Ants are some of the most common house pests. Attracted to food, they make their way indoors in high numbers either in the spring or in the summer.
Eliminating ants involves getting rid of all the foods they are interested in. This is not going to eliminate all bugs that look like ants or which are confused with ants.
Ants are some of the most common types of insects found inside the house or in the garden. There are many types of ants that come in different sizes and colors.
Black, brown, red, and yellow are just a few of the common colors ants come in. You can find colorful ants inside the house or outside in the garden.
Ants have varying sizes. In general, they have a size that falls between 1 and 50mm. The exact size of an ant depends on its species as well as on food availability.
Elongated body with a thin waist, ants always have a sculpted body. Chances are a bug is not an ant if it has a thick waist.
Fruits, seeds, leaves, carrion, and other insects are among the most common types of foods consumed by ants. A single species might not consume all of these as ant species have certain food preferences.
Ants are found all around the world. From deserts to woodlands, ants are found on all continents in all weather, with the exception of Antarctica.
Bugs That Look Like Ants
The following species are mostly confused for ants by their looks. Diet and habitat preferences might also confuse these species with ants.
Termites live in large colonies in their thousands. They are often found around homes and this makes many people confuse them with ants.
Termites also come in some colors ants come in, such as brown. Termites can have an off-white or cream color, which is not the case with ants.
With a similar size, termites are often confused with ants further.
While small, both termites and ants can be analyzed when it comes to the shape of the body, the easiest way to tell the difference between these insects.
Ants have a sculpted body which isn’t the case with termites which have a thick waist.
While the abdomen of both termites and ants can be wider than the rest of the body, the shape of the waist is what makes ants different.
Even ants with a wide abdomen have a thin waist in relation to the width of the body.
Termites are known to eat plenty of cellulose. This is an organic material found in wood which is what scares most homeowners when it comes to termites.
Ants don’t eat wood even if they can nest in wood. Ants can dig long galleries in the wood but these ants aren’t dominant. Most eat simple foods such as fruits and organic materials.
2. Velvet Ants
Velvet ants are some of the most difficult types of bugs to differentiate from real ants to those who haven’t seen them before.
While this group is named after ants, it actually represents wasps. Some species of wasps mimic other species, which is also the case of Velvet ants which are wasps that mimic ants.
The size of the species is the first indication you’re dealing with Velvet ants. These are a few times larger than the typical ant you see in the garden.
Seen in colors such as orange, red, and brown, velvet ants might first seem to have the same color as real ants but they have a hairy body which gives them away.
These types of wasps do not act as wasps. They do not fly as they crawl to get around, just like ants.
Movements of these bugs make many predators take them as ants and move along.
Velvet ants can also sting. The result of the sting is a very high level of pain so velvet ants should not be handled directly.
The stinger of velvet ants is a few times larger than the stinger of regular ants. Velvet ants have a stinger that can be as long as half the size of the species.
The habitat of velvet ants can also confuse some people. Both regular ants and velvet ants are found on all continents except Antarctica and both can wander indoors looking for food or shelter.
Aphids are sometimes confused with ants in the garden. Aphids rarely make it indoors, unless they are carried with potted plants or if they look for food themselves.
Ants and aphids live in direct correlation as the species benefit from each other.
Aphids feed on various plants leaving residue known as honeydew behind. This sweet honeydew is consumed by ants that live on the same host plant.
The presence of ants on plants also benefits aphids which aren’t as likely to be eaten by predators afraid of ants.
Aphids are generally green, yellow, or red. These bugs can also be brown or red, somewhat similar to ants.
The shape of aphids should be the first major difference between the species apart from the color. Aphids have an oval shape while ants have a sculpted body with a thin waist.
Ants are highly likely to only eat honeydew while aphids are likely to eat the leaves of plants. Many aphids eat vegetables in the garden.
Spiders are also one of the most common pests inside the house. They exist even in homes where food is properly stored.
Spiders can make it indoors looking for shelter or for insects. They can build spider webs or simply prey upon insects found indoors.
Some spiders are known to directly mimic ants. This species of spider (Myrmarachne formicaria) has a red to brown color and a body shape that mimic ants. Both the color and the thin abdomen make these spiders look like ants.
The species can be differentiated by most ants by its jumping abilities. However, these spiders prefer to crawl across the ground to look like real ants.
