Bigheaded Ants

Facts, Identification & Control

Latin Name

Pheidole spp.

Appearance

There are several species of bigheaded ants that can be found throughout the United States. They are in the genus Pheidole. Depending on the species, their color ranges from yellow to dark reddish-brown.

Behavior, Diet & Habits

Every colony of bigheaded ants has two distinct types of workers: major workers and minor workers. The major workers have very large heads in relation to their bodies. Bigheaded ants get their name from the appearance of the major workers. The major workers serve as soldiers and defend the colony. The major workers also use their large jaws to crack seeds and other food for the other members of the colony. The minor workers are about half the size of the majors. The minor workers feed the colony, tend the immature ants and build the nest. There are many more minor workers than majors in every colony. These ants are not known for causing structural damage, but a few species are known as hosts of tapeworms.

Bigheaded ants nest in the ground under rocks or logs. They sometimes make a mound around the nest opening. It is common for these ants to nest under a slab or beside the foundation of a home. They often enter homes through cracks in the foundation. Although they do not usually nest inside of homes, they often forage inside homes for food. Most indoor problems with bigheaded ants begin outdoors.

Outdoors, these ants eat insects and honeydew. When they forage indoors, they prefer foods that are high in protein. These ants readily make trails between their nest and their food source. It is sometimes possible to follow these trails and find the nest.

Reproduction

Queens produce eggs which become workers and reproductives.  Colonies typically consist of multiple queens.

Signs of a Bigheaded Ant Infestation

As with most ants, the most common sign is the worker ants. They often are observed when foraging for food, which can bring them indoors into areas such as kitchens or even bathrooms.

More Information

To help prevent bigheaded ant problems, remove potential nesting places near the home. Firewood piles should be as far from the house as possible. Maintaining a gap between the building and any mulch or vegetation will help discourage these ants from invading the home.

Controlling these ants can involve several treatment methods. If part of the colony survives, the population can rebound. It is best to leave control to the pest control professional.