Cornfield ants are a common outdoor pest across the United States, and not just in cornfields. Despite their name, cornfield ants are not found exclusively in cornfields, nor are the most commonly found there. Their name actually comes from a typical ant behavior: farming, or taking care of, aphids. Specifically, these ants look after the corn root aphid. They help to hatch these aphids and then will relocate them from grasses to growing corn.
This aphid-farming behavior is done because of the honeydew that the aphids produce, which is a favored food of the ants. Additional foods include both dead and live insects, seeds, and they enjoy nectar and other sugary foods as well. These ants have quite the sweet-tooth, and often if they are found within homes, they are looking for sugary foods. Otherwise, they are not a common indoor problem, preferring to nest in lawns, under stones and pavement, or in rotting logs. If lawns are chosen as a nesting location, entrances will appear as craters. Occasionally, they will move into nests left behind by carpenter ants if these areas are not repaired.
Nests are occupied by a queen, who moves in after mating in the late summer. She lays and nurtures the first eggs to adulthood, when they then assume the role of worker ants within the colony. Worker ants are typically small in size, with the largest no more than a quarter of an inch long. They range in color from red or brown to black.
Cornfield ants don’t often cause problems for homeowners, however, the craters into their nests can grow to extreme sizes if not controlled and can be quite an eyesore even at smaller sizes. Additionally, these ants can bite, although the bites are rarely more serious than slight stinging or itching.
Did You Know?
When squashed, these insects release a foul odor.