Big Headed Ants, Fire Ants, and Termites in Port St Lucie & Stuart FL
Unfortunately for the Treasure Coast, Big Headed Ants have become a major problem from Stuart to Vero in recent years. This invasive species of ant was rarely found in the St. Lucie or Martin County area as recently as 10 years ago. Today, however, from St Lucie West to Rio and Palm City, Big Headed Ant infestations are becoming increasingly common. Their large and expansive colonies consume resources at such a rate that there are reports of the BHA displacing fire ants in the areas in which they are found. Though no one will miss Fire Ants in their yard, Big Headed Ants are themselves a pernicious pest. Evidence of Termites, Ants & Termites Identification.
Identifying a Big-Headed Ant
Though a seasoned pest control professional should be able to identify the BHA immediately. Most homeowners and do-it-yourself exterminators confronted with this species will find them difficult to control if misidentified.
The most common misidentification of the BHA is to confuse them with the Red Imported Fire Ant. The RIFA is probably the species of ant most feared around South Florida homes. These highly aggressive ants attack and swarm any animal that disturbs their nest – including humans. Possessing the ability to both bite and sting, stepping in a fire ant nest is a mistake not soon forgotten. Fire Ants and Big-Headed Ants, as well as their nests, can appear very similar to the untrained eye, but here are a few ways to tell them apart:
Their nests, and their behavior defending them.
During the rainy season, Fire Ants tend to build large and relatively tall mounds. They do this to elevate their eggs away from the water table and to achieve the right level of moisture for their development. Big Headed Ants do not exhibit this same behavior in such dramatic fashion. During Florida’s dry winter months, however, the nests of these ants can appear much more similar. Fire Ants tend to retreat deeper into the ground and no longer build such large protruding mounds above ground.
Monomorphic, Dimorphic, and Polymorphic.
These words may be a mouthful but their meaning is simple. Some species of ant are all the same size (monomorphic) an example of a monomorphic ant would Ghost Ant workers and the Elongated Twig Ant. While Polymorphic ants come in a variety of sizes. Fire Ants and Carpenter Ants are a couple of examples. The Big-Headed Ant splits the differences and is Dimorphic, with the vast majority of the colony being the same size with the occasional soldier having an enlarged head (thus their name). Though individuals in any given colony will largely be the same size, the size of the ants themselves can vary from colony to colony. This can make identification more difficult, even for profession exterminators. Despite variation in size from one colony to another, the contrast with Fire Ants is stark if you know what to look for. A disturbed Fire Ant bed will immediately exhibit a host of differently sized ants. With the BGH a relatively small number of individuals will exhibit the enlarged head.
Most dramatically, the differences between BHAs and Fire Ants is their behavior. Big Headed ants are fairly docile when disturbed. Stepping or even stomping on the removed dirt above a nest may not exhibit a response at all. Any native to the Southeast United States can tell you the Red Imported Fire Ant would respond far more aggressively. Though this is an effective way to identify which ant you dealing with, extreme caution should be exercised when disturbing a potential Fire Ant bed, and it is not recommended. Better to call Green Pest Services and have the pros take care of it.
Confusion with Termites
It may seem that differentiating between ants and termites would be a relatively simple task, and in most cases that is true. Big Headed Ants, however, exhibit several unique behaviors that can often leave homeowners in a panic, fearing their walls are being devoured from the inside out. Port St Lucie, Stuart,
Palm City, and Jensen Beach all host multiple species of termite as well as Big Headed Ants. This overlap in range means most people have encountered some signs of one or the other and so have their friends. Unfortunately, this can also lead to rumors, old wive's tales, and confusion as to what evidence is being seen and to what pest it should be attributed to.
- Big Headed Ants build mud tubes. This is a behavior normally attributed to Subterranean Termites. Species of termite that generally live underground, known as Subterranean Termites, need high levels of humidity and are sensitive to sunlight. For this reason, they construct tubes of dirt and feces for them to travel through when they wish to move above ground – generally for food. In a behavior highly unusual to ants, Big Headed Ants construct similar structures. Besides breaking open the tubes to see what creatures are inside, the material used to build the mud tubes can also offer clues as to what pest built them. Termite mud tubes will be generally uniform in color and with little variation in the material the tubes are made of. Mud tubes created by BHAs will have great variation in the material used. Dirt, along with bits of sticks, leaves, and other organic material will be clearly visible in the mud tubes of Big Headed Ants.
- Sometimes Termite feces or “pellets” are confused for “Termite Dirt”. Drywood termites, unlike Subterranean termites, do not need access to the soil to service. They do however leave evidence of their presence in the form of termite pellets that are often described as appearing to be a pile of dirt or coffee grounds. This evidence of termites is, in fact, termite droppings. Very small pellets of termite feces typically matching the color of the wood their feeding on. The confusion with ants occurs because several species of ant, including Big -Headed Ants and Fire Ants will bring dirt into homes as they attempt to build a nest inside the walls of a home. Differentiating between what is just dirt and what is termite droppings can be difficult. Green Pest Services recommends calling a pest control service near you in St Lucie or Martin county for an expert diagnosis.
Finally, do I need a pest control service for Termites or Ants and can they be treated in an Organic or Natural way?
The short answer is it depends on which pest you’re dealing with. In the case of termites, it's critical to have a professional exterminator definitively identify that they are, in fact, termites and what variety they are. Once that diagnosis takes place, an appropriate solution can be prescribed. Unfortunately, organic or natural treatments for termites after they have infested a home are very limited. There is, however, mineral based (boric acid and similar products) options during the construction process that can effectively prevent termite infestations. These preventative termite treatments are highly recommended for new construction in Port Saint Lucie and Stuart Florida.
As for ants, proper identification is key to solving a problem, therefore pest control companies in your area would be helpful. There are natural or organic options for controlling ants, primarily mineral baits and essential-oil based spray applications.