The White Footed Ant is so named because although mostly dark in color, it’s tarsi or feet are cream or whitish in appearance. Often confused with the ghost and odorous house ant the white footed ant is known to be in Florida, Hawaii and San Francisco but expected to soon be found in other places because of how they are transported in shipped landscaping and garden items. Accidentally introduced from Asia this once thought of nuisance is now becoming a major pest.
Large and Complex
These ants can exceed a million in colony size and share the same behavior as carpenter ants as in they have many satellite colonies. While great numbers are often found foraging outdoors this small 3 mm long ant has no trouble moving inside. The colony is made up of 1/2 sterile females known as workers and the other is comprised of ‘inter-castes’ which are wingless males and females capable of mating and producing eggs. Fond of scale, aphids and other honeydew producing insects, the white footed populations explode in plant and shrub areas where they ‘farm’ these creatures for their sweet secretions. Adults inside the nest that do not forage may feed on insect or other food bits ‘carried’ back to the nest but are also fed unfertilized eggs known as ‘trophic’ eggs. Workers inside the colony lay these non producing eggs solely as a food source for those ants that do not gather food outside the nest. The white footed ant does not bite, sting or cause structural damage but is often found around electrical components and have caused elements to burn out, trip and pose even a greater risk with electrical fire.
How They Travel
This ant still gets around much in the same way it was originally introduced from Asia. Colonies or satellite nests are mainly transported via landscaping materials and plants or by homeowners unaware of this ant as a stowaway in their articles they are transporting. The white footed ant can quickly spread out in the new location and begin building its population. Colonies replicate by either mating flights or a process of budding where a queen inside the nest leaves taking a good portion of worker ants with her. A new nest site is selected and the cycle repeats.
How Best To Identify The White Footed Ant
As stated the white or cream colored feet and legs are your best way of identifying this small ant but their antenna also share this feature. Ghost ants are most often confused with the white footed ant because their gaster (hind end) and back legs are milky white but the rest of their bodies dark brown. It is easy to confuse the two while they are quickly moving about.White footed ants tend to run in circles when disturbed but not as fast as crazy ants. Their abdomen when viewed from above has 5 distinct segments but your best key will be their “white feet” for identification.
Treatment and Elimination
The white footed ant does not share ingested foods as other ants do via regurgitation. This renders any baiting efforts almost completely useless on there own although you will attract large numbers to placements of Terro or other sweet baits. The large population of white footed ants and reproduction rate make elimination a very difficult task. Before treatment you should note areas of high activity and/or locate as many nests as possible. Reducing or eliminating aphids on shrubbery’s and trimming any plantings that touch the structure will be most helpful.
Broadcast treatments of granules such as Talstar PL on landscaped or areas of known trails will help to reduce foraging ants. Sprays such as Termidor SC will also work because they are non repellent and works its way back to the nest on the cuticle of exposed ants. Ants communicating or grooming one another will share the product and large numbers should crash. Without the all important sharing of food however, Termidor treatments are somewhat limited. Certain restrictions apply to frequency, use and areas of application for Termidor so any surviving members will quickly build back up. Supplement treatments with Arlion (also a non repellent) may be helpful. One strategy may be to ‘recruit’ as many ants as possible to predetermined zones using baits. Using your non repellent in these areas may then be enhanced by the larger numbers coming in contact. It is most often recommended to seek the aid of a professional exterminator when dealing with the white footed ant.