In Defense of House Ants

So you have ants in your house. You want to get rid of them, but you don’t know how. What can you do? There is only one surefire solution: Love your house ants.

If you live in a North American cool temperate region, you are blessed by a community of ants that are fairly innocuous. The fire ant has not yet reached so far north, and the bullet ant is but a distant fairy tale. The worst pain these friendly “pests” inflict on their human neighbors tends to be crawling on skin and maybe a little nip here or there.

Consider Camponotus pennsylvanicus, a common species of carpenter ant. This friendly giant has no sting, and really just wants to be left alone. Plus, it’s the first North American ant to have been scientifically described. You like North America, right?

cpennsylvanicus
Photograph by Alex Wild

Consider Tapinoma sessile, the odorous house ant. This ant smells like bleu cheese when you crush it. No sting, only cheese. You like cheese, right?

tsessile
Photograph by Alex Wild

Consider Tetramorium “species E”, the pavement ant. These little gals are so widespread along the pavement in cities and suburbs that they are often the first ants that young children ever encounter. They are nature’s way of promoting scientific discovery. You like science education, right?

tspeciese
Photograph by Alex Wild

You live among ecological wonders and six-legged bleu cheese machines. So the next time you see an ant inside your home, don’t pick up a shoe or bring out the broom. Bend a knee and marvel at the tiny life that has marched along the face of the Earth for millions of years and now deigns to grace your home.

12 thoughts on “In Defense of House Ants

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  1. I’ve loved ants ever since Steven Johnson’s book “Emergence” introduced me to the work of Deborah Gordon. I’ve recently acquired her books “Ants at Work” and “Ant Encounters”. Now I am also excited about your blog. For the record I like science, I like, North America, and Bleu Cheese. I don’t suppose the odorous house ant also TASTES like bleu cheese – does it?

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  2. So… does that mean Fire Ants will eventually make it further north? I don’t like that. Those things have been after me for 32 years…

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      1. Hi Jamela, thanks for the comment! Yes, if you are allergic, then ants – like peanuts, watermelons, etc. – can be bad… I’m sorry that you are allergic to ant stings!

        (Also, to be clear, ant /stings/ are what causes allergenic reactions. Ant bites do not inject any chemicals!)

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      2. I had 2 or 3 ants crawl up my pant leg and bite me on my thigh about 10 times – my long pants had dragged through their hill on a hike. I was woozy. I ended up having to take Benadryl and that drug counteracted the wooziness.

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