The Color of Ants – Black, Red, Blue, Yellow and Many More!

Depending on your viewpoint, ants can be considered pests – but in reality, with the exception of some species like the carpenter ant or the stinging fire ant, they help maintain the ecosystem around us.

Ants feed on organic waste – when they feed on other insects, animals or plants, they help in recycling and fertilizing everything around.

While most ants tend to be black, red or brown, or combinations thereof, there are some colorful ants. Ants’ colors typically arise from melanin deposits on their bodies, same as how we get our skin tones.

There are exceptions!

The most interesting among which arises due to the fact that many ant species have transparent abdomens. This means that if ants eat food of different colors, which could include edible paint, they will appear differently colored due to iridescence.

Iridescence refers to the phenomenon whereby light striking a surface will show metallic luster if there are photonic cells that reflect different frequencies depending on the angles at which the light strikes.

Transparent Ghost Ants have sometimes been the subject of fun school experiments, since they show a high propensity to change colors based on what you feed them.

One of the things that has been found is that ant colors are correlated with the weather characteristics of where they live. In general, scientists believe that the colder the habitat, the darker in color the ants living there tend to be.

A World Of Colorful Ants

Ants are the most widespread species on Earth, with over 20,000 known species belonging to the order Hymenoptera, along with wasps and bees. The US has over 1,000 species. Aunts have been around for over 100 million years, with fossil records found as early as the Cretaceous Period.

Ant colors vary by the particular ant studied – be it the queen, the male or the drone. In many cases, especially with iridescent colors, different segments of the ant’s body may be colored differently.

In the analysis below, we have focused on the colors that tend to define the dominant characteristics of the species described.

Can Ants Be Black?

Black and red are the most common colors found in ants. Only a few, prominent species are described below.

a)  Are Black Ants Rare?

Black ants are common. One of the commonest black species is the Common Black Ant (Lasius niger) and its related species, the Lasius platythorax, are abundant species.

Two other common varieties are the Carpenter Ants (Camponotus spp.) and the Acrobat Ant, also called the Saint Valentine Ant or the Cocktail Ant (many Crematogaster species). The Black Carpenter Ant (Camponotus pennsylvanicus) is the species found commonly in North America.

Pavement Ants (Tetramorium caespitum) are also extremely common in the US. The Jack Jumper Ant, also known as Jumping Jack, Hopper Ant or Jumper Ant (Myrmecia pilosula) is a venomous ant native to Australia.

b)  How Do You Identify This Type of Ant?

Black ants are easy to spot, though greyish or brownish black colors may fade into the background depending on their habitat. All members of the Common Black Ants are glossy black in color.

Out of the two related species in Europe – the Lasius niger is found primarily in open areas, whereas the Lasius niger is found in forest. The Black Carpenter Ants build nests inside dead, damp wood – hollowing out sections.

They are glossy black or brown in color, occasionally a combination of black and red-orange, and recognized as a common pest. They do not sting, but can bite, and the males have wings.

Carpenter Ants are mostly nocturnal. Acrobat Ants are sometimes confused with Carpenter Ants, but they have distinctly different characteristics. They are mostly seen during the day and have two spines on the thorax and tend to raise their distinctive, heart-shaped gasters into the air when threatened.

Pavement Ants are small, with black bodies and will eat almost anything – as a result, they tend to contaminate food and should be avoided. Jack Jumper Ants are black or blackish-red in color, with yellow or orange legs. They have powerful mandibles, and their bites are mildly poisonous to humans.

c)  Where Can They Be Found?

Black ants are abundant the world over, except in Antarctica and a few isolated islands. The Common Black Ant is found all over Europe, as well as parts of the Americas, Asia and Australia.

Carpenter Ants are common to many forested parts of the world – the Black Carpenter Ant is the one most common to central and eastern North America. Jack Jumper Ants are native to Australia.

Acrobat Ants can be found all over the world – in the US, they are mostly found in Florida and the Southeast.

Can Ants Be Red?

Black and red are the most common colors found in ants. Only a few, prominent species are described below.

a)  Are Red Ants Rare?

Red ants are found all over the world. The Common Wood Ant, also called the Red Wood Ant (Formica rufa) is found all over the Northern Hemisphere.

One of the more dangerous species is the venomous Red Imported Fire Ant, also known as RIFA or simply the Fire Ant (Solenopsis invicta), which is considered a major pest wherever it lives close to human habitation.

The Southern Fire Ant, also called Californian Fire Ant or Cotton Ant (Solenopsis xyloni) is a related species, though its bite is less painful that the RIFA.

Leafcutter Ants belonging to the two genera Atta and Acromyrmex, are found in close to 50 species. Members of Leafcutter Ants, such as the Atta cephalotes, are also considered major pests to trees and plants.

b)  How Do You Identify This Type of Ant?

