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What are the basics of ant identification?

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The basics associated with ant identification revolve around the insect’s petiole nodes and antennal segments. Other body parts, such as the thoracic spines, the eyes and gaster, are also key areas to focus on when identifying ants. Properly identifying ants is a crucial skill because different species require unique control and extermination tactics.

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Similar to other insects, ants are divided into three basic regions: the head, thorax and abdomen. However, the best way to identify an ant species is to group them by the number of “nodes.” The ant’s petiole node is the first portion of the insect’s abdomen. Ant’s either have one or two nodes. One-noded ants include carpenter ants, field ants, small honey ants and crazy ants. Species of ants with two nodes include the thief ant, little black ants, the big-headed ant and pavement ants.

In addition to these particulars, the ant’s size, color and habits are key identification points. Ants are typically classified as "small" when they are less than 1/16 of an inch, "medium" if they are between 1/16 and 3/8 of an inch or "large" if they are longer than 3/8 of an inch. Ant species are distinguished by the sizes of worker ants in a colony. Those species with identically sized worker ants are known as monomorphic, while species with variations in size are polymorphic.

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