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Thief Ants Are Common Indoor Pests That Are Known To Contaminate Stored Foods Within Homes

Solenopsis molesta, more commonly known as the “thief ant,” is one of the most commonly managed fly pests of homes, and they can be found in every state. A few ants that belong to the Solenopsis genus are the most venomous and medically significant ant species in the US. These dangerous ants include red-imported fire ants, black-imported fire ants, southern fire ants, and tropical fire ants. Although thief ants also belong to the Solenopsis genus, they are not considered dangerous, but they are a tremendous nuisance when they invade homes. Thief ant workers often invade homes to seek out food sources, particularly meat products.

In the natural environment, thief ants live in fields and meadows, but colonies are quite common in urban and suburban areas as well. Thief ants build nests in the ground soil, and one colony can establish several nesting sites that are interconnected by tunnels excavated by workers. Unfortunately, these ants can also establish nests within homes, usually in wall voids, base­ments, under base­boards, or in foun­da­tions. Thief ants feed on insects, honeydew, and seeds, but in urban and suburban areas, these ants regularly seek out food sources within homes. In homes, thief ants consume a variety of human foods, such as meats, vegetables, fruits, breads, sweets, an­i­mal fat, and dairy prod­ucts. Thief ants are commonly referred to as “grease ants” due to their habit of feeding on grease within homes.

Thief ants invade homes at a consistent rate throughout the spring, summer and fall seasons in Arizona, and they can be hard to keep out due to their excessively small size. Thief ant workers that forage within homes are between 1 ½ mm to 2 mm in size, and they have a yellow body with a brown colored head. Their small size allows them to invade stored food products within pantries and kitchen cupboards where they contaminate food with pathogens. In fact, the thief ant is on the “dirty 22” list of insect species that are known to spread pathogens to human food sources. The dirty 22 list was compiled by the Food and Drug Administration to raise awareness about the disease threat posed by common insect pests of homes.

Have you ever found ants in your stored food products?

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The Important Difference Between Tramp Ants And Invasive Ants

The Important Difference Between Tramp Ants And Invasive Ants, And Why Each Are Becoming More Common As Pests Of Homes In Arizona

All ant species are native to one particular ecoregion, but many ant species have established habitats outside of their native range. For example, the well known red-imported fire ant is native to central South America, but they have become well established in North America, Australia, China and New Zealand. A significant proportion of ant species that are known pests of homes in the United States originate from foreign regions, such as pavement ants and ghost ants. Foreign ant species that have a negative impact on the environments where they have become established are known as “invasive ants,” and most non-native ant species in the US are invasive including big headed ants, Argentine ants, Tawny crazy ants, Asian needle ants, red-imported fire ants, and black imported fire ants.

Some ant species have managed to establish thriving populations in virtually every inhabited region of the world. These worldwide species are appropriately known as “tramp ants,” and they include Pharaoh ants, longhorn crazy ants, little fire ants, ghost ants, odorous house ants, big headed ants, white-footed ants and Argentine ants. With the exception of little fire ants, all of these tramp ant species are among the top ten most commonly managed ant pests within US homes. Of the nearly 15,000 ant species that have been documented worldwide, only 40 to 50 are pests, and many of these ant pests are tramp species.

In the United States, pavement ants, odorous house ants, and multiple carpenter ant species are the most common ant pests of homes. While all of these ant pests are abundant in Arizona, they are not the most commonly managed ant pest species within homes; instead, Solenopsis xyloni and Forelius pruinosus are the two most common ant pest species of homes in the state. The former species is commonly known as the southern fire ant, while the latter species has not yet been given a common name. Increased urbanization has led to an increase in ant pest species, especially invasive ants. For example, the invasive dark rover ant species has become one of the most frequently encountered ant pests within Arizona homes. Harvester ants, such as Maricopa and red fire ants used to dwell within uninhabited areas of the Sonoran Desert, but as a result of urban expansion into desert areas, these two species have become very common pests within residential yards in Arizona.

Have you ever sustained stings from harvester ants?

