Thief Ant


Actual Size: 1.5 to 2.2 mm

Characteristics: Brown to yellow in color

Legs: 6

Antennae: Yes

Wings: No

Habitat: Nests are found in exposed soil, under rocks, or in rotting wood. Indoors, nests can be found in woodwork and masonry.


  • Prefer foods with higher protein and fat content.
  • Will nest near other ants, then steal the food and larvae from their neighbor.
  • Since they feed on dead rodents and insects, they can contaminate pantry products as they forage.

Thief Ants in Central and Eastern Virginia

Thief ants are distributed throughout much of Virginia and are one of the smallest household ants. They get their name from their habit of nesting near other, larger ants, then entering their nest to steal food and prey upon larvae. Colonies tend to be smaller than other species but can contain multiple queens and several thousand workers. Outdoors, thief ants feed on dead rodents and insects. Also known as grease ants, thief ants feed on potato chips and other greasy foods. They invade homes through cracks and crevices contaminating stored pantry products and packaged food items.

Thief Ant Habitat

Outdoors, nests are found in exposed soil, under rocks, or in rotting wood. Indoors, they nest in woodwork and masonry. Thief ants enter structures through cracks in the foundation or small openings in woodwork during hot weather. They use electric wires in wall voids to move from one room to another. These ants forage in trails throughout a home or building seeking greasy foods, protein, and dairy. Thief ants are commonly found in kitchen areas of homes.

Thief Ant Behaviors, Threats, or Dangers

Although thief ants can bite, they rarely do. Because they feed on dead rats, mice, and insects, they are considered dangerous pests. When they enter homes, thief ants may be carriers of disease-producing organisms, contaminating food sources as they forage. Thief ants trail inside cabinets, on walls, baseboards, tree branches, and shrubs. Due to their small size, they are able to forage into packaged foods. If a thief ant infestation is suspected, it is recommended to contact a professional ant exterminator.