Most red ants are easy to spot due to their striking color. The Common Wood Ant, reddish brown in color, is known for their tendency to build large mounds.

The Red Imported Fire Ant is red to view, with a color ranging from reddish brown to dark brown. They have an extremely toxic bite and are considered dangerous to humans.

They are known for working in teams and for specific task orientation – such as building bridges to cross water bodies. The Southern Fire Ants are slightly larger, also very red, but prone to sting humans – but with less venom.

Leafcutter Ants, though well disguised among branches, can be distinguished by their uniform reddish-brown colors.

c)  Where Can They Be Found?

Red ants can be found all over the world, except Antarctica and some remote islands. The Common Wood Ant is common all over the Northern Hemisphere, including Europe, Asia and North America.

The Red Imported Fire Ant was native to South America, but is now found all over North America, Australia, New Zealand and several Asian and Caribbean countries.

The Southern Fire Ant can be found all across the Southern US, from California to the Carolinas. Atta cephalotes are distributed all over the Neotropical zone, from Mexico to Bolivia, with cloistered populations in north-eastern Brazil and parts of the Amazon Rain Forest.

Can Ants Be Brown?

Brown pigmentation is very common in ants, whether in the elytra or the outer shell.

a)  Are Brown Ants Rare?

Brown ants are common. The Odorous House Ant, also known as the Stink Ant, Coconut Ant or the Sugar Ant (Tapinoma sessile) is a common house pest.

Argentine Ants (Linepithema humile), Dark Rover Ants (Brachymyrmex patagonicus) and Asian Needle Ants (Pachycondyla chinensis) are other types of house pest common in North America. Some species of Carpenter Ants can be brown in color.

The Ghost Ant (Tapinoma melanocephalum) is one of the common most species of ants found in the world. One of the interesting species are the so-called group of “Exploding Ants” (Colobopsis cylindrica) which consist of nine species in Southeast Asia.

b)  How Do You Identify This Type of Ant?

Brown ants may be difficult to spot, since their color provides handy camouflage. The Odorous House Ant is brown to black in color. These tiny ants are known for getting into everything in the house, especially sugary substances.

They produce a distinctive coconut odor when crushed. Dark Rover Ants are small, medium to dark brown in color. They have a preferance for sweet liquids and are known to be common around people.

Argentine Ants are light to dark brown in color, small, with one node in their body. They emit a musty smell when crushed. Asian Needle Ants have brown black bodies with one node and orange mandibles.

The Ghost Ant is distinctively bi-colored – with a brown head, trunk and gaster yellow with brown patches and colorless/translucent legs and antennae. They seem to be everywhere in the house, especially sugar cans.

The Colobopsis cylindrica are reddish-brown in color, but what distinguishes these arboreal dwellers is their capability to literally explode themselves, emitting a sticky yellow toxin on its enemy, in order to win a fight. Some researchers have suggested that the toxin smells of curry!

c)  Where Can They Be Found?

Brown ants can be found in every continent except Antarctica. The Odorous House Ant is native to North America, ranging from Canada to Mexico, but is not common in the American Southwest.

Dark Rover Ants are found principally in the US, especially the South and Southeast, including Florida, Texas and the Carolinas. Argentine Ants are common in the Americas – in the US, there are found in the Southeast, as well as California and Hawaii.

They are also found in England, South Africa and South East Australia. Ghost Ants are one of the most pervasive species in the world, found in every hemisphere. The Colobopsis cylindrica are found in Southeast Asian forests, such as Borneo.

Can Ants Be Orange?

Orange is a natural color, which occurs due to pigmentation and is found both on open and closed wings of ants.

a)  Are Orange Ants Rare?

Orange ants are quite common. The Weaver Ant, also called Orange Gaster (Oecophylla smaragdina) is a species of arboreal ant found in tropical Asia and Australia.

The Little Fire Ant (Wasmania auropunctata) has spread all over the world from its native habitat in Central and South America. The Golden Fire Ant (Solenopsis aurea) is another species of fire ant found in North America.

Then there are some 200 species of ants under the banner of Army Ants (the most studied species is probably Eciton burchellii), known for their aggressive foraging habits and marching in bands.

b)  How Do You Identify This Type of Ant?

Orange is a natural pigmentation, so ants of that color are easy to spot. Even though Weaver Ants are sometimes also called Green Ants, they are primarily orange in color – they are known to nest in trees in colonies.

The Little Fire Ant is golden brown (ginger) in color and can stand out even in its native habitat. The Golden Fire Ant is recognized by its orange or golden-brown color, with occasional brown spots. Army Ants are black and red, but their distinctive color is their bright orange abdomen.

They march in long and distinct columns, overcoming everything in their way – they deliver extremely painful stings to humans/

c)  Where Can They Be Found?

