White Footed Ants
White Footed Ant Scientific Name: Technomyrmex difficilis
All about the White Footed Ant
Remember that kitten you had as a kid that had cute little white feet and you adoringly named it “Socks?" Well you probably will not be naming the White Footed ant any time soon and it certainly isn’t as cuddly as your old kitty Socks, but it does have some resemblance. The White Footed ant gets its name from its dark body (usually dark brown to black) and contrastingly white “feet." In reality, the white parts of this ant are the lower parts of its legs, the tarsi. Its petiole has one knobby node and the antennae are segmented into twelve parts. The White Footed ant may be confused with the Argentine ants or Crazy ants, but neither of these species have white feet. The White Footed ant is between one tenth and one eighth of an inch long.
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Where does the White Footed ant live, and what does it eat?
First described in Indonesia, this species was accidentally introduced to the states in the eighties. It is now found in significant numbers in Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Louisiana, South Carolina, and the West Indies.
Colonies are extremely large, with some colonies made up of as many as half their population of reproductive females. Several nests may be interconnected forming megacolonies of ants. Swarms of White Footed ants are common during the summer months when reproductive females are in search of a mate; she may leave if her colony has become overpopulated. The White Footed ant will nest just about anywhere, but usually at or above ground level. Nests outside may be found under leaves, loose soil, and other debris, in tree holes, or in loose mulch. The White Footed ant may also nest indoors in attics or voids in walls or foundations.
Most strongly attracted to anything sweet, the White Footed ant has a similar diet to other species of ants. It feeds on dead insects and honeydew from insects that consume sap (such as aphids, mealybugs, or whiteflies). The White Footed ant is known to venture indoors in search of food and may especially be seen in the kitchen and bathroom. These ants can be spotted by their heavy trails leading from food sources.
How long will the typical White Footed ant live?
Mating occurs when the winged queen ants fly away to start a new colony. Both queen and male White Footed ants “swarm" around entrances to other colonies until fertilization takes place. Once it does, the fertilized queen will make her own nest and lay her eggs. Worker ants often carry newly fertilized larvae into new colonies, a process known as “budding." The White Footed ant has a rapid pupation cycle, allowing colony numbers to rise rapidly. In fact, some White Footed ant colonies contain millions of individuals. The huge numbers of the White Footed ant colonies make this species particularly difficult to control. While pupating, the ant larvae are cared for and fed by the workers of the colony. Both the queen and male White Footed ants bear wings, but the female will shed her wings after mating and the male dies soon after.
White Footed Ants and Humans
The main problem with White Footed ants and humans is that once they enter a structure in search of food they are very difficult to remove. The enormous colonies and versatility of the White Footed ant make them a serious nuisance.
The White Footed ant doesn’t typically sting or bite, and doesn’t do any considerable structural damage with its nests, but if threatened it may bite in defense.
How are White Footed ant bites treated?
If the White Footed ant does bite, it is typically not painful and does not exhibit any symptoms. If symptoms do occur, however, positive identification of the species should be done immediately. Apply an antibiotic ointment and ice to the affected area.
The White Footed ant is considered a very serious pest. Nests are usually unobtrusive but when built indoors are extreme annoyances. Use of do-it-yourself pesticides may be all it takes to get rid of a small White Footed ant infestation, but if it has become too big of a problem for you to handle on your own, consider professional help.