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The Brown Rover Ant Is An Invasive Pest Species That Is Becoming More Abundant In Residential Areas

The Brown Rover Ant Is An Invasive Pest Species That Is Becoming More Abundant In Residential Areas

Ants that belong to the Brachymyrmex genus are commonly referred to as rover ants, and many species can be found in Arizona including B. patagonicus (formerly known as B. musculus), which is one of the most commonly encountered ant pest of homes in the state. These ant pests are extremely difficult to control due to their habit of invading homes in enormous numbers where they often establish multiple nests within areas that cannot be easily inspected, such as wall voids, ceiling voids, crowded storage rooms and tight attic spaces. The dark rover ant is also difficult to control because it’s an invasive species that was only recently introduced into the United States less than two decades ago. Pest control professionals must understand the biology, foraging habits, and nesting behaviors of the ant pests that they aim to control, which makes controlling the unfamiliar dark rover ant species a particularly challenging task. Unfortunately, another largely unknown non-native rover ant species has become a very common pest in Arizona homes, and its nearly identical in appearance to its dark rover ant relative. This species, B. obsurior, forages in homes where they are also able to establish nests within inaccessible areas.

obsurior, is commonly referred to as the brown rover ant, and like most other rover ant species, workers of the dark rover ant species are exceedingly small at only 1 to 2 mm in length. Workers vary in color from pale yellow to brown, and they nest within soil and moist wood. Workers often invade homes from multiple colony nests located in the surrounding property, and they prefer to feed on sweet-tasting foods. Brown rover ants also seem to thrive in moist conditions, and indoor nests have been found in boxes situated near water heaters and sinks. It has recently been learned that these ants can be transported onto properties within store-bought bags of mulch, and into homes within potted plants.

Have you ever experienced an indoor pest problem that originated from indoor potted plants?

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Which Ant Pests Are Able To Establish Colonies Within Arizona Homes?

Several insect species in Arizona are considered pests within human dwellings, but not all insect pest species in the state are able to survive and reproduce within homes for indefinite periods of time. This is the case when it comes to seasonal insect house pests, such as boxelder bugs, elm leaf beetles, and cluster flies. These insect pests invade homes in large numbers during the fall in order to overwinter, but they are unable to reproduce indoors, and unless they eventually re-establish an outdoor presence, they will perish within homes. However, the most common and pestiferous insect pests commonly found in Arizona homes, like cockroaches, termites, house flies, bed bugs, carpet beetles, and many ant species, establish reproductive populations indoors. These insect pests are able to establish lasting indoor infestations that can be difficult to eradicate.

Some of the most common ant pests in Arizona that are able to establish indoor nests that contain reproductive queens include southern fire ants, thief ants and carpenter ants. Most indoor nesting ant pests species, such as southern fire ants and carpenter ants, can only establish thriving indoor colonies if they establish nests within moist areas. Unlike southern fire ants, carpenter ants establish nests within moist structural wood within homes, but just like southern fire ants, carpenter ants usually establish nests outside of wood within moist wall voids in bathrooms, around plumbing and near water heaters. These two pests also feed on indoor food sources. Of course, indoor thief ants must also be well hydrated in order to thrive within homes, but these pests tend to nest indoors in order to regularly feed on a variety of human food sources. These food sources include meats, cheeses and grease. While all these ant pests, and the majority of others, are able to nest indoors, they may also nest within soil and damp tree hollows located near the foundation of homes. In these cases, ant pests enter homes from outside nests solely to seek water and human food sources.

Have you ever experienced pest issues with southern fire ants?


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The Very Common Indoor Ant Pest That Is Often Mistaken For The Argentine Ant

The Very Common Indoor Ant Pest That Is Often Mistaken For The Argentine Ant

One of the most common ant pest species in southern Arizona, Iridomyrmex pruinosus, or Forelius pruinosus, as the species is known today, is often mistaken for the highly pestiferous Argentine ant species. Argentine ants are common ant pests in most southern states, but they are relatively less abundant in Arizona. F. pruinosus, on the other hand, is consistently the first or second most commonly encountered ant species by pest control professionals in residential areas of Phoenix. This pest species is also among the top 5 most commonly encountered ant pest species in residential areas of Tucson. While this ant pest does not inflict venomous stings to humans, F. pruinosus workers invade homes in large numbers, and eradicating infestations is exceedingly difficult, even for professionals.

DYI pest control techniques will usually not suffice to eliminate F. pruinosus infestations, and most infestation victims do not bother with such techniques after seeing the overwhelming number of ants an infestation entails. Although F. pruinosus colonies are not as large as Argentine ant colonies, the former occasionally nests within houses, while the latter sees workers invade homes from outside nests. In most F. pruinosus infestation cases, the workers invade homes from nests located near the foundation and at the surface of soil beneath concrete slabs. Nests are also frequently found in exposed soil and obscured beneath objects like stones, leaf litter, patios, wood piles, logs, and around stumps. This species is abundant throughout the southeast and in much of the southwest, but specimens collected from these two areas look markedly different from one another. Southeastern species are usually dark, while southwestern species see workers come in a variety of shades and colors, but most are light in color. Workers are relatively small at only around 1.8 to 2 mm in length regardless of their geographic location, and they form uniform foraging trails that lead into homes from outside nests. When crushed, F. pruinosus secrete a fluid that smells strongly of rotten coconut, not unlike the odor produced by the aptly named odorous house ant species.

