Although they might seem small, it would be a mistake to call ants powerless. These little creatures are somewhat like the mighty Hercules and can lift about 50 times their own weight. Closely related to the wasps and bees, ants are ground-walking (or wall-crawling) insects that have been around for over 130 million years!
There are about over 12,000 recognized ant species globally, out of which 14 can be found in Florida. Here are the 14 ant species that are found in Florida:
- Argentine Ant
- Ghost Ant
- White-Footed Ant
- Pyramid Ant
- Pavement Ant
- Thief Ant
- Rover Ant
- Carpenter Ant
- Pharaoh Ant
- Big-Headed Ant
- Acrobat Ant
- Caribbean Crazy Ant
- Tawny Crazy Ant
- False Honey Ant
Let’s learn more about these little creatures; their appearance, and their nesting preferences.
Argentine Ant (Linepithema humile)
Body length: 1.6-2.8 millimeters in workers; 4.2-6.4 millimeters in queen
Named after their nativity to Argentina, the Argentine Ants are an ant species that are endemic to several South African countries such as Brazil, Bolivia, Paraguay, and Uruguay.
Appearance: The Argentine Ants have a small body with a flattened head, short thorax, a single petiole, and slender legs. They are colored in dull brown, with the queens and males being slightly darker than the workers. While most parts of their body are colored uniformly, some variation can be seen.
The workers have yellow mandibles while their legs are a lighter shade of brown. The mandibles, antennae, and legs of the males are all yellow, while the queens have yellow mandibles with reddish legs and antennae. The queens are also the hairiest members of the colony.
Habitat and range: Although the Argentine Ants have originated in South Africa, they are considered invasive species all over the world.
Ghost Ant (Tapinoma melanocphalum)
Body length: 1.3-2 millimeters (0.051-0.079 inches)
The Ghost Ants are an ant species that have been named so due to their half-translucent body.
Appearance: These ants have a small body with a small head, a double petiole, and a gaster that is much larger than their head. While their head and petiole are entirely black, all of their legs, along with their twelve-segmented antennae and gaster, are translucent.
The tip of their antennae is unusually thick, and on their gaster, there are two blackish spots that seem to have been blotched. Their translucent appearance makes them look even smaller than they already are. The coloration of the queens is similar to the workers; only their mid-section is slightly larger.
Habitat and range: Although it is difficult to trace back the origins of the Ghost Ants, their population can be found in every part of the world nowadays, except for the extreme cold regions.
White-Footed Ant (Technomyrmex albipes)
Body length: 2-4 millimeters (0.08-0.16 inches)
First discovered by Frederick Smith in Indonesia in 1816, the White-footed Ants are an ant species that are endemic to the Indo-Pacific regions.
Appearance: White-footed Ants are small, black ants that have pale lower legs, which lends them their name. They possess twelve-segmented antennae with a flattened petiole. Their gaster is rounded at one end and gets narrower at the other, and seems to be bending slightly downwards. Sparse white hairs are scattered all over their body.
Habitat and range: Although being native to the Indo-Pacific areas, the White-footed Ants are found in North America, Africa, Australia, the Caribbean, and some parts of Asia as an introduced species.
Pyramid Ant (Dorymyrmex bureni)
Body length: 2-4 millimeters
The Pyramid Ants are an ant species that are endemic to the United States and Mexico.
Appearance: These ants have a light orange body, with their head being relatively larger than their abdomen. Their antennae are unique in design, pointing upward and then curving backward. They also have curved hairs on their head, which help them in transporting damp soil. You might assume by their appearance that they are the biting kind, but unlike the fire ants, they don’t behave aggressively with humans.
Habitat and range: The Pyramid Ants like to build their nests in sandy soil. Their nests are shaped like a crater and have only a single entrance. You can find them anywhere in Florida.
Pavement Ant (Tetramorium immigrans)
Body length: 2.5-4 millimeters
The Pavement Ants are an ant species that are endemic to Europe. These ants are also referred to as “Sugar Ants” and “Immigrant Pavement Ants” in North America. They receive their name due to their peculiar tendency of building nests under the pavements.
Appearance: The body of the Pavement Ants ranges from dark brown to black in color. Their colony consists of a single queen, alates, and workers. The alates are twice as large as the workers in size and possess wings, just like the queens.
