Student Research Pages - Native versus Invasive Ants

Cover Ants - June 2011

Around the world, more than 14,000 species of ants range in size from a grain of sand to 1 ½" long. In Texas, more than 250 native species play important roles in our different habitats. Not all ants are beneficial, though – some of the invasive species, like red imported fire ants, have made things difficult for the ants that are originally from Texas.

Native Species =
ants originally from Texas; ants that naturally occur here
Invasive Species =
ants NOT originally from Texas
Invasive species came to live here from someplace else.
They shouldn't live here because they make life difficult for the native Texas ants that didn't evolve to compete with them.
Black Carpenter Ant

This is a carpenter ant.
It lives in rotting wood.

Carpenter ants:
Large black or reddish black ants with tummies that dip in. They nest in dead wood or rotting trees. They bite but don't sting.
Leaf Cutting Ant

Do you see the huge mandibles on this leafcutting ant? She needs them to do the big job of cutting leaves and stems. (Creative Commons.)

Leafcutting ants:
Rusty brown ants with spines on their thorax (remember – that's the middle part of an insect's body). They get their name because they actually cut leaves into pieces, which they carry to their nest underground. There, the leaf pieces are used to grow into a fungus, which feeds the colony. These dudes bite!
Black Crazy Ant

See why this black crazy ant is nicknamed the "Longhorn ant?" (Texas A & University)

Black crazy ants:
These little black ants get called "crazy" because they run around all crazy like. They have extra long antenna so sometimes they're called "Longhorn ants." They eat greasy food, fleas, and imported red fire ants. They don't bite nor sting.
Harvester Ants

These harvester ants go out and gather seeds and bring them back to the nest.
(Photo © 2011 Jeff Parker)

Red harvester ants:
Reddish to dark brown ants with square heads. They gather seeds and store them underground. There's usually a big bare area around the opening of their nest. They can bite and sting.
Fire Ant Mound

This is what a pyramid ant mound looks like. It's about 2-4 inches across. (Photo © 2011, by Gabrielle Conley.)

Pyramid ants:
These little pale orange to dark brown ants help humans by eating garden pests and fire ants. They make small pyramid shaped mounds that you’ve likely seen plenty of times in your yard. They don't sting or act mean.


Fire Ants on Board

Red imported fire ants are an invasive species in Texas. (Photo by Scott Bauer; Agriculture Research Service

Red imported fire ants:
These mean ants cause problems across Texas in many ways. These dark brown ants build mounds in open areas. If the mound is disturbed, workers quickly attack by both biting and repeatedly stinging.
Rasberry Crazy Ants

Rasberry crazy ants often get inside electrical stuff and mess it up! (Photo by Jason Meyers, Texas Agrilife Research.)

Rasberry crazy ants:
Small reddish brown ants that are spreading from the Houston area. They crawl fast and nest in huge numbers, usually under things like rocks or pots. They don’t have stingers, but can bite!
Sugar Ants

These pharaoh ants like greasy foods like the cheese and lunchmeat in this sandwich! (Photo © by Gabrielle Conley.)

Pharaoh ants (also called sugar ants):
These guys are the smallest species. Their colors are light tan to reddish in color. They’ll nest indoors and outdoors and like to chomp on sweet and greasy foods. They don’t usually bite or sting. Whew!


<= Ant Communication  |  Ants, Animals and Us =>