WHITE FOOTED ANTS
They don’t bite; they don’t sting; but they sure get into everything.
The white footed ant is the most notorious recent invader of Florida. Originally a native of Southern Japan and its neighboring islands, this ant specie has been on the move north and west from southeast Florida. Identified by entomologist Mark Derup in 1991, the white foots are believed to have settled in the Homestead, Florida area in the mid 1980’s.
Originally thought to be a minor problem, the white footed ant reached pest alert status in 1998. They have now been confirmed to have spread and are thriving in at least nine Florida counties.
The white footed ants obvious success in adapting and colonizing in new locations is cause for great concern throughout Florida. There are currently several quarantines in effect at and around agricultural areas.
Understanding the impact on Florida’s agricultural communities as well as homes and industries is as unique as this invasive ant itself.
White footed ant biology:
- White footed ant Colonies grow quickly and may exceed over two million inhabitants in each colony.
- It is believed that in some instances, up to 50 % of the colony members may be female reproductives.
- They create swarmers for mating flights, which provide them with much greater range for initiating new colonies. They also bud; a process by which workers and female reproductives separate from the main colony and establish new ones.
- Unlike most ant species, the foraging workers do not regurgitate the food they have eaten to provide to the nursery and non foraging ants in the nest. Instead they digest the food and produce a trophic egg. It is an unique unfertilized egg which provides all the nourishment the whitefooted ants require. The foraging workers, while providing the close to perfect food source to the colony, also, filter out much of the pesticides that may have been present in the original food.
- White footed ants are strongly attracted to sweets, although they will eat dead insects and have been observed attacking termites, worms and other small prey. For the most part, they are generally found foraging in great numbers where carbohydrate-producing plants, crops and other organisms are. They will protect and farm aphids, mealybugs and scale for the purpose of harvesting their honeydew. The end result leads to crop and plant damage.
The white footed ant structural invasion is not an experience you want to have. You have to truly see it to believe it.
The white footed ant is without a doubt the most invasive ant in Florida, today. Once they are inside, they are close to impossible to eradicate. They invade wall voids, outlets, appliances, pantries and just about every nook and cranny you can imagine.
White footed ants are dark brown to brownish black and appear to be little black ants from a distance. Their large numbers foraging make their presence known quickly. They do not actually have white feet; their tibia and tarsi are light yellow.
White Footed Ant Control
“Most Important: Do not spray or spread insecticides inside or outside your home. This alerts the ants to danger and causes them to stop their feeding and begin to reproduce in larger numbers”
If this ant has made it into your home or facility, you should contact a qualified professional pest control service, or be prepared to make a disciplined “do-it-yourself” effort.
Do not spray insecticides in your environment.
The best way to stop this invader is outside of your home:
- Keep bushes and trees trimmed back from structures.
- Keep moisture sources around the exterior to a minimum.
- Use a systemic pesticide on the carbohydrate producing plants and shrubs (take their food source away).
At least every second week, inspect for new areas where they may be foraging and repeat recommendations as needed.
Summary: Pharaoh ants, despite their small size, are the most invasive of all household ants. Pharaoh ants build colonies quickly and the spread of pharaoh ants is difficult to control.
Pharaoh ants are well-known troublemakers. They are notorious for getting into places they shouldn’t be because they are small and can chew through plastic bags or wiring. This can cause a big problem in hospitals when they find their way into sterile environments or even into IV bags.
I’m going to tell you some things about why Pharaoh ants are so different from other types of ants. First, their colonies have multiple queens and they have a different reproductive cycle than most ants. So what, you say? Well, get lucky enough to find a queen and kill her, you still have not eliminated the Pharaoh ant nest. Also, they mate in their nests rather than forming reproductive swarms above ground, so unlike other ants that warn you of their presence with their swarms, you never know Pharaoh ants are there until you find them infesting something.
Pharaoh ants can build their nests in wall voids, baseboards, under floors, in trash containers, under stones, and dark, warm areas near water pipes. Hospitals, apartment buildings, hotels, and grocery stores are often plagued with pharaoh ants. They build new colonies quick and resist treatment by condensing several colonies into one colony.