Habitat and range: Although the Pavement Ants prefer to live in underground nests, they have adapted to the urban areas as well. These ants are not native to North America but are an introduced pest species here.
Thief Ant (Solenopsis molesta)
Body length: 1.5-1.8 millimeters in workers; 3.5-3.6 millimeters in males; 4-5 millimeters in queens
Named after their tendency of stealing food from the nest of the other ants, the Thief Ants are an ant species belonging to the genus of Fire Ants. Some studies have shown that these ants are attracted to grease, which is why some people also call them “Grease Ants”.
Appearance: Thief Ants have a two-segment petiole joining their thorax to their gaster. The workers are the smallest members of the species and have a pale-yellow body. Their antennae have ten segments and a rather elongated club.
The males, which are slightly larger than the workers, have a brown body. However, their legs and antennae are yellow in color. The queens, being the largest members of the colony, have eleven-segmented antennae. They have a yellow body with shades of brown on their head and thorax.
Habitat and range: The Thief Ants are endemic to the Nearctic regions and are more commonly seen in the eastern parts of the United Nations. Although these ants prefer to nest in meadows and fields, they are well-accustomed to live in urban and suburban areas.
Fun Fact: The Queen Thief Ants have two pairs of hyaline wings that they lose after the process of mating.
Rover Ant (Brachymyrmex sp.)
Body length: 1.5 millimeters
The Rover Ants are a family of 44 different recognized species that are known for their small size and simpler morphology.
Appearance: As we’ve already mentioned, these ants are minuscule in size, which creates difficulties in describing their appearance. They have a pale brown body, with sparse hair and a pair of antennae shorter than that of most of the other ants.
Habitat and range: The Rover Ants are primarily found in the neotropical regions, with their natural range extending from the United States to Chile and Argentina, as well as the Caribbean islands. However, their species have been introduced to the Asian country of Japan and Madagascar.
Carpenter Ant (Camponotus sp.)
Body length: 0.7-2.5 centimeters (0.3-1 inch)
The Carpenter Ants are a large family of ants with over 1,000 different species. These ants are known for building their nest inside wood using their mandibles.
Appearance: The Carpenter Ants have a small head, a rounded thorax, and a slightly larger gaster. Their last pair of legs are unusually long, with long antennae facing upwards. All of these ants are black in color.
Habitat and range: Due to their reputation of nesting in woods, these ants preferably inhabit wooded areas. However, they can be found indoors, especially if you have old wooden furniture.
Pharaoh Ant (Monomorium pharaonis)
Body length: 1.5-2 millimeters in workers; 3 millimeters in males; 3.6-5 millimeters in queen
Originating from the Old-World Tropics of Africa, the Pharaoh Ants are one of the smallest ant species that typically inhabit colder regions.
Appearance: Pharaoh Ants have a small body that ranges from reddish-brown to tan in color. They have downward-facing antennae that can sense vibrations and help them navigate in lightless areas. Each of their mandibles has four teeth. Small hairs grow on their abdomen.
Habitat and range: From Africa, these ants have spread throughout the globe. They can live in diverse habitats. However, in the colder regions, they prefer to build their nests indoors.
Big-Headed Ant (Pheidole megacephala)
Body length: 1.5-4.5 millimeters
The Big-headed Ants are an ant species that are included in the list of 100 World’s worst invaders. These ants are known as the “Coastal Brown Ants” in Australia.
Appearance: Just as their name suggests, the Big-headed Ants have a head that appears rather large compared to the rest of their body. Their body color varies greatly, ranging from yellowish and reddish-brown to black.
While the front half of their head is sculptured, the lower half is smooth and has a gloss over it. They have large mandibles that come in handy while crushing the seeds, and a pair of curved antennae with the tip shaped like a club. Long, sparse hairs cover their body, while a pair of upward-pointing spines are located on their waist.
The Big-headed Ants have two types of workers; the Major (soldier) and the Minor Workers. The Minor Workers are about half the size of the Major Workers.
Habitat and range: Big-headed Ants build their nests in soil present near foundations, living and moving in large colonies constantly. You can also find their nests in fences, firewood, leaf litter, etc. Although it is difficult to trace back their origin, today, these ants have infected many states in the United States as well as Australia.
Acrobat Ant (Crematogaster sp.)
