Acrobat ants are relatively small, only about one-eighth of an inch. They vary in color from light brown to black. They have a segmented body with a heart-shaped abdomen that is usually darker than the rest of its body. They feed on a variety of foods including other insects and sweets, and like many ants seek out aphid honeydew. Acrobat ants are so-named because of their unusual “contortion act” behavior when disturbed – they bend their abdomen over their body.
These ants are aggressive and territorial. They have stingers, emit a foul odor when threatened, and are quick to bite. Like all ants, the acrobat ants produce swarmers, winged, reproductive individuals that disperse in order to start new colonies. While swarmers are harmless, they are often the first indication of an infestation.
Acrobat ants are a wood-nesting ant. A tell-tale sign of wood-nesting insects, including acrobat ants and carpenter ants, is wood residue (“frass”) deposited nearby their entry holes. These ants are attracted soft, moist water-damaged wood and seldom tunnel into dry, sound wood. As such, these infestations usually indicate that there are damaged building materials in need of repair. Foam insulating board or sheathing behind siding and around skylights, wall voids, and hollow beams are also popular acrobat ants nesting locations. If nesting outdoors, they often find their way inside homes through cracks around windows and doors and other openings.