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Red Pavement Ant (Tetramorium caespitum)

Detailing the physical features, habits, territorial reach and other identifying qualities of the Red Pavement Ant

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A scavenging Red Pavement Ant colony can take over a swath of sidewalk, proving that small things can make a big impact.

Updated: 06/09/2022; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ©www.InsectIdentification.org
The colonies of the Red Pavement Ant are usually seen on sidewalks, or driveways, on concrete or asphalt. Stepping on a colony results in many ants crawling up the shoe and leg where they can potentially bite. They are not poisonous, but the bite does pinch. Most people choose to walk around them and not through them.

Scouts for a colony constantly search for food and other resources. Red Pavement Ants are often first to find dropped food items and, in little time, summon the clan, completely covering the food item as they eat it and break it down, taking bits away. The Red Pavement Ant is a member of the Formicidae family and has formic acid in its body, making it taste unpleasant. Large colonies are built with at least one queen ant that simply lays eggs for a living. This allows for rapid reproduction within the colony. Some males and females are winged and are called 'alates' and mate in flight. These mating swarms are sometimes mistaken for swarms of mating termites, a different subterranean insect. Both genders lose their wings after mating; males die and females land and begin a new colony. Eggs are laid and cared for and kept underground until they hatch.

Though ants are typically associated with a fondness for sweets, they consume any food. Because of this, they can become household pests. If a few scouts find food resources inside a building or home, they will infest the area. Their small size and great number make it difficult to control, and severe infestations are best treated by a professional exterminator. Preventative measures, such as sealing cracks in the foundation and removing wood debris from the sides of homes or buildings, and spraying a perimeter of insecticide outside the building may help avoid infiltration. Keeping food contained reduces the likelihood that scouts will find anything worth returning for. Preventing single scouts from returning to the colony with information and directions also helps.©InsectIdentification.org

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General Characteristics

Capability, Shape, Texture/Pattern, Benefits, Dangers
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Taxonomic Hierarchy

Species Breakdown
Kingdom: Animalia
  Phylum: Arthropoda
    Class: Insecta
      Order: Hymenoptera
        Family: Formicidae
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          Genus: Tetramorium
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            Species: caespitum

Identifying Information

Size, Colors, Features
Scientific Name: Tetramorium caespitum
Category: Bee, Ant, Wasp and Similar
Size (Adult; Length): 3mm to 7mm (0.11" to 0.27")
Colorwheel Graphic Colors: red; brown
Descriptors: infestation; sidewalk; biting; stinging; harmful; small

Red-Pavement-Ant Video(s)

Ants work together to harvest a small piece of food.

Relative Size Comparison

Typical Size Between 3mm (0.1in) and 7mm (0.3in)
Lo: 3mm
Md: 5mm
Hi: 7mm

Territorial Map*

U.S., Canada, and Mexico
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Prince Edward Is.  
* MAP NOTES: The territorial heat map above showcases (in red) the states and territories of North America where the Red Pavement Ant may be found (but is not limited to). This sort of data is useful when attempting to see concentrations of particular species across the continent as well as revealing possible migratory patterns over a species' given lifespan. Some insects are naturally confined by environment, weather, mating habits, food resources and the like while others see widespread expansion across most, or all, of North America. States/Territories shown above are a general indicator of areas inhabited by the Red Pavement Ant. Insects generally go where they please, typically driven by diet, environmental changes, and / or mating habits.
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