Which Canadian Ant is Invading your Home?

Canada is home to hundreds of species of ants most of which are relatively harmless or even beneficial. Ants help gardens thrive by tunnelling into the soil bringing oxygen and essential nutrients with them. Some species even consume other pests such as the young of silverfish or moths! However, they can become a problem when they set up nests in and around your house, causing damage to your home, spoiling food, and spreading diseases. Read more about ants.

Correctly identifying the species of ant infesting your house is imperative to their successful removal. As a Canadian homeowner, the ants you’re most likely to come into contact with include carpenter ants, pharaoh ants, pavement ants, and fire ants. Read on to learn how to identify these ant species and how to eliminate each one. 

Carpenter Ant

The two main types of carpenter ants in Canada are red carpenter ants and black carpenter ants. Red carpenter ants have a reddish-brown upper body but are otherwise black, whereas the black carpenter ants are black all over. They are the largest of Canadian pest ants ranging from 6 to 25 mm in length, about the size of a sunflower seed. They are often confused with termites due to their size however, it is easy to tell the difference as carpenter ants have a very slim waist and bent antenna, whereas termites have thick waists and straight antenna. 

Carpenter ants are attracted to damp or decaying wood in which they build their colonies.  If they make their way into your home they can cause serious structural damage. They like to keep their tunnels very clean and are constantly sweeping out any debris, luckily this creates some very conspicuous sawdust piles. The sawdust piles may also contain the bodies of smaller insects that the carpenter ants have consumed. During mating season, late spring and summer, you will likely also see flying ants, these are reproductive males and females looking to breed with each other. 

If you suspect carpenter ants have invaded your home, call a pest control company immediately to prevent any further structural damage. Additionally, don’t disturb any sawdust piles you find before your appointment as inspectors will use them to locate the nest and remove the colony. 

Fun Fact

The giant Amazonian ant is a contender for the largest ant in the world at a whopping 4 cm in length! Twice the size of our Canadian carpenter ants!

Pharaoh Ant

The Pharaoh ant is likely native to Africa and can only nest outside in warm climates.  Despite this, it has made its way all around the world and lives in heated buildings globally. Pharaoh Ants are small roughly 2 mm in length and have a yellowish-brown to red bottom with a darker body. You won’t see these ants flying around; the queens are the only ones in the colony to grow wings but they cannot fly and lose their wings after mating. 

The small size of the Pharaoh ant allows it to get into just about anything, scientific researchers even have a hard time keeping them out of their sanitary labs! They can get into food packaging contaminating it with the microbes they carry on their bodies, they have even been known to transmit pathogens such as Salmonella and Streptococcus. This is why it is so important to keep an eye out for these tiny pests especially in and around the kitchen, in the pantry and by pet food bowls. 

Pharaoh ants nest in odd places: between layers of paper or linens, in trash, or even in appliances and electrical outlets. This makes extermination tricky, instead of combing every crack of the home for nests, baits are typically used to treat pharaoh ants. When the Pharaoh ants come out to forage they grab pieces of the bait thinking it is food and bring it back to their nests poisoning the entire colony. However, it is imperative to select the right bait for your situation! If the wrong bait is used it will stress the ants out before they all die and the nest will scatter, creating multiple satellite colonies and further complicating your issue. 

Pharaoh ant vs Pavement ant
AntWeb. Version 8.76.4. California Academy of Science, online at https://www.antweb.org.

Pavement Ant

Pavement ants are not native to Canada and were introduced to North America from Europe in the 19th century. They are similar in size to Pharaoh ants, roughly 2 mm in length, but are darker in colour with pale brown to black bodies. You may be able to see their stingers, but don’t worry they are not used to attack but rather to leave trails of pheromones for their fellow ants. During the mating season, you will likely see some pavement ants taking flight as they like to congregate in swarms to do the deed.

They are not generally found living in the home but often along the outside walls of the home, in garages, along garden walkways or on patios.  They prefer to nest in soil devoid of vegetation which has made them particularly suited to life in urban environments, so look for mounds of displaced solid near the outside of the home or paved areas. However, they will be drawn to forage in the warmth of the home during the cold winter months. Here they can become a hazard as they can get into pet and human food and contaminate it with microbes on their bodies. Pest control professionals can follow ant trails and dirt mounds to trace pavement ants back to their nest and exterminate the colony. 

Fire ant & Fire ant hill
AntWeb. Version 8.76.4. California Academy of Science, online at https://www.antweb.org.

Fire Ants

While less common in urban areas if you own a property in a rural region of Canada you may come into contact with these infamous insects. Fire ants are 2 – 5 mm in length and reddish-brown in colour. If you take a close look you’ll discover a dark stinger but you really shouldn’t get that close because these ants are aggressive and will defend their turf vigorously! They will bite and inject a painful sting on any person or animal that gets too close to their colony, which looks like a dome-shaped mound of sand. Pay special attention in dry fields as fire ants thrive in the sun and if you see one make sure you do not disturb it. 

A fire ant nest close to your home or near a path often walked should be dealt with as soon as possible. The silver lining is that once you’ve found a fire ant nest you are not likely to forget where it is, and exterminators can come in and deal with the issue efficiently. 


Keep a close eye on children and pets if you have fire ants on your property. It’s also a good practice to always wear closed-toed footwear and socks in case you accidentally stumble across a colony.

If you’re still unsure which ant is invading your home, start by calling a professional pest control company who will be able to identify your ant problem and recommend an effective control option.

Terminix Canada offers expert pest control services across Canada including BC, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland. Call us today for residential ant removal or commercial ant removal.