Biology: White-footed ants are found in Florida, Hawaii and isolated areas of California.
This species may be spread to other warm southern regions of the United States on infested goods and plants.
White-footed ants nest in a variety of locations, and colonies can contain one million or more adults.
These ants like to nest in dead wood, but will also invade and short out air conditioners. They nest in piles of lumber, firewood, stones, bricks, trash and heavy vegetation at foundations or in trees. Indoors, they nest in wall voids, potted plants and atriums.
A single colony can encompass many sites, both close by and far away from a single nest.
These extended colonies exchange workers, brood and food.
White-footed ants establish well-defined, easy-to-find foraging trails outside infested buildings.
Trails commonly follow edges of sidewalks, edges of brick buildings, ledges and soffit corners.
Foragers often move into buildings from trees and shrubs touching walls or roofs.
Once inside, workers forage along baseboards above and below carpet edges.
Food Preferences: White-footed ants prefer sweets. Outdoors, they feed on honeydew and tend aphids, mealybugs and scales. Trophallaxis (cross feeding) has not been observed in this species. Because of this, baiting programs will not be effective as a stand-alone management program.
Control Recommendations: Complete elimination of established white-footed ant infestations is difficult. Regular inspections and/or treatments are necessary for control. Cultural controls (sanitation, harborage elimination and exclusion) or chemical control that eliminates honeydew sources should be considered.
Nest sites/characteristics: Indoors, nests may be located where water damage has occurred, in decayed or damp wood or inside insulating wall panels and wall voids. Outdoors, acrobat ants nest under rocks or in logs, firewood or trees where decay allows them to tunnel under bark or into wood.
Workers trail along tree limbs, utility lines and rails of fences and decks, entering structures through cracks and holes around utility lines or pipes, window frames and soffits. Workers also trail across the ground and enter through door thresholds and small openings. Acrobat ants are aggressive when disturbed and give off a strong odor.
Feeding Preferences: Acrobat ants eat a wide variety of foods, including sweets and proteins. Workers like honeydew from sap-sucking insects (aphids, mealybugs, scale insects). These ants also prey on termite alates and immature stages of cotton boll weevil, grape curculio and codling moth.
Nest site/characteristics: Most form small (200- to 300-member) colonies, but colonies of some species contain thousands of ants and multiple queens. Big-headed ants enter buildings occasionally, preferring to nest in protected soil (such as under stones, leaf litter, mulch, patio blocks, slabs, firewood and landscape timbers). Some nest in open areas where they make small mounds, or in crawl spaces in termite-damaged wood.
Big-headed ants trail readily, but usually not far from their nest. Their foraging trails are sometimes covered with soil, resembling subterranean termite foraging tubes.
Feeding Preferences: Big-headed ants prefer seeds and insects but will occasionally feed on honeydew from sap-sucking insects. Inside, they forage for meats, grease, liver, molasses, peanut butter, pet foods and fruit juices, preferring high-protein foods.
Control: Find and eliminate colonies in or around the structure.
Nest site/characteristics: Colonies of little black ants are small and contain many queens. If disturbed, colonies will readily move to other locations. Winged reproductives appear from June to August. Indoors, little black ants nest in woodwork, decaying wood and masonry. Outside nests are found in the soil under rocks, logs or debris. Nests may also be found in landscape mulch and in open areas of lawns where nests are characterized by small craters of very fine soil. A common location for outdoor nests is directly adjacent to building foundations. These ants forage in trails commonly seen on foundation walls and along sidewalks.
Feeding Preferences: Little black ants are most commonly observed foraging on sugar sources such as insect honeydew and plant nectars. Indoors, little black ants may feed on grease, oil, meats, fruits, vegetable material such as corn meal, and sweets. Outdoors, they eat other insects, honeydew and sap secretions.
Nest site/characteristics: Colonies average 3,000-4,000 ants with several queens. Pavement ants normally nest in soil; however, they occasionally nest indoors in walls, insulation and under floors. Colonies will move near a heat source in winter. Pavement ants often follow pipes through slabs to access buildings. Outdoors, these ants nest in soil under stones, slabs, next to buildings and in pavement cracks. They enter through cracks in slabs, expansion joints and natural openings of buildings. Pavement ants like to travel under the edges of carpet next to the tack strip. To inspect or treat this area, carefully lift the carpet a small section at a time, then press down firmly to replace the carpet. Soil nests may have a characteristic "dirt crater" around the opening. Pavement ants forage up to 30 feet in trails.
