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Image by Peter F. Wolf


Common ants in Ontario consist of:

  • Carpenter Ant

  • Little Black Ant

  • Odorous House Ant

  • Thief Ant

  • Pavement Ants

  • Pharaoh Ant


Carpenter Ants: can be from 1/4” to 1/2” long and are almost 3 times the size of a Little Black Ant. They have six legs, are either dark brownish-black in body with a reddish-brown upper body (Red Carpenter Ants) or dark brownish-black all over (Black Carpenter Ants) and a smooth rounded thorax (middle) between their head and their abdomen.  Their antennae are bent and in sections. They eat both plants, insects and forage for human food.  To avoid confusion with Termites, Termites have straight antennae and a thick waist.  Carpenter Ants have a narrow waist.


Little Black Ants: can be from 1 to 2 mm long, with their queen’s ranging from 4 to 5 mm long. They are scavengers that consume anything from bird droppings to dead insects.  Little Black Ants will forage in homes, but nest in soil mounds.

Odorous Ants: get their name from emitting a strange smell, similar to the smell of rotten coconuts, when they are squashed. They are tiny (about an 1/8” long) but very fast and dark brown or black in colour. They usually travel in lines, but if disturbed they will run erratically, releasing their odor as they run. They forage in homes and will nest pretty much anywhere (inside or outside).


Thief Ants: similar in size to the Little Black Ants, they are 1.5mm – 2mm long. They get their names from nesting within other ant nests and stealing their food and brood (larvae and pupae).  They are yellowish or brown and have an unevenly rounded thorax. 

Pavement Ants: Similar attributes to the other common ants, but nests under or between sidewalks.


Pharaoh Ants: Similar again to the other common ants, but does not nest outdoors.  They nest in inaccessible, humid, heated buildings, near sources of food and water, such as in wall voids.  Mating with these ants takes place in the nest, so they are unlike other ant species, in that they do not fly or swarm.

Almost all ant species can develop wings and fly.  Only a percentage of the ants in a colony will grow wings for the purpose of reproduction and breeding the next generation of ants for the survival of their colony.  They can only fly during breeding season.


An important identifier to be aware of is if the ants discovered in or around your home are winged, it means they are seeking to create a new colony and extend their population. Foraging worker ants will never have wings. This discovery could indicate a potentially heightened concern, if the species happens to be Carpenter Ants or Termites.  Both species threaten the structural stability of your home. However, if the species ends up to be one of the other common Ants in Ontario, it becomes more of a pest concern and not a destructive concern.

Image by Salmen Bejaoui


For the most part reproductive (swarming) season is early to mid-spring and fall.  Not all Ants follow the standard reproductive guide to “mating season” and some can be known to also mate in summer.  Carpenter Ants will remain active straight through to September.


During the cold season, they close off their nests and huddle together to protect their queen and maintain body heat.


Ant species as a whole do not pose any health threats to humans, except for large infestations of the Pharaoh Ant.  They have been known to transmit over a dozen pathogens such as Salmonella, Staphylococcus and Streptococcus.


Ants with the exception of Carpenter Ants, do not cause damage to our homes.  They can however become a severe nuisance in our homes, because they invade our food sources.  They can get into the tiniest of crevices and cracks, becoming so invasive that it turns into an overwhelming battle to deal with them.


Carpenter Ants, on the other hand, reside in moist wood and use their powerful jaws to loosen and remove wood debris during tunneling or creating their homes.  If found in your home, they can cause a tremendous amount of damage by hollowing out decorative and structural wood material.  Carpenter Ants don’t eat the wood, they throw the remnants, leaving behind little piles of sawdust as evidence that they have been present.


To properly treat the Ant issue, we must first identify the type of Ant we are dealing with.  Once identified, an appropriate treatment can be tailored to that ants characteristic activity.  The reason being, each species of Ants nests in different environments.


Balson first recommends with all ant infestations that the homeowner start by removing access to any food and water sources. The homeowner should clean up crumbs, place food in sealed glass or plastic containers, wash out recycled containers and ensure garbage is contained and placed away from the home.  When it comes to Carpenter Ants, clear out damp, rotten wood and repair damaged wood. Repair leaking faucets or hoses, to prevent wood from being susceptible to foraging insects. 


Balson would then recommend sealing up your home, by filling cracks and crevices.  This is a task the homeowner can take on themselves or request our services in sealing up identified access points.


Treating just the area of activity inside the home would be ineffective as a complete solution, but effective when looking for immediate results.  The battle overall would be futile, unless also paired with an exterior perimeter treatment spray.  The spray treatment inside the home only kills the ants present, however another army would emerge, just following the scent trail that the previous set of ants left.  We instead recommend an additional exterior perimeter spray of the outside of the home, along the base.


The next step in treatment is locating the nest(s).  This can be much more challenging and is tailored to the type of Ant species we are dealing with.  Balson will investigate the property and attempt to determine the location of the nest(s).  We will provide treatment directly to the nest.  Depending on location of the nest(s), we will use direct spray or if the nest has been located behind siding or in a wall cavity, the use of an Actisol machine may be required.

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