Not exactly the event you might expect, with red carpets, camera, celebrities, and the like - ants are nonetheless making a grand entrance in Florida homes this summer. Parading across your kitchen floor, helping themselves to your sweets and greasy snacks, most ants don't pose physical threats to humans and pets, but they can really do a number on your easy, breezy summer attitude. Because many different types of ants love Florida, and who can blame them, how do you know what kind of ants are driving you crazy and how do you get rid of these unwanted house guests for good? More importantly, how do you keep ants out of your home in the first place? Most ants live outside your home in networks of nests in your yard or nearby, so spraying the ones you see only acts as a temporary solution. Ants are social insects that build colonies containing thousands of members. With at least one queen and king, plus reproductive ants and workers, every member of an ant colony is always busy. The queen reproduces while worker ants care for the young and provide food for the entire colony. Some colonies can support multiple queens through budding and some are capable of moving to new locations when conditions deteriorate. For these reasons, ant colonies can be difficult to control or eliminate with commercial do-it-yourself products and lasting results require the services of a professional pest control company.
So what kind of ants do Florida homes deal with every summer?
Of the many ants living in Florida, some are more likely than others to enter your home. While most of these ants are of the nuisance variety, some can also bite, sting or cause structural damage. The nominees in the ants most likely to drive you crazy category are:
- Ghost ants - Preferring sweets, ghost ants, also known as sugar ants, are almost undetectable by the naked eye, at less than 1/16-inches long, with dark heads and thoraxes and pale abdomen and legs.
- Big-headed ants - Preferring protein-rich foods, these light brown to dark reddish-brown ants range in length from 1/16- to 1/18-inches. Big-headed ants often forage in trails just under the soil and get their names from the fact that their heads that seem disproportionately large for their bodies.
- Crazy ants - Preferring honeydew secreted by aphids, crazy ants will settle for sweets in your kitchen. An invasive species, often black but ranging from red-brown to gray, crazy ants get their name from their erratic patterns of movement. Measuring from 1/12- to 1/8-inches in length, crazy ants sport noticeably longer antennae and legs than other Florida ants. Among their many talents, crazy ants can defend themselves and displace fire ants with the formic acid in their bites. The other crazy thing these ants do causes electrical issues in your home. When one crazy is electrocuted, it sends out attack signals to other crazy ants, who, following suit also get electrocuted and accumulate in electrical circuits.
- Fire ants – Fire ants, usually found nesting outdoors in sunny areas of exposed soil, have a stinger and can deliver a painful sting. Ranging in size from 1/16-inch to 1/4-inch in length, they have a reddish-brown body and a darker abdomen. Although their preference is high protein foods, they will feed on both plants and animal matter.
- Argentine ants - Another invasive species, Argentine ants prefer sweet foods but will eat almost anything. Light brown to medium brown and 1/10-inch in length, Argentine ants have developed the flexibility to relocate their nests on a daily basis and can be found traveling in large trails on structures and up trees.
- White-footed ants - Often mistaken for crazy ants and Argentine ants, white-footed ants prefer honeydew and can cause agricultural damage by protecting aphids and other honeydew-secreting insects that feed on crops. Basically they are black with white feet, go figure, these 1/8-inch long ants are now major nuisance pests in Florida as well as many other parts of the globe. Building massive colonies, white-footed ants forage in wide trails up the sides of homes and other structures.
- Acrobat ants - The clowns of the ant world, eating sweets as well as proteins, acrobat ants raise their heart-shaped abdomens over their thoraxes and heads when threatened. Ranging from light brown to dark brownish black, acrobat ants nest not only outdoors in soil, wood, and leaves but indoors in abandoned termite and carpenter ant galleries in wood.
- Florida carpenter ants - Preferring sweet foods, Florida carpenter ants, unlike other destructive carpenter ants, do not burrow through the wood in your home but nest in insect-damaged or water-damaged wood. One of the largest Florida ants, at 3/4-inches in length, hard to miss Florida carpenter ants forage in loose trails and should be avoided as they pack a powerful punch, via the formic acid they inject when they bite.
That's just the short list of ants that could be aiming for a grand entrance in your home this summer. For more information and about these and other ants, visit our bug database.
How do you deter ants from entering your home?
Make your home as uninviting as possible. In the summer, ants usually enter your home in search of food and/or water. The first thing to do is seal all cracks, crevices, and holes in your foundation and around entryways and windows. Ants can get in through very small spaces.
- Repair all wood damaged by water; repair all leaky faucets and places where water collects.
- Keep all snacks in air-tight containers or in the fridge.
- Clean up all food scraps after snacks and meals.
- Keep floors swept and vacuumed and keep all countertops wiped clean of crumbs and spills.
At Hulett, we can help bar ants, the most unwanted house guest, from making any grand entrances in your home this summer. Contact us to schedule a free inspection. Our entomologist-trained technicians can get to the bottom of your persistent ant issues. Family-owned and operated, Hulett's technicians have been serving Florida homeowners for over 50 years. One of the top 25 pest control companies in the United States, Hulett is the professional company with the personal touch. Just call Hulett!