Ants in and around homes and businesses in Miami and in South Florida are Common nuisance pests because they feed on and contaminate our food and infest our structures by nesting in wall voids and/or underneath kitchen sinks and other places.
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They build unsightly mounds in our Florida lawns and other landscapes. Some ants are able to inflict painful bites and can have venomous stings. Ants do not attack or eat fabrics, leather or wood in houses. However, some ants in Miami can establish nests in decaying wood, trees and shrubs, including wood in human structures.
Several types of ants are found in or around houses in Miami Florida.
Most common ants can be grouped as
- House Infesting Ants
- Yard Infesting Ants
- Carpenter Ants.
The most commonly encountered pest ants are
- Pharaoh Ants
- White footed Ants
- Argentine Ants
- Ghost Ants
- Pyramid Ants
- carpenter Ants
- Rover Ants
- Native fire
- Imported fire
- Crazy Ants
- Thief Ants
- Caribbean Crazy Ants
- Acrobat Ats
- Big-headed Ants
Common ants in Miami can be recognized from other insects because they have a narrow waist with one or two joints (nodes) between the thorax (chest area) and the abdomen (last part confused for the butt). When identifying ant species, the first characteristic to look at is whether the ant has one or two nodes are found before the abdomen. Also, ants have elbowed antennae or bent antennas. The antenna is the second most important structure in ant identification.
The antenna is divided into segments the segmants look like a rod of beeds, starting with a long and thin segment called the scape, which is the first segment counted from the head of the ant. In some imported pest ant species, the antenna ends in a club that is formed when the last two or three segments of the antenna are significantly enlarged and or bent. Winged reproductives have four wings, with the first pair much larger than the hind or back pair of wings.
Ants are social insects.
Two castes are found in nests (workers and reproductives — females and males) can be found in most colonies. Worker ants, which are sterile females, are rarely winged. They often are extremely variable in size and appearance within a given species, although some species have only one size of worker, and others have two sizes.
The purpose of workers is to construct, repair and defend the nest, and feed the immature and adult ants of the colony, including the queen. Workers will forage for both solid and liquid foods and water. Most adult ants cannot ingest solid foods. Solid particles are given to the larvae which are able to digest solid particles. Some ants favor foods that are sweet or glucose based, and species that are sweet feeders can be found feeding on honeydew produced by insects such as aphids, mealybugs, and scale insects.
Reproductive females normally have wings, they lose them after mating. Queens do not have wings. The function of the queen is to reproduce. In some of the more highly specialized ants, the queen cares for and feeds the first brood of workers on her saliva. The queen may live for many years, and in some species is replaced by a daughter queen. Depending on the species, ant colonies can have one or more queens.
Males are usually winged and retains its wings until death. The function of the male is to mate with an unfertilized female reproductive. After mating the male dies. Males are produced in old or very large colonies where there is an abundance of food. After reaching maturity the male usually does not remain in the colony very long.
Ants have an egg, larva, pupa and adult stages. Eggs are almost microscopic and hatch into soft, legless larvae. Larvae are fed by workers, usually on predigested, regurgitated food. This process of exchanging food is called trophallaxis, this is why baits are so effective in killing the colonies. Most larvae are fed liquids, although some older larvae are able to chew and digest solids. The pupa resembles the adult except that it is soft, uncolored, and immobile. In many ant species the pupa is in a cocoon spun by the larva. Six weeks to two months are required for development from egg to adult in some ant species.
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 (nuptial flights)this is why you may see a bunch of ants with wings at the window ledge. The several hundred to thousands of winged reproductives that emerge from colonies for their nuptial flights have also been termed as “swarming.” These ant swarms, in early spring, can lead to increased frantic homeowner calls to us for ant control Miami.
Mating flights are usually Caused by weather cues such as the right temperature and or 24 hours after a rainstorm. The mated queen constructs a cavity or cell and rears a brood unaided by workers. The first brood molts into small workers, which then forage for food and take over the brood-caring and other duties in the nest while the queen continues to lay eggs. The colony grows in size and numbers as more young are produced. The colony grows rapidly but slows its growth when the colony size nears maturity.
Budding occurs when one or more queens leave the nest accompanied by workers who aid in establishing and caring for the new colony. These are some of the most difficult ant species to control in Miami because they spread colonies by budding. Pharaoh ants, some kinds of fire ants, ghost ants, and Argentine ants spread colonies by budding.
Ant Food Preferences
Different types of ants eat a wide variety of foods, although some have specialized tastes. Fire ants feed on honeydew, sugars, proteins, oils, seeds, plants, and insects. Pharaoh ants feed on sugars, proteins, oils, and insects. Crazy ants like sugars, protein, and insects; carpenter ants prefer sugars and insects. Ants may prefer certain foods throughout the year sugars or proteins depending on how much brood is being produced in the nest. This variance in food preference has some consequence on the use of baits for ant control Miami. Sometimes changing from sugar-based baits to protein or oil-based baits may be important in maintaining the ants’ interest in the toxic bait.
Ants use scouts to locate food. When a scouting ant finds promising food they carry it back to the nest. Some ants leave scent trails known as pheromones, this is a chemical scent that others can follow to the food source they found, this is why you see ant trails. The pheromone trail that is deposited by scouts is typically lasting for a while and must be reapplied. Ants require water and will travel some distance for it if necessary. Workers are able to bring water to the colony in their guts.