Types of Ants in South Florida
Most Floridians, especially living in South Florida, know the irritating feeling of walking into the kitchen only to find tiny black ants swiftly scurrying in every direction on the counter tops. Perhaps even worse, large ants in perfect formation leading from the kitchen window, down the wall, across the side of the sink and straight down to the floor. Whether they be tiny fast black ants or big slow black ants, we’re certain they are not welcome.
South Florida has 10 major types of ants that invade our homes every day, these are:
- Acrobat Ants
- Big Headed Ants
- Crazy Ants
- Florida Carpenter Ants
- Florida Harvester Ants
- Ghost Ants
- Little Fire Ants
- Pharaoh’s Ants
- Pyramid Ants
- White Footed Ants
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Acrobat Ants are most often found living in cavities in trees and shrubs, however, they will sometimes make it inside the home, living in rotten or damp wood. They feed on living and dead insects, or inside the home they forage for sweets and proteins. The best preventative measure is to reduce access to structures.
Big Headed Ants
Big Headed Ants are most often found outside living under wood or other debris, though they will sometimes sneek inside. They survive by foraging on live and dead insects, sweets, fats and proteins. 1 in every 20 are major (big headed), while all others are smaller. These ants are dificult to control outside due to multiple nesting sites. The best preventative measure is to restrict access to structures.
These ants run erratically, there are no distinct trails. Diet may be seasonal, such as sweets in the spring & fall and proteins in the summer. They are winged but females’ wings are removed before maturity and males have never been seen to fly. Crazy ants nest in and around soil, and often forage long distances which make them difficult to find and control. Best prevention method is to restrict access to structures and bait indoors.
Florida Carpenter Ants
Carpenter Ants nest in dead tree branches, rotting logs, tree stumps, piles of lumber, or under yard objects, in voids such as curtain rods, wall and attic insulation, timer boxes, and pump housing. This species does not do structural damage, but may be a sign of preexisting damage. They forage for sweets and proteins in homes, ants may bite if handled. Baits have effect if placed near the trail at night. Restricting access to structures is the best preventative measure. If colonies are located they can be controlled with insecticidal applications.
Florida Harvester Ants
Harvester Ants can deliver a painful string although this ant is not aggresive. Their nests are in the ground and have large, flat disks kept free of vegetation. The nest entrance may contain a collection of small, uniformly sized objects around, such as charcoal bits or pebbles. They scavange off of dead insects and may collect seeds directly from the trees.These ants are outdoor species and chemical control is usually unwarranted.
Ghost Ant is a tiny ant with dark head and pale aster and legs, thorax is often dark. These ants run in quick, erratic movements when disturbed. They can sometimes be found trailing, where movement is more slow and deliberate. Workers may emit acrid, coconut-like odor when crushed. Ghost Ants usually nest in disturbed areas, in flowerpots, under objects on the ground, under loose bark, and at the bases of palm fronds. Indoor nests in small spaces such as cracks, spaces between books, or wall voids. Indoor foragers often come from outside. This is a very common pest inside homes. They forage in kitchens and bathrooms on sinks, counters, and floors. Indoor colonies can be controlled with baits. Access of foragers entering from outdoors through cracks and crevices or screens should be restricted with barrier sprays.
Little Fire Ants
Little Fire Ants could be to blame if complaints are of painful stings but no stinging insect is seen. Nest in exposed soil, leaf litter, in rotten wood, hollow twigs or other plant cavities, under flower pots, or on the underside of objects left on ground. Can be found foraging on vegetation and in fruit trees where they may be found between fruits that touch while hanging on the trees. Indoor colonies can be controlled with baits. Control outdoors is difficult and currently under research. Reduce access to structures.
Pharaoh’s Ants are a very common pest inside the home. Nest inside buildings (homes and greenhouses) and in cracks and crevices, can also nest between sheets of paper or layers of linens inside houses. Pest in hospitals and nursing homes and may act as mechanical vectors of pathogenic bacteria. Foragers can also be found outside or near structures. An exotic pest found almost worldwide. Ants trailing throughout home, especially counters, cabinets, bathrooms, and floors. Often gnaw their way into packaged foods. Indoor nests best controlled by baits.
Pyramid Ants do not sting or act aggressively. Workers have strong odor when crushed described by some as rotting coconuts. Crater-like nests in open areas of yard, these ants are outdoor species and chemical control is usually unwarranted. Hunt live insects, including winged fire ants. Nest in soil, sandy soil preferred. Typically, nest has a single entrance surrounded by crater-shaped mound of soil and a single queen per nest.
White Footed Ants are black ants with white “feet”. Nests are usually outside, numerous, and often in trees or shrubs, or in spaces above the ground in structures. Nests can be found in hollow branches, and in any small spaces that might accommodate a pocket of ants, including under potted plants, in leaf litter, in the bases of palm fronds or banana leaves, between cut logs, in yard toys, in old termite galleries, under bark, behind hurricane shutter brackets, under fascia boards, and between bricks. Nests are readily abandoned and relocated when disturbed. Colonies can have many hundreds of queens, spread out among many sub colonies.
* Thanks to the University of Florida for photos and information.
** Also a big thanks to Greg Narvas for his great ant picture.
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