Ants are social insects, along with the related wasps and bees, belong to the order Hymenoptera. Ants evolved from
wasp-like ancestors between 110 and 130 million years ago and diversified after the rise of flowering plants. More than
12,500 out of an estimated total of 22,000 species have been classified. They are easily identified by their elbowed
antennae and a distinctive node-like structure that forms a slender waist.
Ants form colonies that range in size from a few dozen individuals living in small natural cavities to highly organized
colonies which may occupy large territories and consist of millions of individuals. These larger colonies consist mostly of
sterile wingless females forming castes of "workers", "soldiers", or other specialized groups.
Nearly all ant colonies also have some fertile males called "drones" and one or more fertile females called "queens". The
colonies are sometimes described as super-organisms because the ants appear to operate as a unified entity, collectively
working together to support the colony.
Ants have colonized almost every landmass on earth. Ants thrive in most ecosystems, and may form 15–25% of the
terrestrial animal biomass. Their success in so many environments has been attributed to their social organization and
their ability to modify habitats, use resources, and defend themselves. Ant societies have division of labor, communication
between individuals, and an ability to solve complex problems. These parallels with human societies have long been an
inspiration and subject of study.
Many human cultures make use of ants in cooking, medication and rituals. Some species are valued in their role as
biological pest control agents. However, their ability to utilize resources brings ants into conflict with humans, as they can
damage crops and invade buildings. Some species, such as the red imported fire ant, are regarded as invasive species,
establishing themselves in areas where they are accidentally introduced.
Pictures and a short description of some of the ants found in Florida appear bellow.
From light to dark brown. About 1/10-inch long. Antenna has 12 segments. Very adaptable and can nest in a
great variety of places. Colonies are massive and may contain hundreds of queens. The nests are usually
located in moist soil, next to or under buildings, along sidewalks or beneath boards. These ants travel in trails,
foraging day and night, they can eat almost anything but prefer sweet foods.
This ant is a very successful invasive species, and has been a pest in southern Florida for many years. Does
not sting or cause any structural damage, and usually does not bite unless the nest is disturbed, and even
then, the bite is not painful. It is a soil-nesting ant that is sometimes confused with subterranean termites
because it may create debris covered foraging tubes that to the untrained eye are similar. Homeowners are
annoyed by ants foraging in bathrooms, kitchens, around doors, and windows, as well as on exterior paved or
brick walkways or driveways. Control is difficult because the ant colonies are numerous and populations
usually extend across property lines. They feed on sweet liquids, dead insects, and soil invertebrates.
Black Carpenter Ant
One of the largest, and the most common of the carpenter ants. Can live both outdoors and indoors in moist,
decaying or hollow wood and prefer to burrow into damp wood rather than dry wood. Carpenter ants burrow to
provide a nest for their colonies, and over a long period of time, their burrowing may compromise a structure.
Will feed on nearly anything people eat, particularly sweets and meats, and will also feed on other insects. The
body is black, but some have reddish or yellowish coloration and the workers have large mandibles.
Florida Carpenter Ant
The Florida carpenter ant group is comprised of several species, two of which are common around structures.
These bi color arboreal ants are among the largest ants found in Florida, making them apparent as they forage
or fly indoors and out. There is no sting, but workers can bite and spray formic acid for defense. Winged
females are the largest and males are much smaller with proportionally smaller heads and larger wings. A
colony may reach several thousand individuals and the ants tend to be more active at night. The peak foraging
hours are just before sunset until two hours after sunset, then again around dawn. These ants have a fondness
for sweets and can be found near soda machines and other areas where sweets are readily accessible.
Similarly, they are fond of sweet floral nectars and produced by sucking insects. Carpenter ants will also seek
out other insects, both living and dead, for food. Carpenter ants foraging in homes can be in search of sweets
or moisture, or even new nesting sites, especially in kitchens and bathrooms, or other rooms that have water
leaks from plumbing or leaks around doors and windows. Otherwise, they might simply be trailing from an
interior nest to an exterior food source. Any vegetation touching a structure creates bridges that provide
foraging access into buildings.