Several separate Pharaoh ant colonies living close together sometimes makes it appear as if there is one huge colony. If the nests are under attack by a predator or a pesticide, the colonies can unite to “weather the storm”. This resilience makes it difficult to eliminate the colony and can take up to a year to effectively treat a large pharaoh ant infestation.
Here’s the worst part. If you try to treat Pharaoh ants with a pesticide they don’t like they will create a satellite nest and start a new colony. So, you can’t just go around spraying Raid Ant Spray or you’ll double your trouble. Instead, Pharaoh ant control is achieved using bait systems. Advance Dual Choice, Floor Guard, and Maxforce FC are some indoor baiting systems that have had success treating pharaoh ants. The bait stations are placed where the worker ants forage for food, close to floorboards and in the corners of rooms. The ants take the slow acting bait back to the colony and it slowly poisons the nest without causing alarm.
If you can’t follow instructions on the bait, don’t start the project. You’ll just make it worse. Call a professional pest control company to do the job for you.
Carpenter ants are misnamed. They should be called carving ants or deconstruction ants based upon the damages they inflict. The discovery of carpenter ant damage often close follows the night you first come upon the ants foraging in your kitchen. These ants are nocturnal, doing their food searches while you sleep.
Carpenter ants trail. That is, they follow each other in a line, moving from their nest to their intended food source. So, if you think you have a carpenter ant problem, the best time to look for them is after midnight. In warmer temperatures you can discover them marching from the base of an old, or dying tree. With a little patience and a good flashlight, you may be able to watch them entering your home via a foundation crack or a poorly sealed window.
Carpenter ants are polymorphic, meaning they come in all sizes. In fact, a single colony of ants may have several different sizes of workers, ranging in size from ¼” to 5/8”, making them larger than most ants. So, trying to identify carpenter ants by size alone may leave you scratching your head. You’ll need to examine them for other features such as a circle of hairs around the tip of their abdomen. They also have a large, single nod or spike between their thorax and abdomen. They come in multiple colors, too. There are red carpenter ants and black carpenter ants and some have areas of brown or yellow. There are also winged and wingless carpenter ants.
Should you discover wood damage, don’t automatically think “termites”. The damaged wood from termites is distinctly different from wood damaged by carpenter ants. Termite damaged wood is layered and contains lots of dried mud. Termites eat the soft wood and leave the layers of hardwood in tact. Carpenter ant tunnels are clean, smooth and contain no mud or frass. All the wood is totally excavated.
Carpenter ants reproduce and form colonies. However, these colonies will reproduce to make satellite colonies. Basically, you will have an entire society of carpenter ants if you do not take action. Here are some tips to get rid of carpenter ants on your own.
- Do a thorough inspection of your backyard to try to find the source of infestation. If you find a carpenter ant nest, open it up and pour a mixture of water and ant killer or boiling water into the nest. This will kill nearly all of the ants in the nest.
- Move any firewood or brush away from the foundation of your house. It is much too easy for carpenter ants that are munching on wood to sneak into your house if they are in close proximity of it.
- If the ants have wandered inside, try to find their nests. They prefer moist wood, so they can usually be found near damaged window or door frames, bathtubs, sinks, or where there are leaks in your roof or backed up gutters.
- Set out small bowls of honey in the rooms in which you have found carpenter ants. Once the ants discover the food you can then watch them trail back to their nests. They are most active at night, so you might have to sacrifice a few hours of shut-eye for some peace of mind.
- Spray aerosol insecticide into the ant nest. This will help get rid of some of the ants, but will not completely eliminate them. You may also want to put boric acid baits near the nest.
- If you have trouble locating the nest, take a screwdriver or other tool and tap on hollow walls. Make sure to put your ear up to the walls as you do this. If the ants are hiding behind the walls, you will hear them rushing around.