Have you ever experienced an infestation that consisted of an unusually large number of ant pests?

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Is There A Difference Between The Longhorn Crazy Ant And The Tawny Crazy Ant? Are Both Of These Pests Found In Arizona?

Crazy ants are pretty easy to recognize due to their habit of running around aimlessly when disturbed, making their movements appear “crazy” and erratic. There are a number of different species of “crazy” ants, including the longhorn crazy ant and the tawny crazy ant. There are slight differences between the species, but they are all invasive insect pests that can drive homeowners crazy when they infest homes.

These invasive pests are not native to the U.S., but have established a presence all over the country as well as the rest of the world. Longhorn crazy ants are native to Asia, while tawny crazy ants originate from South America. While both species have the distinguishing feature of their antennae and legs being longer than their bodies proportionally, longhorn crazy ants are dark brown to black in color, while tawny crazy ants are a reddish-brown color. Both are serious nuisance pests, and will occasionally bite while curving their abdomen forward and secreting formic acid into the bite wound. Both species will invade and form colonies in a wide range of indoor and outdoor environments and are attracted to many types of food, including sweets, grease, and animal matter just to name a few.

Longhorn crazy ants form relatively small colonies of up to 2,000 workers and multiple queens. Longhorn crazy ants clone their queen and her mates in order to reproduce faster. This can result in several interconnected colonies existing, creating much larger infestations. They also have mobile colonies, and have a tendency to suddenly abandon one nest site and move to another. This can all make eliminating infestations much more complicated. Tawny crazy ants form huge colonies, with some growing to reach billions of tawny crazy ants per acre. They also have a tendency to tend and even protect aphids, making them a large threat to agricultural crops and gardens. Both are well known for damaging electrical equipment. Tawny crazy ants have the ability to protect themselves from fire ant venom by covering their bodies in formic acid, causing them to even displace fire ants in some places, causing problems in the local ecological system.

You can certainly find both the longhorn and the tawny crazy ant in Arizona. Longhorn crazy ants are found throughout the United States. Tawny crazy ants are a problem throughout the south, including Arizona. Homeowners in Arizona should watch out for infestations of both the longhorn and tawny crazy ant.

Have you ever had to deal with an infestation of either of these “crazy” ants?


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The Nuisance Dark Rover Ant Species Swarms Year Round In Arizona Where They Are Among The Most Commonly Encountered Insect Pests Within Homes

The Nuisance Dark Rover Ant Species Swarms Year Round In Arizona Where They Are Among The Most Commonly Encountered Insect Pests Within Homes

A few ant species belonging to the Brachymyrmex genus have been documented as household pests in the southern US where they are often referred to as rover ants. The non-native rover ant species, B. musculus, is one of the most commonly encountered ant pests in homes located in Phoenix and Tucson. In recent years, another non-native rover ant species, Brachymyrmex patagonicus, has become a common household pest in the southeastern states. In addition to the southeast, this species has also managed to establish a habitat in southern Arizona. This species is commonly known as the dark rover ant, and they have frequently been found infesting homes in Tucson and Phoenix, but they are strangely absent from all other areas in the state.

Dark rover ants are nuisance pests in homes located in Tucson and Phoenix, and they often establish nests within concealed indoor areas, but some infestation cases see foraging workers invade homes in large numbers from nests located in yards. These ants also swarm into houses all year round in Tucson, but swarmers emerge only during the spring and summer months in all other US locations where they have become established. Obviously, dark rover ants exhibit many peculiar pest behaviors in southern Arizona, and unsurprisingly, researchers know very little about the biology and foraging habits of these species.

In Tucson and Phoenix, dark rover ants establish nests within soil located below leaf litter, mulch, firewood, and around tree stumps in residential yards and urban parks. These ant pests become particularly abundant on irrigated lawns due to their need for large amounts of water. Many residents have noticed that dark rover ants tend to establish nests in wall voids located in bathrooms and kitchens where running water provides the pests with adequate moisture. Dark rover ants invade homes in large numbers during particularly hot and dry periods during the summer, which is also when nests are most likely to become established indoors.

Have you found ants in or around swimming pools during the summer in recent years?