In California, there are about 200 ant species but fewer than a dozen are important pests. The most common ant occurring in and around the house and garden in California is the Argentine ant. Other common ant pests include the pharaoh ant, the odorous house ant, the thief ant, and the southern fire ant. The velvety tree ant nests in old wood and is a common outdoor species in landscapes.

Less common, but of great importance, is the red imported fire ant which has recently gained a foothold in southern California. In some areas, the spread of the fire ant has been slowed by competition from the Argentine ant.

Carpenter ants also invade buildings in California. Although they do not eat wood as termites do, they hollow it out to nest and may cause considerable damage.


Argentine Ant Carpenter Ant Odorous House Ant Pavement Ant
  • Workers, all same size, 1/8″ long
  • Uniformly dull brown
  • Musty odor emitted when crushed
  • Workers are polymorphic (different sizes), 1/4″ – 1/2″ long
  • Black or bicolored red and black
  • Strong odor emitted when disturbed
  • Workers, all same size, 1/8″ long
  • Dark brown to shiny black
  • Very strong odor when crushed
  • Workers, all same size, 3/16″ long
  • Dark brown to black
Pharoah Ant Red Imported Fire Ant Southern Fire Ant Thief Ant
  • Workers, all same size, 1/16″ long
  • Yellow or honey-colored to orange
  • Workers are polymorphic, 1/16″ – 1/5″ long
  • Body reddish with shiny dark brown gaster with stinger
  • Extremely aggressive
  • Workers are polymorphic, 1/8″ – 1/5″ long
  • Amber head/thorax, mostly black abdomen; body covered with golden hairs
  • Large eyes
  • Workers, all same size, 1/32″ long
  • Yellow to light brown, very small eyes

Carpenter Ants

While the control of other household ant colonies requires similar exclusion and sanitation tactics, the control of carpenter ants seems to be as much of an art as it is a science.

Many believe that carpenter ants, like termites, feed on the wood of buildings. This is untrue. Carpenter ants actually feed on dead and living insects, aphid and scale honeydew, and juices of ripe fruit; they have a sweet tooth.

What they do is bore into wood so they can nest inside. As this habit can cause serious damage to structures, it is extremely important to begin removing carpenter ants as soon as they are identified. Carpenter ants prefer moist and humid environments, and forage mostly late in the day or at night.

There are several species of carpenter ants that may be found infesting homes and other buildings. Normally workers are black, or red and black, in color and range in size from 3/8 to 1/2 inch. Winged queen ants may be as large as one inch. However, size is not a reliable characteristic to identify carpenter ants. The best method to separate carpenter ants from other ants is by the following characteristics: (1) a waist with one node (petiole) and (2) a thorax with an evenly rounded upper surface.


  • Main colony often outside on tree stumps, dead tree, firewood pile, or fence post
  • Consist of extensive networks of galleries usually begun in areas of wood, soft from decay
  • May contain several thousand individuals; indoor nests may be satellite colonies of a larger nest outdoors
  • Up to 20 satellite colonies can be associated with main colony that contains the queen(s)
  • Indoor colonies always associated with moisture and may occur in hollow doors, window or door frames, or the subfloor

For more information about eradicating ants, see our page on Ant Control in Orange County and Los Angeles County.

Fat Cat Exterminators is ready to provide a comprehensive Carpenter Ant control program specialized to fit your needs. Please contact us today to schedule an appointment.

Thank you for considering Fat Cat Exterminators as you search for a pest control partner.


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