Orange ants are found on every continent. Weaver Ants (Orange Gasters) are common in tropical Asia and Australia, from Indonesia to Philippines to Queensland and the Northern Territories.

The Little Fire Ant can be found in Central and South America for sure and has now spread to North America, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Israel, parts of Africa, north-eastern Australia and some Pacific Islands including Hawaii, Galapagos and the Solomon Islands.

The Golden Fire Ant is found in the southwestern United States and Northern Mexico. Army Ants occasionally show up in the US and elsewhere, but they are found all over South America, especially in Rain Forests.

Can Ants Be Yellow?

Yellow colors in ants often occur in conjunction with natural pigmentation such as black, or green or blue iridescence.

a)  Are Yellow Ants Rare?

The Yellow Ant (Lasius spp.), sometimes called the Citronella Ant, is so named because of its yellow-green coloration and the lemon or citrusy smell it emits if it is crushed.

The Large Yellow Ant (Lasius interjectus) is common along the Atlantic Coast in North America. The Yellow Meadow Ant, also known as the Yellow Hill Ant (Lasius flavus) is one of the most common ants in Central Europe.

A related species, Lassius brevicornis, is found in North America. The Yellow Crazy Ant (Anoplolepis gracilipes) is an invasive species that has spread from its natural habitat of Southeast Asia.

The Pharaoh Ant (Monomorium pharaonis) is a tiny ant that is a major indoor pest, especially in hospitals. One of the interesting varieties of ants, which is often eaten, is the Honeypot Ant (Myrmecocystus mexicanus).

b)  How Do You Identify This Type of Ant?

Gold or yellow ants are usually distinctive in color, with few comparable species. The Yellow Ant can be distinguished by its color, as well as its odor when crushed.

Yellow Meadow Ants live outdoors and rest underground, coming out at nights. They can be distinguished from Black Garden Ants by their color. They range in color from yellow to brown, with queen and males being slightly darker in color. There are multiple winged members.

The Yellow Crazy Ant is characterized by its color (ranging from yellow to orange), long limbs and antennae and erratic movement when disturbed. The Pharaoh Ant is tiny, yellowish brown to reddish brown in color, their antennae end in a distinct club.

Males and queens are winged but do not fly. Honeypot Ants are distinctively yellow in color, but their real distinction is in the amount of liquid they are able to store by distending their abdomens. Several cultures breed Honeypot Ants to be fed and then eaten.

c)  Where Can They Be Found?

Generally, yellow ant species are common all over the world, with the exception of Antarctica and some remote islands. The Large Yellow Ant is found on the Eastern Seaboard of the United States, from Massachusetts all the way down to Mexico.

The Yellow Meadow Ant is found in Central Europe, Asia and North Africa. Its cousin, the Lassius brevicornis, can be found in North America. The Yellow Crazy Ant has spread outwards from its original habitat of the moist tropical lowlands of Southeast Asia to Northern Australia, the islands in the Indian Ocean and many Pacific Islands including Hawaii and the Galapagos Islands.

The Pharaoh Ant is a major pest in the US, Australia and Europe, and is also found in Latin America and Southeast Asia. Honeypot Ants are common in Australia, New Zealand, North America, Central and South America and parts of South Africa.

Can Ants Be Blue?

There are not many species of blue ants, though it may be common to see blue iridescence on one of the body or head segments.

a)  Are Blue Ants Rare?

Many blue ants are not commonly found. The so-called Australian Blue Ant (Diamma bicolor) is in fact bright metallic blue or green, but it is not an ant but a wasp that is often mistaken for an ant.

Nor are Blue Velvet Ants proper ants, they are also wasps. A real-life blue ant is the Blue Pony Ant (Rhytidoponera chalybaea) found in Australia. The Rhytidoponera violacea is another specimen of ants found in Australia that display bluish-purple iridescence.

The Blue-green Spiny Ant (Polyrhachis hookeri) shows greenish-blue iridescence. The Calomyrmex ants (described under Green Ant species below) have bright iridescent purple, blue and green coloration.

b)  How Do You Identify This Type of Ant?

The Blue Ant (again, not an ant but a wasp) is distinctive with red legs and a blue or green body. The Blue Pony Ant can be distinguished based on its slightly metallic blue body and brown legs.

Workers have brown sides to their bodies. The Rhytidoponera violacea displays bluish-purple iridescence, though their coloration can change to yellowish-green in certain habitats. Blue-green Spiny Ants stand out with their iridescence, even against green leaves and trees.

c)  Where Can They Be Found?

The Blue Ant is found all over Australia. The Blue Pony Ant has over a hundred known species worldwide, 76 of which are found in Australia and one in New Zealand.

The Rhytidoponera violacea are primarily found in Western Australia. The Blue-green Spiny Ant is found in Queensland and some other parts of Australia.

Can Ants Be Purple?

