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Florida Big Red Ants | Port St. Lucie, Delray Beach

Ever come across those big, reddish ants hanging out in your Florida garden or making themselves at home indoors? Well, meet the Florida big red ants – a term that covers a bunch of ant species. Now, regardless of which ant gang they belong to, these red ants can be a real headache for homeowners.

In this read, we're delving into the world of these formidable red ants, getting down to why they're a pest concern and, most importantly, how to kick them out so your home can stay cozy and ant-free. Let's tackle this ant situation together!

Key Takeaways

  • Florida big red ants, like Florida carpenter ants and bigheaded ants, can be significant pests due to their destructive habits and large colonies.

  • Red imported fire ants (RIFA) and native fire ants are smaller but notorious for their painful stings and rapid colony expansion.

  • For effective control of these ants, professional pest control services offer the most reliable solutions.

Big and Red Ant Species

There are a few species of ants that people can be referring to when they say big and red, so let's discuss a few of the common ants that fit the bill.

Florida carpenter ants

Close up shot of a red carpenter ant

Florida carpenter ants, known for their impressive size and distinct coloration, are a common sight in the state, often mistaken for winged termites due to their similar size. Unlike termites, however, these ants play a different role in the ecosystem and pose unique challenges to homeowners.

Appearance and life cycle

The Florida carpenter ant, among the largest ants in the region, is a sight to behold. Adult ants can measure up to 20 mm, especially the winged females, known as alates. Their dark, often black or dark brown bodies contrast with lighter colored antennae and legs. The winged females are particularly striking during their nuptial flights when they are most visible.

Unlike fire ants and other stinging species, Florida carpenter ants don't have stingers but are equipped with strong mandibles. They can bite if provoked and may spray formic acid as a defense mechanism, causing discomfort but are generally not harmful to humans.

The life cycle of the Florida carpenter ant is marked by distinct phases, including the development of winged alates that leave their parent colony to mate and establish new colonies. After mating, the male typically dies, and the fertilized female sheds her wings and seeks a suitable nesting site to lay her eggs.

The development from egg to adult can vary depending on environmental conditions but generally includes stages as larvae and pupae. Worker ants, which emerge from the pupal stage, take on the responsibilities of foraging, nest maintenance, and caring for the young.

A single colony can exist for several years, with the queen laying thousands of eggs during her lifetime.


Ideal habitats for Florida carpenter ants include moist or rotten wood, making the humid environment of Florida perfect for them. They are especially prone to invade structures where wood has been softened by moisture or decay.

These ants are commonly found in dead tree limbs, stumps, logs, and even within wooden parts of buildings, including frames, doors, and windowsills.


While often associated with wood due to their nesting habits, Florida carpenter ants do not eat wood. Instead, their diet is diverse, including proteins and sweet substances.

Carpenter ants in Florida are known to feed on living and dead insects, honeydew produced by aphids, nectar, fruits, and even scraps of human food. Looking for an adequate food source can lead them to homes, especially places where sweets or proteins are often left unattended.

Pest status

The main concern with Florida carpenter ants lies in their nesting habits. As they carve out galleries in wood for their nests, they can cause significant structural damage over time. This is particularly problematic in homes and other buildings where undetected infestations can lead to costly repairs.

Their presence often indicates moisture problems or decay in wooden structures, necessitating both pest control and home maintenance solutions.

Red imported fire ants (RIFA)

red imported fire ants on a log

Red imported fire ants (RIFA) are a notorious invasive species that originated from South America.

Appearance and life cycle

Red imported fire ants (RIFA) stand out with their distinct reddish-brown coloration, making them easily recognizable among other ant species. Typically measuring between 1/8 to 3/8 inches, these ants are smaller than Florida carpenter ants but are known for their formidable presence due to their aggressive behavior.

The life cycle of RIFAs involves a complete metamorphosis, starting from egg to larva, then pupa, and finally to the adult stage. This cycle allows for rapid population growth, with the colony expanding swiftly under favorable conditions. The reproductive members of the colony, including winged males and females, participate in mating flights, leading to the formation of new colonies.


Red imported fire ants are incredibly adaptable, thriving in a range of environments from rural agricultural areas to urban landscapes. They prefer sunny conditions and are often found constructing their iconic mounds in open fields, lawns, and parks. Their ability to adapt to different environments makes them a pervasive pest across various regions.


These ants have an omnivorous diet, feeding on proteins, sugars, and fats. They can hunt small animals and insects and are also drawn to sweet substances and greasy foods. This diverse diet contributes to their survival in various settings, from natural landscapes to human-dominated areas.

Pest status

RIFAs are considered a significant pest due to their aggressive nature and painful stings. Their ability to rapidly reproduce and form large colonies makes them a challenge to control. Additionally, they can cause damage to crops, electrical equipment, and can even pose a health risk to humans and pets due to their venomous stings.

Native fire ants

A native fire ant on grass

Florida's native fire ants, often unnoticed next to their more notorious cousins, the RIFAs, still play a significant role in the local ecosystem and can be a concern in residential areas.

Appearance and life cycle

The native fire ant is typically smaller than its invasive counterpart, RIFA, measuring about 3 to 8 mm. They exhibit a color gradient from orange to reddish-brown, making them somewhat difficult to distinguish from RIFAs. However, their slightly smaller size and coloration can be key distinguishing factors.