Body length: 2.5-4 millimeters
The Acrobat Ants are a family of ants with a diverse geographical distribution worldwide, and about 420 recognized species residing in it. The most characteristic feature of these ants is the unique heart-shape of their gaster, which lends them the name of “Saint Valentine Ants”.
Appearance: Acrobat Ants have a medium-sized body with their head being much smaller than their gaster. Their body color varies from species to species; however, most of them have a black gaster. Even if some of them do not have a black gaster, their gaster is still darker in color than the other parts of their body. They don’t have long antennae, but their mandibles are sharp, allowing them to bite through tough things.
Habitat and range: As we’ve discussed earlier, these ants have a worldwide distribution.
Fun fact: All the Acrobat Ants have a tendency of raising their abdomens upwards whenever they sense a threat. Because of this peculiar habit, they are also known as “Cocktail Ants”.
Caribbean Crazy Ant (Nylanderia pubens)
Body length: 2.6-3 millimeters
Originally belonging to the genus of Paratrechina, the Caribbean Crazy Ants are a species of ants that are endemic to the Caribbean. Their species was moved to their current genus in 2010.
Appearance: The Caribbean Crazy Ants are called “crazy” because of their unpredictable and erratic movements. Their body color ranges from reddish-brown to golden brown, with a smooth and glossy body covered with thick hairs. Their gaster appears to be striped, while their long and clubless antennae are about twice as long as their head.
Habitat and range: Initially found only in the Caribbean region, these ants are an invasive species in most parts of the Americas, including the United States, Ecuador, Galapagos Islands, Saint Vincent, and the Grenadines, etc.
Tawny Crazy Ant (Nylanderia fulva)
Body length: 2-2.4 millimeters in workers; 2.7 millimeters in males; 5.3 millimeters in queens
The Tawny Crazy Ants are a species of ants that are endemic to South America. In Texas, these ants are commonly known as the “Raspberry Crazy Ants” because it was the exterminator Tom Raspberry, who realized about their increasing population in the state back in 2002.
Appearance: The Tawny Crazy Ants have a reddish-brown body, as their name suggests. Their body is covered with hairs, and has clubless antennae and an acidopore opening at the tip of the gaster. Their larvae are plump and hairy as well.
The Tawny Crazy Ants appear similar to their relatives, Caribbean Crazy Ants. The best way to distinguish between the two is by their males; the male Tawny Crazy Ants have more triangular reproductive organs with lesser hair on their body.
Habitat and range: Although the Tawny Crazy Ants are endemic to South America, they are an invasive species in most of North America. In the United States, their population is confirmed in the states of Texas, Louisiana, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, and Alabama.
These ants build their nests in high humidity areas, such as mulch, leaf litter, utility boxes, etc. They also tend to relocate their nests quite often, creating trouble for the pest controllers.
False Honey Ant (Prenolepis imparis)
Body length: 3-4.5 millimeters in workers; 3-4 millimeters in males; 7-8.5 milllimeters in queen
Also referred to as the “False Honeypot Ant” or “Winter Ant”, the False Honey Ants are a species of ant endemic to North America.
Appearance: The False Honey Ants have a long and broad head, which appears squarish in shape but has rounded corners. Their antennae are long as well, attached to the front of the head. Their body is shaped somewhat like a peanut, with their gaster appearing rounded and swollen by the food they store in it while foraging.
Both the worker as well as the male ants are roughly about the same size, only the males are black in color while the body color of the workers ranges from light to dark brown. The queens are significantly larger in size than the other two and have a reddish-brown body.
Habitat and range: The False Honey Ants are widespread in most parts of North America. In the United States, their range extends from the east to the western coast. In Florida, you can find them everywhere.
Fun fact: The False Honey Ants prefer to live in low-temperature areas, in almost freezing weather conditions, which is highly unusual for most ants. You can find these ants out and about only in fall and winters. During summer, they enter Aestivation, a hibernation-like state. This is why they have been named “Winter Ants”.
Ants are truly fascinating creatures; their surprising traits and characteristics make their size seem irrelevant. Although these insects are far too small to identify with our naked eyes, you’d be surprised by the details you can see if you use a magnifying glass. Upon closer examination, the real differences between different species are crystal clear. The next time you have an ant under your magnifying glass, make sure you know its name.