There are very few uniformly purple ants. The purple color, when it appears on a segment, is unusual enough that the species may be named and identified on that basis.

a)  Are Purple Ants Rare?

Ants that are purple throughout are rare. However, there are a number of species that are characterized by distinctive purple segments. The Meat Ant, also known as the Gravel Ant or the Southern Meat Ant (Iridomyrmex purpureus), endemic to Australia, is one of the best-known species Down Under.

The Calomyrmex ants (described under Green Ant species below) have bright iridescent purple, blue and green coloration.

b)  How Do You Identify This Type of Ant?

Purple segments in ants are distinctive. The Meat Ant is medium to large sized, up to � an inch.

Iridescence can range from blue to green to purple. The body is generally brown to greenish brown, while the head and eyes range from slightly purple to deep blue and purple.

They have significant setae (hairs) on their appendages and under their torso.

c)  Where Can They Be Found?

The Meat Ant is found over all the territories in Australia.

Can Ants Be Green?

Green is one of the iridescent colors that flashes on some part of an ant. Like purple, it is not common to find ants that are completely green – however, some species are designated based on the iridescent green color of at least one of their segments that distinguishes them from other species.

a)  Are Green Ants Rare?

Green ants are rare to find. One of the few species that show consistently green is the Green-head Ant, also known as the Metallic Pony Ant or the Green Ant (Rhytidoponera metallica) is endemic to Australia.

Another Australian species, the Blue Ant, can show a metallic blue or green coloration – unfortunately, they are in fact a solitary species of wasp that is sometimes mistaken for an ant.

One of the distinctively green colored ants is another Australian species, Calomyrmex, are spectacularly colored purple, blue or green ants.

b)  How Do You Identify This Type of Ant?

The Green-head Ant is distinctive for its metallic appearance, which ranges from green to purple to reddish-violet. The Blue Ant (again, not an ant but a wasp) is distinctive with red legs and a blue or green body.

Calomyrmex workers can be distinguished by their brilliant colors, as well as their amusing habit of frantically rushing around with raised golden gasters when disturbed.

c)  Where Can They Be Found?

The Green-head Ant is found all over Australia, except Tasmania, and have been introduced to New Zealand. The Blue Ant is found all over Australia. Calomyrmex ants are found in Australia, Papua New Guinea and Indonesia.

Can Ants Be Grey?

There aren’t a lot of ant species that are distinctively and uniformly grey. Its more common to spot grey iridescence in black, blue or purple shaded ants.

a)  Are Grey Ants Rare?

There are not too many grey ants. The desert dwelling Thistle Down Velvet Ant (Dasymutilla gloriosa) is actually a wasp in disguise and known for its painful sting.

The Savannah Spiny Sugar Ant (Polyrhachius schistacea) is one of the truly grey iridescent ants in the world. The Rugged Ringbum Ant (Bothroponera pumicosa) is another grey African ant.

b)  How Do You Identify This Type of Ant?

Grey ants are often hard to spot due to their dirty white sheen and there aren’t many of them. The Thistle Down Velvet Ant has distinctively yellowish-grey thistles, but as mentioned previously, it’s not really an ant.

The Savannah Spiny Sugar Ant is dull black, but they appear distinctly grey and stands out among their natural savannah habitat. The Rugged Ringbum Ant is dark grey in color, with deeply pitted “skin” and golden setae. They have a powerful sting.

c)  Where Can They Be Found?

Grey ants are not very common. The Thistle Down Grey Ant is a native of the Southwestern deserts, such as the Sonora region in the US and Mexico. The Savannah Spiny Sugar Ant is widely found in Southern (sub Saharan) Africa, as are the Rugged Ringbum Ants.

Can Ants Be Pink?

Pink is not a color that exists in nature, it is not a wavelength or particle, and does not appear in the visible spectrum. Often times, our brain perceives something to be pink, without the color actually being present. There are however reddish beetles that appear pink due to iridescence.

a)  Are Pink Ants Rare?

There are no ants that are actually pink. One species, the Velvet Ant, which can come in multiple colors including shades or red that are close to pink, is not really an ant – it is in fact a wasp.

b)  How Do You Identify This Type of Ant?

There are no truly pink ants. There may be ants that flash reddish-pink due to what they’ve eaten, which is possible with species such as Ghost Ants.

c)  Where Can They Be Found?

There are no pink ants.

In Conclusion …

Ants are plentiful and found on every continent. They are small creatures which seem to be everywhere. We have to be aware of their presence in our everyday lives, whether it be from a pest control perspective or occasionally to enjoy some of the benefits they provide us.

Color is not what one associates with ants, but there are some beautiful species for us to enjoy.

Steve Foster

Mad about bugs and wanting to publish as many articles as I can to help educate people about these amazing beautiful creatures! For more info check out my about page

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