Ants

Several species of ants are found in or around houses in Florida.

The most commonly encountered pest ants are pharaoh, ghost, carpenter, native fire, imported fire, crazy, thief, acrobat, and big-headed ants.

Ants can be recognized from other insects because they have a narrow waist with one or two joints (nodes) between the thorax and abdomen and ants have elbowed antennae. Winged reproductives have four wings with the first pair being much larger in size than the hind pair.

Ants are frequently confused with termites. However, termites have a broad waist between the thorax and the abdomen. Termite reproductives have four wings of equal size.

Ants are social insects. Two castes (workers and reproductives - females and males) can be found in most colonies. Worker ants, which are sterile females, are seldom winged.

They often are extremely variable in size and appearance within a given species (monomorphic - one form; dimorphic - two forms; polymorphic - many forms). The function of the worker is to construct, repair, and defend the nest; and feed the immature and adult ants of the colony, including the queen.

Ants establish new colonies by two main methods: flights of winged reproductives and budding. The most common method is for male and female reproductives to leave the nest on mating flights. The mated queen constructs a cavity or cell and rears a brood unaided by workers. The small first brood workers then forage for food. The colony grows in size and numbers as more young are produced.

Most ants eat a wide variety of foods, although some have specialized tastes.

Many feed on honeydew, sugars, proteins, oils, seeds, plants and insects. Ants use scouts to locate food. When a scouting ant finds promising food, she carries it or a piece of it back to the nest. Some ants leave scent trails that others can follow to the food source. Ants require water and will travel some distance for it if necessary. Workers are able to bring water to the colony in their guts.

Despite their name and where they are found, Florida carpenter ants do not eat wood (as is the case with termites) but excavate galleries in it to rear their young. They feed on honeydew from sucking insects and household food scraps and do not damage sound wood to any extent.