types of ants in pennsylvannia

Ants are insects classified in the Formicidae family. They are related to wasp, bee and sawfly families, all of which belong to the Hymenoptera order. Insects in the Hymenoptera order are known for their qualities that are beneficial to the environment. Ants specifically help control populations of harmful insects like termites and pests that are harmful to agriculture.

There are over 15,000 known species of ants and they can be found nearly all over the world. The only areas on planet Earth that do not have ant populations are Antarctica, Greenland, Iceland, the Hawaiian islands, and some smaller Pacific islands. Australia is home to over 4,000 species of ants, the most of anywhere else in the world. The United States is home to 1,000 species of ants.


Ants are the only insects classified to the Formicidae family due to their unique appearance.

  • Elbowed antennae
  • Thorax – where the legs attached
  • Some species also have stingers and poison glands for defense and hunting of prey
  • Abdomen – where the internal organs are situated and includes:
    • Stomach – digestion of food for the ant
    • Crop – storage of food for the colony or the ant itself
    • Reproductive organs


Ants are eusocial, meaning they organize themselves into highly-advanced colonies consisting of three ant castes: queens, workers and males (also known as drones).

Benefits of Ants

Ants are an essential part of the earth’s ecosystem. As they create the tunnels of their nests they are aerating and turning the soil. This allows plant roots to gain access to water and oxygen. Taking seeds into their nests for food also results in new plant growth.

Types of Ants in the Tri-state Region

The types of ants most commonly found in Pennsylvania, southern New Jersey and Delaware are Pavement ants, Odorous House ants and Carpenter ants.

Pavement ants

(Tetramorium Caespitum)
Pavement ants are black or brown and are usually 1/10 to 1/15 of an inch long. They are omnivores who eat a wide variety of foods but prefer sweets. They do not bite but they can sting. They originated from Europe and can be found across the United States. They are the most common type of ant found in Pennsylvania and most likely to be found in home infestations.

Oderous ants

(Tapinoma sessile)
Odorous House ants are black or brown and are monomorphic, meaning each ant in a colony is the exact same size. They are approximately 1/18 of an inch long and they do not bite. Their main threat to humans and pets is contamination. They are native to North America and can be found in Canada, the United States and Mexico.

Carpenter ants

(Camponotus pennsylvanicus)
Carpenter ants are reddish brown and range in size from ¼ to ½ inch. Their name derives from the way they create their nests, tunneling through wet wood. They will bite to defend their nests. This specific species was the first of its kind found in North America.