Acrobat ants are often very shiny. Some common species have a 'patent leather' look. The final segment, or gaster, of the ant appears heart shaped when viewed from above. This ant is known as the acrobat ant because, when frightened, a worker raises the tip of its abdomen up over its head.
Individual acrobat ants may occasionally be seen foraging near a source of food or water. This ant, unlike some other common pest species, does not generally form long lines of foragers. These ants may be found both indoors and outdoors. They will not colonize wood that is in sound condition, but frequently nest in dead or decaying wood.
Outdoors they are frequently found nesting in logs, stumps, and hollow tree cavities. They also nest beneath tarps, leaf litter, stones, or anyplace where the soil is likely to be damp. Infestations of acrobat ants are generally associated with homes constructed on wooded lots or adjacent to forestland. When nesting in structures, acrobat ants are usually associated with moist or rotting wood and are frequently found in window frames or adjacent to downspouts. They may create cavities in wood kept damp by leaks or condensation from plumbing fixtures. Acrobat ants have also been known to nest in foam board or insulation, especially if it is damp.
Like all ants, this species has a complex life cycle developing from eggs into white legless larvae and pupae before emerging as adults. Development from egg to pupa takes place within the nest and immature are rarely seen. Like all ant species, acrobat ants produce winged individuals known as swarmers. Swarmers are fertile adult males and females whose only function is to reproduce and found new colonies. They do not forage for food, bite, or sting.
The males (drones) and females (queens) emerge, take flight, and mate while in flight. The females then land, shed their wings and seek soft soil in which to create a nest. The males die shortly after mating. Acrobat ant swarmers usually emerge in the fall although flights have been observed as early as June. Acrobat ants can be nuisance pests in and around structures. The workers can be aggressive if disturbed and may sting or bite. Some species also produce a foul odor. This ant prefers to forage outside. Workers may travel over 100 feet from the nest in search of food. Acrobat ants feed on a variety of foods including sweets and other insects. They have frequently been observed feeding on termites.
Structural damage associated with this ant is minimal. Occasionally, this ant will expel fine frass (a sawdust like excrement) from the nest, which cause homeowners concern. As has already been stated, acrobat ants may nest in rotting or water-damaged wood. Acrobat ants do not attack sound wood. The presence of these ants in structures is often indicative of a moisture problem related to a leak or condensation.