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FORMICA ANTS in the Landscape

Stephen Bambara, Extension Entomologist

CAUTION: This information was developed for North Carolina and may not apply to other areas.

Formica integra, Formica subsericea & Formica exectoides Formicidae, (fusca group) HYMENOPTERA

General Information

Formica (FORM' ic a) ants produce a loose mound that might slightly resemble that of a fire ant mound, but these ants are quite large in comparison to small fire ants. These three species tend to build in the forest edge or at the interface between wooded and open areas which gives them a lot of interaction in the sprawling suburbs.  Mounds and colonies can become huge over many years, if undisturbed.

 

integra antFormica integra is sometimes loosely referred to as one of the "red wood ants".  Unfortunately, there is no common name for this ant. Formica integra is a little smaller than a carpenter ant.  It is a red two-tone color with the abdomenal area often much darker.  Eyes are hairless. It feeds heavily on arthropods and might be considered beneficial within the forest when it suppresses other tree pests.  It is known to feed on sawfly larvae, Ips bark beetles, termites, honey bees, and other arthropods. It also tends aphids, psyllids and scale insects for carbohydrates in honeydew.  It occurs across most of the eastern US. Nests may have multiple queens and can produce extremely large populations.  Mounds are often reported against the base of a tree or stump with leaf litter and debris incorporated. The nest system can also branch out and cover an acre or more. On occasion, it can become quite dominant in the landscape and be considered a nuisance.  It has been observed moving in troops from one nest location, 30 yards away to a new location.


ants attacking a grubFormica subsericea is a second common Formica species. This ant is all black and has also been observed feeding on other insects.  It likes the same open wooded areas and has loose mounds.  It is primarily active during the day and will forage far from its nest. Winged alates are produced in the spring. These ants are also somewhat nomadic. They may also tend honeydew producing insects, even including treehoppers.

 


allegheny mound ant moundFormica exectoides, a third species, and commonly known as the Allegheny mound ant, occupies most of the country east of the Mississipppi River valley. If undisturbed, this ant may contruct large mounds and will kill any vegetation near the mound by attacking the roots and using its formic acid.  This ant will also tend aphids and scale insects in nearby trees and shrubs for their sugary honeydew.  Color is variable between reddish to black, or both. The head and thorax tend to be reddish, while the legs and abdomen tend to be more black.

 


Management

Just because there are ants in the yard, does not mean they need to be eliminated. Ants serve a useful role in the ecosystem. Frequent disruption of a mound by digging or flooding with a garden hose may not kill the colony, but could cause the mound to relocate to a less objectionable location. If you decide that you need to control any of these ants, Sevin or Orthene are two possible choices that may be used for control directly on the mound. For Formica integra located next to a structure, a gel bait containing fipronil may be used.  Bait stations should be used in places where pets may have access. If you wish to use a bait, it should be one listed for sweet-loving ants and tested for attractiveness. Fire ant baits will not be attractive to these ants.  Aloft™ is a good general nuisance ant product for professionals. For additional chemical choices, see the NC Ag. Chemicals manual.

Useful links:
-Allegheny Mound Ant in Rhode Island and Kentucky
-Formica integra mound construction and habitat
-AntWeb

Formica integra (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) 1. Habitat, Nest Construction, Polygyny, and Biometry
W. J. Kloft, R. C. Wilkinson, W. H. Whitcomb, E. S. Kloft. The Florida Entomologist. Vol. 56, No. 2 (Jun., 1973), pp. 67-76


Other Resources

For assistance with a specific problem, contact your local North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service personnel.

Distributed in furtherance of the Acts of Congress of May 8 and June 30, 1914. Employment and program opportunities are offered to all people regardless of race, color, national origin, sex, age, or disability. North Carolina State University at Raleigh, North Carolina A&T State University, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and local governments cooperating.

Recommendations for the use of chemicals are included in this publication as a convenience to the reader. The use of brand names and any mention or listing of commercial products or services in this publication does not imply endorsement by the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service nor discrimination against similar products or services not mentioned. Individuals who use chemicals are responsible for ensuring that the intended use complies with current regulations and conforms to the product label. Be sure to obtain current information about usage and examine a current product label before applying any chemical. For assistance contact an agent of North Carolina Cooperative Extension in your county.

© 2007 NC Cooperative Extension


Prepared by: Stephen Bambara, Extension Specialist. Formica integra photo by AntWeb. Allegheny Mound Ant photo by Heidi Boyle. Formica subsericea photos by S. Bambara.

ENT/ort-142 June, 2007
Web page last reviewed January, 2011 by the webperson.