- Larger carpenter ant infestations can be heard inside walls. It sounds like clicking. After you locate them, drill small holes (about 1/8 of an inch) into the wall. Use a bulb duster, available at better hardware stores, to pump boric acid into the wall voids to kill a large number of the ants. You will need to drill a series of holes so the pesticide can reach the ants between wall studs. Wall studs are normally spaced sixteen inches apart, so drill accordingly.
- To prevent any future carpenter ant infestations repair any rotting wood you have in or around your home. This includes fences, dying trees, and firewood.
- Look for sources of moisture such as leaks, roof damage and clogged gutters and make necessary repairs. Usually, the removal of the source of water will discourage further nesting activity and help you to get rid of carpenter ants quickly.
The fire ant was brought into the U.S. from South America by accident and it is an accident that cannot be undone. Soil from Argentina and Brazil was loaded into cargo ships, which were unloaded in Mobile, Alabama. Fire ants came along for the trip, marking their arrival in the United States.
Fire ants are known for their harsh sting. Adult fire ants use their stingers to ward off predators. Young fire ants do not have fully developed stingers so they cannot be as aggressive and choose to “play dead” when under attack. Only the female fire ant can sting.
The fire ant’s nest has small holes to allow plenty of ventilation. It will build its nest in nearly any type of landscape, but it prefers wide-open grassy areas. Its nest can be up to three feet in height and width, a sight homeowners hate discovering.
Fire ants can frequently be found in rotting wood or under buildings. These ants are known for causing damage to crops and plants, as well as buildings, telephone wires, and air-conditioning units. They may even venture indoors to nest having been found in crevices in concrete, near bathtubs or hot water heaters, and underneath woodwork, rocks, or stones.
If you get a fire ant sting make sure to keep the skin clean where contact was made. In a couple days a pustule will form where the sting occurred. Do not pop this as it may delay the healing process. The pustule will gradually lessen throughout the next two weeks. If you experience itching, severe swelling, develop a rash, or experience other symptoms of an allergic reaction, see your doctor or go to the hospital emergency room.
Here are some things to help you determine if you have fire ants in your yard and how to distinguish fire ants from other non-threatening ants.
- Fire ants typically build more than one mound especially when rain wipes out their nests. If you see multiple mounds on your property, chances are they are fire ant mounds.
- The mounds fire ants build are usually made with loose soil to allow plenty of ventilation. If the mounds you see are not packed tightly with soil, you may be dealing with fire ants.
- Fire ants are aggressive and will sting their predators more than once. If you are stung multiple times by an ant, it may be a fire ant.
Fire ant control starts by moving firewood away from areas near your home. Keep firewood elevated off of the ground to help protect it from becoming infested.
I like using baits for fire ant control. Apply ant bait around the fire ants’ mounds. Make sure to wait for a sunny, dry day because these are the conditions for fire ants to be most active. They will help spread the bait around and pass it to other fire ants deep in the mounds.
Applying ant bait is the most ideal treatment for fire ant mounds in obscure places such as by plants or in crevices of concrete. Advion Fire Ant Bait, and Maxforce Fire Ant Bait are two of the better products sold for fire ant control.
Liquid insecticides may be used to kill fire ants, but you must follow a proceedure. You’ll need to use a broom handle or rod to probe deep into the fire ant mounds. If you survive that task and are not swarmed by angry fire ants, pour the insecticide into the hole you have created using a watering can. Make sure to label the can and never use it for anything other than insecticide.
Use about a gallon for a smaller mound and a couple of gallons for bigger mounds. Because fire ant colonies can consist of hundreds of ants, an ample amount of insecticide is necessary to eliminate them from your yard completely.
If you are really into organic fire ant control you might try pouring boiling water into the mounds.This may or may not work, so try this approach as a last resort and get ready to run like the wind. By the way, if the boiling water is poured over plants near the mounds, the plants will die. Also, do not pour boiling water over the ant mounds if you have applied fire ant bait, as this will ruin the bait.
Spread a small amount of insect bait throughout your yard using a push spreader once a year. This will help deter fire ants from returning. Prevention is the key to long term success.