Bigheaded Ants

Quick Stats

  • Latin Name: Pheidole megacephala
  • Size: Major workers are 1/7” long. Minor workers are 1/16” long.
  • Color: Major and minor workers range in color from a yellowish-brown to reddish-brown.
  • Shape: Major workers are recognizable by their large head. The antenna has 12 segments and a three-segment club. The body has two sections and is covered in long hair.
  • Found in: Florida and Hawaii
  • Overview: Bigheaded ants are part of the subfamily Myrmicinae. They live in colonies with major workers, minor workers and queens. Bigheaded ants were given their name due to the appearance of the major workers in the colony.

About Bigheaded Ants

These ants were originally discovered in 1793 on the island of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean. They have been transported to the United States and are most commonly found in Florida and Hawaii. Bigheaded ants prefer tropical or subtropical regions. They look for regions high in humidity and develop colonies in shaded areas.

Bigheaded ants enjoy sweet liquids, dead insects and seeds. Once inside your kitchen, they look for meats and proteins. The minor workers will work together to carry the food back to the colony. A major worker may also help with the transport depending on the particle size. Look for the food to be transferred back and forth from ant to ant.

Both major and minor workers are needed in a colony. The major workers are nicknamed for their large head while the minor workers are much smaller and more reddish brown. There are many more minor workers than major workers in a colony. The major workers protect the colony and use their large jaw to smash food. The minor workers role is to find food and raise the young. Each colony may have multiple queens. New queens will leave the colony to begin their own and lay approximately 300 eggs per month.

Facts About These Ants

This species disrupts agriculture by harvesting seeds and protecting insects that reduce the success of a crop. In urban areas, they will attempt to eat wires and cables underground. Researchers have noted that bigheaded ants are a risk for endangered species like sea turtles in Florida. Bigheaded ants are sometimes confused with termites because of the way they build tubes in the soil. They will leave soil deposits next to their colony and prefer to nest near the foundation of houses, at the base of trees or in gardens under rocks.

Signs of a Bigheaded Ant Infestation

Look for little piles of dirt in your house or near concrete slabs outside your house. These ants typically find entryways in the foundation of the home. Bigheaded ants do not sting and rarely bite. They are not known to attack humans unless their habitat is in danger, but their sting can be painful. Prevention is the first step in stopping an infestation. Make sure all cracks in your home are sealed. Be sure to look near doors and windows as well as in the basement. Call a pest professional to verify that ants are the issue and there are no signs of termites.

 

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