Feeding Preferences: Pavement ants are opportunistic feeders that will "swarm" on foods that appear within their foraging range and are therefore easily controlled with bait. Indoors, pavement ants feed on meats, nuts, cheese, honey, bread crumbs, meats and grease. Pet food bowls are common foraging sites for pavement ants. Outdoors, this ant feeds on insects, honeydew, seeds and plant sap.
Control: Locate nest by following ants back from their food source.
Nest site/characteristics: Pharaoh ant colonies range in size from several hundred thousand workers and several hundred reproductive females to very small colonies with 100 workers and one or two females. These ants nest almost anywhere, but prefer warm, humid areas near sources of food and water-in wall voids, behind baseboards, in furniture, under floors and between linens. In southern regions, colonies can exist outdoors. Workers range widely from the nest and establish visible trails to food and water sources. Pharaoh ants commonly use electrical and telephone wires, plumbing and other utility lines as trail routes. Outdoors, these ants nest in debris collected on flat roofs, entering and exiting via poorly caulked or defective windows, under flashing and through weep holes.
Feeding Preferences: Pharaoh ants have a wide preference of foods, from syrups to fruits, sweets, meats, pet foods and dead insects. Pharaoh ants have a high daily water requirement. Workers forage for water just as aggressively as for food. They will "harvest" water from unusual sources, such as aquariums, pet dishes, condensation on plumbing fixtures and windows, refrigerator condensation pans, air conditioners and house plants. In health care facilities, Pharaoh ants have been known to forage on the wounds of immobile patients or residents.
Control: Caution: Using contact insecticides will cause Pharaoh ant colonies to bud, scatter and reform as several new smaller colonies.
Nest site/characteristics: Fire ants are pests of the southern United States. Native fire ants rarely become structural pests. The red imported fire ant (RIFA) and black imported fire ant have spread to more than 13 southern and western states and continue to expand their range. These ants cause serious medical, agricultural and property damage. The RIFA is very aggressive and will sting repeatedly, especially when their colony/mound is disturbed.
Fire ants typically nest outdoors in sunny areas of exposed soil or lawns. If untreated, fire ant infestations may reach 30-100 single-queen mounds per acre, containing up to 80,000 ants. Over time, colonies may "link," creating supercolonies of up to 250,000 ants. Mounds are rounded and range from a few inches to several feet across. Each mound has several tunnels just under the soil surface extending out several feet. After rain, nests in sandy soil are rebuilt with sponge-like surfaces. When disturbed, fire ant workers pour out of their mound and aggressively attack the offender.
Colonies generally have their own territories. They forage in established trails. Red imported fire ants will sometimes nest in areas of exposed soil within buildings (e.g., bath traps). They also build outside nests adjacent to foundation walls and slabs. Fire ants are attracted to electrical junction boxes and air conditioners. They also nest in gas and water meter boxes and follow pipes into the building.
Feeding Preferences: Red imported fire ants prefer high-protein foods, but will feed on almost any plant or animal matter.
Control: TopChoice applied as a broadcast treatment will control fire ants for up to one year. Knockdown may take several weeks, so early-season application (November-February) is recommended. In-season (when mounds are active), a combination treatment ofTopChoice and Maxforce FC Fire Ant Bait or Maxforce Granular Insect Bait provides fast knockdown and long-term control. A two-step program of first applying baits, then following with direct mound treatments with a liquid insecticide a few days later, has been demonstrated by Texas A&M University to be effective.
Nest site/characteristics: Thief ant colonies are relatively small and contain a few hundred to several thousand workers with many queens. Thief ants commonly nest close to other species of ants. Flights of swarmers begin in June and end in late fall. Indoors, thief ants nest in small crevices, woodwork and masonry. These ants forage in set trails. Their behavior is similar to Pharaoh ants. Outdoor nests are found in exposed soil or under objects, in trash, rotten wood and tree cavities. Thief ants commonly enter structures during hot, dry weather.
Feeding Preferences: Thief ants prefer high-protein foods, but will feed on sweets. They feed on meats, bread crumbs, fruit, animal fats, oils, nuts, pet foods and dairy products. Outdoors, thief ants feed on almost any organic matter, including insects, honeydew, seeds and germinating seeds.
Control: Locate thief ant nests. Follow the trail of foraging workers back from their food source. Inspect for other ant species that thief ants may be raiding.