If you live in the Southeastern United States, you’re well acquainted with bugs. Fire ants, wasps, hornets, fleas, ticks, and spiders are just some of the threats you might face the moment you step out of the house. And if for some reason you’re keeping track of all the potentially dangerous arthropods on your yard, don’t forget the Twig Ant to that list.
You may not have heard of this ant before, but if you live anywhere from Texas to Florida, odds are you’ve seen this ant before. Children climbing trees and homeowner trimming their hedges are particularly likely to have had a run-in with this ant before. They spend most of their time on trees and bushes and when disturbed or threatened they will quickly sting and dart off, often without their victim ever knowing what hit them. No doubt, wasps are often blamed for the pain their ant cousins inflict.
Elongated Twig Ant in Stuart, Florida
The Elongated Twig Ant (Pseudomyrmex Gracilisis) a relatively large, but slender ant native to the South Eastern United States and Mexico. They are most common in the Gulf Coast States.
The Twig Ant is dramatically colored but ant standards. A blackhead and abdomen (rear portion of its body), with an orange face, legs, and thorax (middle portion). Though similarly colored, the black and orange Twig ant is easily distinguishable from the much larger and more robust Velvet Ant (Dasymutilla occidentalis) or Cow Killer Ant, which is, in fact, a species of wasp. The Twig Ant or Oak Tree Ant as it is sometimes called also has a very distinct narrowing of its body between the thorax and the abdomen, more characteristic of a wasp than an ant.
Beyond its looks, the Twig Ant has several other unique qualities.
- While it is a common mistake to label these ants as “solitary ants” – all ants live in colonies – they are solitary hunters. Most ants hunt and forage either by scavenging a large area for already dead insects and edible organic matter or by overwhelming potential prey with large numbers. The Elongated Twig Ant, however, hunts and scavenges individually.
- Another differentiating characteristic of the “Tree Ant” is they, like fire ants, retain the wasp-like stinger from their common ancestral past.
- Finally, the Twig Ant generally prefers to nest in trees and does not dig out nesting sites in the ground. Instead preferring the crotch of an oak tree or to hollow out a hole in a rotten branch.
Twig Ants Stings!
Ants and bees evolved from a common ancestor most closely resembling a modern Mud Dauber (Sceliphron caementarium). This divergence occurred roughly 150 million years ago. In the time since then, most ants have lost their ability to sting. The “Oak Tree Ant” has not. While all ants can at times bite, the Twig Ant is a relatively rare species that still retains a poisonous sting, just like a wasp. Many South Floridians trimming their trees or hedges on a Saturday morning has learned this evolutionary fact the hard way.
Because the Twig Ant arboreal – meaning it lives in trees – it typically only comes into conflict with humans during the activities with vegetation. Trimming trees and brush or building a tree house, will quickly make you familiar with these unusual ants, and their painful sting.
How to get rid of Twig Ants
Conventional pest control spraying can be effective at eliminating Twig Ants around a home. This may, however, be difficult with product available over the counter, however, because these products are typically designed to be applied in small doses. Even products meant to be applied to the whole yard, such as granular insecticide may not produce great results because Twig Ants spend so much of their time on trees and shrubs. A professional pest control company equipped to spray large areas including up into foliage shouldn’t have any trouble solving and tree ant issue.
Granular baits, as opposed to a granular insecticide, may also work well and is also an approach a homeowner is capable of undertaking themselves. This method is unlikely to produce the same complete elimination of Twig Ants that a professional pest control spray will, but maybe enough to clear the property for a short time in preparation for a party or semi-annual tree trimming.
Finally, there are natural products that can be effective in the control of Elongated Twig Ants. This approach will likely require professional help, however. When using natural or organic pest control products, such as essential oils, the large widespread application is key to getting any bang for your buck. A 12oz bottle of spray will not provide the desired results.
Twig Ants Play a Role in their Environment
Though their sting is painful Tree Ants can actually be beneficial to gardens and plants. Their predatory nature and tenacious defense of their nesting sites mean they will defend plants from damaging caterpillars.
They aren’t all good, however. The Twig Ant will actually tend to and defend certain parasitic sap-sucking insects that feed on plants such as Aphids and Scale. They do this because the black, sooty looking waste they produce, often referred to as honeydew or sooty mold, is a food source for them. Not all plants easily succumb to parasitic insects such as scale and aphids, unfortunately, though many of the most common ornamental plants in South Florida landscapes are highly prone to sap sucking type insects. Ixora, Hibiscus, Gardenia, and Croton all are easily affected by these types of garden pests and the Tree Ant will eagerly exacerbate the problem. Ghost Ants, too, will tend to and protect aphids and scale to harvest their honeydew.
The Elongated Twig Ant is a common pest on the Treasure Coast and Green Pest Services is a skill and affordable pest control service with local knowledge and experience. If you would like to get rid of ants around your home call a local exterminator service near you like Green Pest Services, LLC.
Red Velvet Ant in Fort Pierce
If you are having trouble with Twig Ants, or any other pest control issue in Port Saint Lucie, Stuart, Palm City, or Vero Beach Florida, give Green Pest Services a call at (772) 528-5839. Or check out our Services page for more information.