Like many ant species, native fire ants undergo a complete metamorphosis, developing from eggs to larvae, pupae, and finally, adult ants. This life cycle allows for a steady growth of the colony, with new generations replacing older ones. The reproductive phase involves winged males and females leaving the nest to mate and establish new colonies.


These ants are commonly found in natural settings like fields, forests, and grassy areas. They prefer outdoor environments and are less likely to invade homes compared to RIFAs. Their nests are often located in open, sunny spots where they can build their characteristic mounds.


Native fire ants have an omnivorous diet, feeding on a variety of food sources. This includes small insects, seeds, and sometimes even sweet substances. Their diverse diet allows them to adapt to different environments and sustain their colonies effectively.

Pest status

Although less aggressive and invasive than RIFAs, native fire ants can still be a concern for homeowners and outdoor enthusiasts. Their stings can cause pain and irritation, especially in areas with large ant populations. Their presence in lawns and gardens can be a nuisance, and they can occasionally venture indoors in search of food.

Bigheaded ants

Bigheaded ant soldier and workers

Bigheaded ants, another species of large red ants in Florida, are intriguing creatures with unique characteristics that set them apart in the ant world.

Appearance and life cycle

Bigheaded ants are known for the striking difference in size between their major (soldier) and minor (worker) ants. The major workers have disproportionately large heads compared to their bodies, a feature that gives this species its name.

They are typically light brown to dark reddish-brown in color. Their size can vary, with minor workers being smaller, around 2-3 mm long, and the majors, with their prominent heads, measuring up to 4 mm. This physical distinction is key to their social structure and division of labor within the colony.

The life cycle of bigheaded ants is characterized by their ability to quickly expand their colonies. This is primarily due to the presence of multiple queens within a single colony, a trait that allows them to increase their numbers rapidly.

The queens lay eggs that develop into larvae and then pupate before emerging as adult ants. This process can take several weeks to months, depending on environmental conditions.

The presence of multiple queens also enables the colony to split and form new colonies easily, a process known as budding, which helps them spread to new areas.


Bigheaded ants typically establish their nests in soil. They prefer nesting in open or covered ground, often under objects like logs, stones, or bricks.

In urban areas, these ants can adapt to nest in lawns, gardens, potted plants, and even under pavement cracks. Their ability to live in a variety of habitats makes them a common sight in both rural and urban Florida settings.


Bigheaded ants have a diverse diet, which includes seeds, honeydew, insects, and other small invertebrates. They are known for their scavenging behavior and are often seen trailing back to their nest carrying food particles.

Their diet can vary seasonally, and they are particularly attracted to sweet substances and protein-rich foods, which often leads them into human dwellings in search of food.

Pest status

While bigheaded ants do not typically cause structural damage like carpenter ants, they can still be a significant nuisance in homes and gardens. Due to their large colony size and foraging behavior, they can invade homes in search of food, leading to infestations.

Additionally, their nesting habits can disrupt the soil in gardens and lawns, affecting the health of plants. While they are not aggressive or known to bite humans, their presence in large numbers can be bothersome.

Keeping Your Home Safe from Red Ants

woman cleaning up spilled dog food to stop ants and other insects from moving in

Dealing with Florida's big red ants requires a combination of vigilance and proactive measures. Here's how you can keep these pesky insects at bay:

  • Regularly inspect for nests: One of the first steps in ant control is to regularly check your property for ant nests. Look for mounds or trails, especially in areas like the garden, along the driveway, or near the foundation of your home.

  • Seal entry points: To prevent ants from entering your home, it's crucial to seal any potential entry points. This includes small cracks and crevices in the walls, gaps around windows and doors, and openings where pipes and wires enter your home.

  • Remove attractants: Reducing the availability of food and water can provide significant ant control. Ensure that food crumbs are cleaned up promptly, store food in airtight containers, and fix any leaky pipes or faucets.

  • Professional pest control services: For infestations that are difficult to manage or recurrent, it’s advisable to seek professional help. Southeast Florida Pest Control, serving areas like Port St. Lucie and Delray Beach, offers expert solutions to effectively manage ant infestations. Our team is equipped to deal with various types of ants, ensuring your home remains safe and comfortable.

Take the Sting Out of Your Ant Problems

If you're tired of the relentless march of red ants (and other ants) in your Florida home, it's time to call in the cavalry. Southeast Florida Pest Control is your trusted ally in the battle against these invasive pests. We don't just treat the symptoms. We target the source using eco-friendly solutions so that your home becomes a no-go zone for ants.

Call us today at 855-507-0857 for a FREE QUOTE.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the very large red ants in Florida?

The very large red ants are typically Florida carpenter ants. They are among the largest ant species in the state and are known for their reddish-black coloration.

Are Florida fire ants poisonous?

Florida fire ants, such as the red imported fire ant (RIFA), are not poisonous but they do have a venomous sting. Their stings can cause pain, swelling, and, in some cases, allergic reactions in humans.

What is the biggest ant in Florida?

The biggest ant in Florida is the Florida carpenter ant, which can reach up to 20 mm in length, especially the winged females.

What kills Florida red ants?

To control Florida red ants, methods such as baiting, boiling water, diatomaceous earth, and pest control services can be effective. For severe infestations, professional pest control services are recommended for safe and effective eradication. Call us at 855-507-0857 for a FREE QUOTE.

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