Where did these dead ants come from?
June 15, 2009 6:50 AM   Subscribe

Where are these dead ants coming from? And how can I keep them from showing up in my house?

Last year I noticed that a lot of dead ants were turning up on my living room windowsill and the floor in front of the window. They were just regular sized black ants (less than 1/4" long, not sure exactly how big), they all had wings, and when I saw them they were either dead or dying. I cleaned them up when I saw them, put an ant trap by the window and eventually they went away.

For the last few weeks I've noticed the same type of dead or dying ants on the floor of my front bedroom (directly above the living room). They don't seem to be around the windows at all. I just notice some little black thing in the carpet and bend down to see that it's an ant. I haven't seen any downstairs in the living room so far.

There is no food in the areas I've found the ants. They don't seem to be going to or from anywhere. They just appear, and they're always dead or close to it. Any ideas where they're coming from, how I can keep them out of the house, or if they're a sign of some worse problem?
posted by LolaGeek to Home & Garden (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Just to rule out a possibility, are you sure they aren't termites? This page talks about some differences and helps to identify them, the easiest being that ants have a pinched waist and termites don't. You can find a lot more info at most pest control sites.

Termites just finished swarming where I am, but that varies by location and conditions. You often find them around windows. Sometimes you just find lots of their shed wings. They typically die not long after swarming and mating. So if they are termites, that would explain why you'd find dead and dying ones. I don't know if that applies to ants too but you could do some quick homework on that.
posted by Askr at 7:24 AM on June 15, 2009

Ants with wings are either drones or young queens. If this only happens once a year this points to swarming as Askr said. Ants swarm pretty much the same as termites do, but you should still check to make sure they are not termites, like Askr said.

Anything swarming inside your house means there is a colony in your house (or near that window if it was left open).
posted by DetonatedManiac at 7:28 AM on June 15, 2009

btw, swarming is mating behavior, meaning they are multiplying! That said IANAEntomologist/exterminator.
posted by DetonatedManiac at 7:32 AM on June 15, 2009

Probably carpenter ants. We get that about once a year; some years more, some less. We live in a brick house, so we don't worry about it too much. The ones with wings are heading out to establish their own colonies, and most will die. You can use the various ant-killing methods available at the store, or call a professional. I can't see that they do much harm here (brick, as I said), though who knows?
posted by TochterAusElysium at 7:36 AM on June 15, 2009

Seconding carpenter ants. We had these last year, and they're gross. Are there any small holes in your walls (check near the baseboards) with what looks like sawdust around them? We had two small holes in the wall (about halfway up) in our living room, although I only ever saw dead/dying ants near the windowsills in my bedroom.
posted by timetoevolve at 7:40 AM on June 15, 2009

Thanks all. I'm no expert, but after looking at pictures, I'm 99.9% sure they're not termites. They also aren't as big and scary looking as carpenter ants, and I haven't seen any sawdust anywhere.

I live in a brick house built in 1895, so there isn't really tons of wood for them, but there probably are cracks and gaps where they're getting in. Last year when they were around the window I figured that's what was happening, but this year they're upstairs and just in the middle of the floor, which is why I'm confused. They're just laying around, so I don't see them coming in from anywhere.

I'll try to get a picture of one later...
posted by LolaGeek at 7:45 AM on June 15, 2009

Update: Got a picture. Looking at it more closely like that, I think they could be carpenter ants. Now, how can I figure out where they're coming from?
posted by LolaGeek at 4:33 PM on June 15, 2009

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