Caribbean Crazy Ant
Is part of a group of ants referred to as "crazy ants" due to their quick and erratic movement. The Caribbean
crazy ant is a medium small golden brown to reddish brown body; the body surface is smooth and glossy, and
covered with dense hairs. After feeding, the ant's rear portion of the abdomen will appear to be striped due to
stretching of the light colored membrane connecting segments. The colonies have several hundred thousand
individuals and multiple queens.
Ants of this species often forage long distances away from their nests, so nests are often difficult to control.
Colonies of crazy ants are moderate to very populous.. It has been found on top floors of apartment buildings,
hotels and house kitchens, and in hospital rooms. Workers are omnivorous, feeding on live and dead insects,
seeds, fruits, plant sap, and many household foods. The crazy ant thrives in places such as gasoline stations,
convenience stores, and sidewalk cafes where workers may be seen transporting crumbs and other insects
that are attracted to the lights. They apparently have a seasonal preference for a high-protein diet, and during
the summer months may refuse honey or sugar baits.
Native Fire Ant
The native fire ant is sometimes referred to as the tropical fire ant, and it is seen in South Carolina to Florida
and as far west as Texas. Nest in mounds of 1 to 2 feet in diameter and the colonies can have up to 250,000
workers. Very active and aggressive, they will sting any intruder repeatedly. Omnivorous, will eat meats,
greasy and sweet materials. Part of treating fire ants is an understanding of the ant’s life cycle and behavior.
As with most insects, the adult's basic functions are to reproduce and disperse. And as with the ant species,
only queens and kings can reproduce. All remaining ants are sterile workers.
Red Imported Fire Ant
Of the two species of fire ants are found in Florida, the most notorious is the Red Imported Fire Ant, followed
by the much less common, the tropical or native fire ant. Other more common U.S. members of this genus, the
southern fire ant, found in western states; and the black imported fire ant, confined to northeastern Mississippi
and northwestern Alabama. Native to South America was first introduced from Brazil into either Mobile,
Alabama, or Pensacola, Florida, between 1933 and 1945. The mandible has four distinct teeth and the
antennae are 10-segmented, ending in a two-segmented club. A sting is present at the tip of the abdomen, and
body color is usually red to brown in color.
The ghost ant is highly adaptable in its nesting habits. It nests readily outdoors or indoors, and colonies may be
moderate to large in size containing numerous reproducing females. Indoors, the ant colonizes wall void or
spaces between cabinetry and baseboards. It will also nest in potted plants; ghost ants are opportunistic
nesters in places that sometimes remain habitable for only a few days or weeks Multiple queens may be
spread out in multiple sub colonies. Usually, nesting occurs in disturbed areas, in flowerpots, under objects on
the ground, under loose bark, and at the bases of palm fronds. Indoors, the ant 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. The nesting habits of the ghost ant are similar to that of the Pharaoh ant. They will enter
structures from nests near foundations or from plants that contact the building.
The Pharaoh ant colony consists of queens, males, workers, and immature stages. Nesting occurs in
inaccessible warm, humid areas near sources of food and water, such as in wall voids. The size of the colony
tends to be large but can vary from a few dozen to several thousand or even several hundred thousand
Part of the difficulty in controlling this ant is due to the splitting habits of the colonies. Numerous daughter
colonies are produced from the mother colony when a queen and a few workers break off and establish a new
colony. In large colonies there may be as many as several hundred reproductive females.
These ants are attracted to sweet and fatty foods. Pharaoh ants will nest in the oddest places, such as
between sheets of stationary, layers of bed linen and clothes, in appliances, or even piles of trash.
Control of Pharaoh ants is difficult; pharaoh ant infestation of a multifamily building requires treatment of the
entire building to control the infestation. Any chemical used can worsen the situation by causing the colony to
split into two or more and start more colonies in different places of the structure. When the correct methods are
use for control of the Pharaoh ant, it is necessary to allow up to several weeks or months (depending on the
size of the colonies or number of colonies) for ants to die.
White Footed Ant
The key to the success of this ant is its ability to reproduce in large numbers, especially considering that it
doesn't have the defensive capabilities of many other ants such as a venomous sting, chemical sprays, or
soldiers with strong, biting mandibles. Nearly half of the entire colony is composed of fertile, reproductive
females that are usually inseminated by wingless males, is an extremely difficult pest to control due to the large
size of its colonies. Control involves trimming trees and shrubs surrounding the structure to stop ants from
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