneath concrete slabs of buildings. They are omnivores. Fire ants eat anything including plants, veggies and other animals like spiders, worms, and more.

Carpenter ants also prefer living outdoors where they can find decaying pieces of wood or tree stumps. If they find their way indoors, they prefer to be in moist or wet areas such as beneath tiles in your bathroom or kitchen, shower areas, dishwashers, and more. Unlike termites, these carpenter ants do not eat wood. They simply chew away the wood that’s in their way. It’s easy to know they’re around when you see sawdust-like material on the ground. They look for sources of sugar and protein such as honeydew, sugar, syrup, jelly and other mostly wet-type of food materials.

Dangers and Risks

While fire ants will probably do very little in destroying the structure of your home, they can be very bothersome in your garden especially if you have crops. They are considered one of the most dangerous ant species because their sting is powerful. Their bites can become very painful and even life-threatening for both humans and pets.

Carpenter ants are larger and can even look scarier than fire ants; however, they rarely attack or sting. But if you accidentally disturb their nest, they can bite as a form of self-defense. They become a bigger risk when they find their way into your home. While the damage they can cause to wooden structures may seem small, if they are not controlled or removed right away, serious structural damage is still possible.

Pest Control for Fire Ants and Carpenter Ants

While there are many ways to control ants in homes such as using bug sprays and other DIY methods, many of these insects easily find their way back. In fact, many of them simply don’t leave at all despite what may seem like drastic efforts. If ant problems are becoming very serious in your property, it is best to reach out to professionals who can provide expert assistance. For instance, carpenter ants are usually found outdoors but many of them find their way into your home’s structure. When they decide to build their nest there, you may end up with serious and expensive damage.

For immediate assistance in controlling or removing fire ants and carpenter ants or other pests in your property, Watchdog Pest Control is ready to help out. We offer services in Phoenix, Arizona, and the surrounding areas. Call us at 602-842-5290 for a quote and to set an appointment.