The Small Honey ant (Prenolepis imparis) gets its common name from the fact that it’s small and it loves honey. That’s really all there is to it. In fact, the Small Honey ant loves honey so much that it often gorges itself on honey until its abdomen swells up. When a Small Honey ant eats its fill of honey, you can often actually see the honey inside their engorged abdomens. Small Honey ants are also known as “Winter ants,” because they tolerate cold weather very well. They live throughout the central and eastern US.
APPEARANCE AND BEHAVIOR
Worker ants are 1/8″ long and light to dark brown. Their abdomens tend to be darker than their bodies. Small Honey ant bodies are smooth and shiny, with numerous hair-like setae dispersed over it. The thorax is slender, with an uneven profile and one-segmented waist. They don’t sting or bite.
Small Honey ants nest deep in the soil, in shady, moist areas. Occasionally they may nest under objects such as stones. Small Honey ant nests have a single central opening, surrounded by a somewhat circular crater of characteristic earthen pellets. The number of queens in a Small Honey ant colony varies from 1 to 6. It takes around 70 to 90 days for these ants to develop from eggs into adults. Swarming takes place from March to April.
Most Small Honey ant mating occurs on the ground. Inseminated females seek a crevice in the ground to start a new nest. Brood (larvae) and pupae are present into the autumn, but only the adults overwinter. During winter, workers called “repletes” gorge themselves with honey until their abdomens become greatly distended. Then, they cling to the walls or ceilings of their nests and become dormant. When the nest becomes desperate over the winter, repletes can discharge this honey as a food source.
Small Honey ants sometimes nest in soil and occasionally swarm indoors during the winter and early spring months. Small Honey ants are very cold tolerant, more so than any other structural-infesting species. Workers forage at night, during cool or cloudy days, and during rain. Foraging starts with temperatures just above freezing and peaks with temperatures of 45 to 70° F. In midsummer, they sometimes aestivate (go dormant) for 1 to 2 months during the hottest weather. They prefer high relative humidity when foraging.
SMALL HONEY ANT CONTROL AND PREVENTION
It is wise to quickly clean up food (including pet food) and beverage spills from floors, countertops, porches and decks to discourage foraging by Small Honey ants indoors and near buildings. Food items should be stored in airtight containers, if possible. Seal holes in walls, sills, and door frames with caulk, steel wool, or copper gauze. Trim back tree and shrub branches that are in contact with the structure to prevent ants and other pests from bridging.
PROFESSIONAL PEST CONTROL
Plunkett’s starts our Small Honey ant control with a thorough inspection. If we workers inside a structure, then our specialist will follow their trail back to their nests. Once we’ve tracked down the nests, we strategically place sweet liquid or gel ant baits nearby to entice the Small Honey ants into taking them back into the colonies. We may also inject nests with high-pressure aerosol directly using a 4-way probe.
Nest drenching can work, but more than one treatment is usually necessary for deeper nests. Baiting with sweet baits alone can eliminate colonies. We can also apply a residual liquid insecticide barrier around your home for long-term prevention. If you need a Small Honey ant infestation taken care of completely and permanently, Plunkett’s is the service to call.