The seven most common species of ants in Georgia, Alabama and Florida are: Argentine ants, southern fire ants, little black ants, carpenter ants, odorous house ants, pavement ants, and the pharaoh ant. The most common of these is the Argentine ant.
Ants usually nest in the top 6 feet of soil when nesting in the ground. They are social insects and live in colonies which may have sub colonies. Ants have a division of labor among the colony members with 3 distinct castes: workers, soldiers and queens.
Ants are mainly nuisance pests but some are of health or economic significance. Some, like the southern fire ant, have a rather powerful sting. Other ants like the carpenter ant do some damage to structures by hollowing out a place in the wood for their nest.
Ants have a “pinched in” waist, while termites have a broad waist (the abdomen is broadly joined to the thorax). They use their mandibles for almost everything; biting, pricking, piercing, cutting off heads, building, sawing, gnawing, cutting, carrying, leaping and even bounding, but never for eating.
The smallest ant is 0.8 mm long, and the largest 1 5/8 inches.
Most ants are omnivorous which means they eat almost anything, including insects, honeydew, sweets, greases, oils, vegetables, and bread. Ants only send out 10-12% of the colony to forage for food. Once food is found they leave a pheromone trail to lead others to the food source. They have a very narrow esophagus that will not admit even chewed up particles of food. So the chewed up food is fed to the larvae. The larvae then digest and regurgitate it for the adults to eat.
The ant’s complete life cycle; egg , larva, pupae, adult, takes 6 weeks to 2 months or more depending on the season, temperature and species. The female normally mates only once in her lifetime but may live and lay fertilized eggs for many years. The worker ants are sterile.