The common name of the field ant comes from its preference for nesting outdoors. The field ant is the largest genus of ants found north of Mexico. Field ants are also known by many other names such as thatching ants, red ants and wood ants.
Field ants can become a pest in late summer when the winged ants swarm out of their colonies.
Field ants primarily feed on honeydew, which is a substance from plant-sucking insects such as aphids, mealy-bugs, and scale insects found on trees and shrubs. However, some species of field ants, including the silky ant, gather groups of aphids so there is always a vast supply of honeydew. Other types of field ants are scavengers and are attracted to meats.
Field ants do not have a stinger, but they will bite when disturbed. Some field ants spray formic acid into the wound when they bite, so it can be very painful.
Field ants construct mounds made up of plant materials, such as grass, twigs, leaves and pine needles. They often nest around small trees, shrubs or rocks. Other species build their nests in the cracks of sidewalks, along foundation walls and at the base of trees. Field ants rarely nest in homes but occasionally enter in search of sweets.
There are a few things that can be done around the property to prevent field ants from nesting. Homeowners should store firewood at least 15 feet away from the house, avoid having mulch right up against the foundation, and keep shrubbery well trimmed.
Since field ants often avoid entering houses, low-level populations do not need to be treated. However, a thorough inspection is necessary if field ants become a nuisance in the yard. Homeowners should consider working with a licensed pest professional to employ a preventative pest management plan.