Ants are considered to be the most successful and most abundant groups of insects on earth. For this reason, ants are the most commonly reported pest in both the home and workplace. Not only are ants the most common type of pest encountered, but they are also one of the most persistent pests. Although ants are frequently seen indoors, the majority of ant activity occurs outdoors where they forage on small insects and other small organisms. In the Tallahassee area, the most common ants that homeowners and businesses experience are Caribbean crazy ants, fire ants, big headed ants, ghost ants, and Florida carpenter ants.

What kinds of ants live in Florida?

Caribbean Crazy Ants

Experts believe that Caribbean crazy ants were introduced by accident into Miami in the 1950s. Crazy ants gained their name because of their erratic behavior, running around quickly while searching for food and water. They clump together after they die, blanketing sidewalks, around the base of buildings, and on your property. Unlike other common nuisance ants, they have multiple queens and live in the millions together without fighting for territory. Electricity is an attractant for Caribbean crazy ants. This leads to greater problems when they follow electrical conduits indoors or around your property through tiny cracks and crevices. Are you experiencing shortages in your circuits? It could be a result of Caribbean crazy ant nesting. They do not bite or sting, making them a nuisance pest for humans rather than a direct health threat.

Fire Ants

After coming in from South America, the In the United States, imported fire ants currently inhabit all or parts of Alabama, Arkansas, California, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Puerto Rico, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia. Fire ants build nests that look like large dirt mounds, which if disturbed will explode with ants ready to attack. They are known for their stings that are said to create a painful, burning sensation. The effects of being stung by a fire ant can last up to 10 days, and even longer for those who are allergic. Unlike most ants, fire ants are aggressive and will actively go after humans, pets, and wildlife. If you are unlucky enough to encounter fire ants inside your home, it’s likely that they’re going after dirty laundry, sweets, proteins, and fats.

Big Headed Ants

Pictured Above: soil displaced by bid headed ant nesting in a driveway Photo Credit: University of Florida

Big headed ants can be 1/8th – 1/4th, which is larger than crazy ants, but slightly smaller than fire ants. Big headed ants have, you guessed it, big heads. These disproportionate insects can be a real nuisance for homeowners that become infested with their colonies. They are more of a nuisance pest due to the tubes and piles of sandy soil that are left behind in the process of building foraging tunnels. This elaborate network of tunnels can connect hundreds of subcolonies, creating supercolonies that expand over large surface areas. Potted plants, planters, under slab foundations, under rocks, and inside rotted logs are common nesting sites for big headed ants. Big headed ants do not create structural damage or sting. Biting is possible but rare.

Ghost Ants

Ghost ants are tiny ants with a pale body, legs, and antennae, and a dark head and abdomen. Measuring less than 1/16 inch, ghost ants are difficult to see. However, it can become a big problem when they infest in large numbers. They’re an especially bothersome pest for Florida homeowners when ghost ants get into pantry items and nest in walls. You may see ghost ants trailing, in search of crumbs. Sweets like cakes, sugar, and syrups attract ghost ants as well as honeydew secreted from other household pests such as whiteflies are the food of choice. All of these things are readily available in most homes, so it’s not uncommon to have ghost ants in your home. Ghost ants do not possess stingers, and they only bite when disturbed. In general, they are more of a nuisance pest than anything.

Florida Carpenter Ants

Florida carpenter ants are bicolored with rust and dark colors, and much larger than common nuisance ants. According to the University of Florida, “Florida carpenter ants seek either existing voids in which to nest or excavate only soft materials such as rotten or pithy wood and Styrofoam. Other concerns are that these ants sting (they do not) and bite (they do).” Although Florida carpenter ants do not eat wood, they do remove it from excavating sites which is where severe damage to the affected areas can occur. Indoors, preferred nesting sites are areas with high levels of moisture including vents, attics, carpets, ceilings, gutters, sheds, under dish washers, under bathroom fixtures, and wall voids.

Why do I have ants in my house?

Most ants create colonies where they can thrive which means they are constantly in search of a food source for survival, which can lead them into your home. A kitchen is a perfect area for ants to infest with the potential for crumbs, dog food left in bowls, penetrable food packaging, and food such as fruit left out on tables and counter tops. No one wants to find pests in their home, but it can happen to virtually any homeowner.

Ants typically live outside, sending scout ants away from the colony to search for food. These explorers are usually the ants that you find in your drain, on the floor, and around food items. Human food is also appealing to ants. Once the scout finds a food source, they signal other ants to follow his trail and continue to take food and bring it back to the colony. The number of ants following this same trail grows as their food source remains available.

Are ants dangerous?

The biggest concern with ant infestations within your home is the potential for disease. Ants are constantly moving back and forth, indoors and back out, picking up germs along the way. This means that bacteria living on the ground or in your pipes can surface and spread if ants cross your food. Sugar ants are the most likely to cause infection because of their specific attraction to sugary and greasy foods such as cookies and chips. Pharaoh ants, another type of sugar ant, are known to be carriers of Staphylococcus, a bacterial infection that humans can contract. There is also a chance that you can contract salmonella from eating food that ants have come in contact with. By crawling across your food, they can spread salmonella for you to ingest. The best way to avoid these situations is to engage in proactive ant prevention measures and professional ant control services.

How can I get rid of ants on my own?

Nobody appreciates unwanted visitors, especially when those “visitors” are ants crawling along your countertops while you have guests over for dinner. With the internet busting at its seams with various DIY tactics and tricks for anything and everything, what does it take to make ant DIY remedies work? Bait placement is critical when trying to remove ants from a dwelling. Where you place the bait can determine if it will be a success or not. Just like spraying repellents, bait placement along ant trails (that include lines and edges) would be the first place to start. Follow the edges along baseboards and place your bait in a corner along that baseboard. You may also find ants crawling along the edges of your backsplash, if this is the case, place bait near those edges. If you already know the ant trail, start there. For instance, if you know you’re seeing ants in your kitchen near your dishwasher, perhaps start by spraying along the baseboards leading to that location. If there are any cracks or crevices, be sure to include those because they might be entry points for the ants. The most common reason DIY ant control fails is the misplacement or incorrect application of products. If you can’t get ants under control, contact a pest control professional.

How can I prevent ants?

Use the following simple tips to prevent ants in your home.

  • Clean your house. Start by cleaning your kitchen because according to the National Pest Management Association (NPMA) kitchens were found more vulnerable to ant activity 96% of the time and bathrooms were vulnerable 89% of the time.
    • Ants are generally looking for a source of food and water, both of which can be found in your kitchen. Be sure to clean up crumbs and spills immediately as to not attract the ants.
    • Keep an eye on any fruit that may be over ripe that can also attract ants into your kitchen.
  • Trim your shrubs. Shrubs and tree branches that are close you your home can be bridges for ants so it is best to keep them trimmed so that they are not touching the home in any way.
  • Consult with a Landscaper prior to landscaping. Prior to doing any landscaping, consult with a landscaper to ensure that you are not using plants that are prone to aphids, scales or other homopterous insects that will in turn attract ants. If you are including ornamental plants in your landscaping that attracts homopterous insects, you may need to treat them to eliminate the insects that attract the ants.
  • Reduce moisture. Repair leaky pipes, focusing on areas including under your dishwasher, kitchen sink, and bathroom sink. Check your basement for signs of water damage that can attract Florida carpenter ants. Use dehumidifiers in your basement to dry out the space.