These are among the few spiders that mimic ants found in North America. Myrmarachne is a genus of spiders that mimic ants and their order is mostly found in the tropics except for Myrmarachne formicaria.
You can find these spiders that mimic ants across the United States. Northern states such as Ohio have been among the first places where the mimicking spider has been first reported.
5. Bush Crickets
Bush crickets can sometimes be confused with large ants in the garden. Most bush crickets are green, which means they aren’t easily confused.
However, brown or red-brown bush crickets can get confused with ants.
One of the easiest methods of separating these species is by looking at their size. Bush crickets tend to measure up to 2-3 inches, which makes them a few times larger than ants.
The shape of the body should also indicate visible differences between these species. Bush crickets have an elongated body with a wide mid-section while ants have a thin elongated body with a thinner sculpted mid-section.
Otherwise, the habitat of bush crickets and ants can overlap. Both are visible from April to October even if local differences apply.
Crickets also make their distinct sound which further separates them from ants. You can find most bush crickets on low grasses and in thick vegetation while ants tend to frequently move into open areas as well.
6. True Bugs
True bugs encompass the order of Hemiptera. These are some of the largest bug categories in the world including thrips, aphids, and ladybugs.
Some ladybugs can have a similar size to ants but their shape and color are different. Most ladybugs have a dome-shaped body and not an elongated sculpted body such as ants.
Other true bugs are known for feeding with plants and other insects, similarly to ladybugs. These types of bugs are often pests on crops as they can feed on various fruit and vegetables such as tomatoes.
7. Stick Insects
Stick insects are a type of thin elongated bugs that are highly similar in color, shape, and size to ants.
Most stick insects only live in tropical and sub-tropical areas which means you should not expect to see them in temperate climates.
Stick insects are also known as Walking insects. They have a thin elongated body that mimics sticks so that predators move along.
This mimicry works as the insects have few natural predators.
Since stick insects resemble sticks, they do not have a sculpted body as ants. Stick insects have a flat body with somewhat constant width.
Both stick insects and ants eat leaves and plant stems which might make them look similar at first. However, stick insects do not eat other insects.
Thrips are a type of true bug often confused with ants.
Similar in size, these tiny bugs also come in a brown color that frequently makes people take them for ants.
Thrips also have an elongated body but there’s a difference in their shape that makes them appear different to ants.
Thrips have a pointed rear abdomen but they have a wide or a wider waist. Ants have a thin sculpted waist.
The food these insects eat should also make them stand out from typical ants.
Thrips used to consume all types of fungi but have since adapted to eating different types of leaves.
Woody galls are often formed on trees thrips live on.
Often living in large groups, thrips can resemble ants that live in colonies from a eusocial perspective. However, ants do not form galls or swell on trees.
Mantises are a type of long thin insect sometimes confused with ants. These types of insects are seen as some of the most common species that feed on aphids and other insects.
Mantises are carnivores while many ants aren’t.
Brown mantises such as Archimantis latistyla or the Large brown mantis can sometimes be confused with ants.
However, this type of bug feeds almost exclusively on other large bugs.
Mantises of this genus even eat grasshoppers, which isn’t the case with ants.
You know the bug in your garden isn’t an ant when it has its front legs together as if sitting in a praying position. This position inspires the name of mantises.
Not all flies look the same. Drain flies have a brown color and a sleek sculpted body.
These flies have transparent wings.
Similarities might end here as these types of flies are born in the organic buildup in drains, which inspires their name.
Drain flies are some of the most common brown flies you can wrongly identify as well.
However, these types of flies mostly eat decomposing organic matter which should make for clear species separation even if some ants may also eat rotting foods.
Not all beetles can be taken for ants but those of the Anthicidae genus can.
These beetles are among the most common types of brown beetles that are taken for ants.
They even eat the same foods ants eat. This includes leaves, fungi, and pollen.
With a similar size and red to brown color as some ants, this species tends to have a wider waist and body, unlike many sculpted ants.
Some of these beetles are also known to have few natural predators, just as ants. They absorb toxins from plants which makes them taste bad.
Ants are some of the most widespread types of insects with varied diets and habitats.
They come in different colors and some of them can make their way into the house.
Ants are very specific about their diet but some of the food they consume might also be eaten by other bugs.
One of the easiest methods to eliminate almost all bugs that look like ants to avoid confusion is to look at the shape and size of the body. Just a few similar specie shave a sculpted waist as many others have wide waists, even among the bugs that are known to resemble ants the most.