Small Honey Ants

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small honey ants inside a home in Reston VA

 

Small (False) Honey Ants

The small honey ant, also known as the false honey ant or the winter ant, can be found throughout Virginia, Maryland, and Washington DC, as well as the rest of the United States, southern Canada, and parts of Mexico. These ants are active in cool temperatures, foraging even at temperatures just a few degrees above freezing. Their mating flights take place early in the spring, usually March to April. Newly mated queens establish nests individually, and mature colonies rarely exceed a few thousand individuals in the northern states, though in the southern states there can be as many as 10,000 individuals, and average more than 4 queens per nest.

Small honey ant workers forage during the cooler months of the winter and early spring, feeding newly emerged adults whose gasters become distended with fat reserves (corpulent workers). Foraging ceases during the warm months, and queens within a colony do not lay eggs until late summer. Larvae that hatch from these eggs are fed with the stored fat from the corpulent workers. When above ground foraging resumes in the winter, the formerly corpulent workers become foragers and the new adults become the next set of fat storing workers.

Small honey ants nest in damp soil in shady places, seldom under stones or other objects, and build a crater of small soil pellets surrounding a single entrance. Workers commonly invade houses to forage, and occasionally to nest. They will also nest beneath slab foundations and enter buildings through expansion joints or cracks.

Small honey ant workers feed upon various sorts of sugary liquids derived directly from plant sources or from aphids. They also feed on the juices of dead earthworms. They frequently assume a semi-replete condition because of the amount of liquid taken into the crop. As household pests, they feed on all varieties of sweets, but also on bread and meat.

Small honey ant workers are monomorphic, and 2 to 4 mm long. Their body color varies from light to dark brown, appears shiny, and their bodies are covered with lots of short, stout hairs. They have a one-segmented pedicel. Their antennae are 12-segmented, without a club. When viewed from above, the thorax is shaped like an hourglass, and the gaster is triangular, wider than the head.

 

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