The Little-Known Ant Pests That Commonly Nest In Woodwork And Inflict Painful Bites
The Crematogaster genus is comprised of numerous ant species, many of which are considered biting and wood-damaging structural pests. Worker ants from this genus vary from 2.5 mm to 4 mm, and their unusually large heads make them somewhat recognizable. Their heads range in color from reddish-brown to black, and most species possess dark or black colored bodies. Crematogaster ants rarely nest in soil below the ground; instead, these ants prefer to establish nests in moisture-damaged wood sources above the ground, most notably within tree stumps, logs, posts, and at the base of dead and decaying trees. Occasionally, these establish nests in moist structural wood within homes, and they are particularly abundant in urban and suburban habitats where multiple Crematogaster species are known pests that are commonly referred to as “acrobat ants,” and “cocktail ants.” These common names derive from their strange habit of raising or “cocking” their gaster (bulbous rear body segment) above their head when they become threatened.
Due to their need for moisture, Crematogaster ants are most abundant in the humid southeast, but several Crematogaster species can be found throughout Arizona, including the two most pestiferous species, C. cerasi and C. lineolata. C. cerasi workers are reddish-brown and they frequently nest within wood on roofs, wood siding, structural wood in ceiling and wall voids, door and window frames, and wooden porches. Workers are known for being aggressive and they emit an unpleasant odor when disturbed. C. lineolata workers are the same color as C. cerasi workers, with the exception of some yellowish colored individuals. Like most species in this genus, C. lineolata workers emit a foul odor when disturbed, but unlike many of their close relatives, C. lineolata workers aggressively bite humans. While C. cerasi prefers to feed on live and dead insects, C. lineolata workers seek out human food sources, especially sweets and meat, making them common within pantries and kitchen cupboards. Both species tend to establish nests within existing cavities in wood that had already been excavated by other insect species, such as termites and carpenter ants.
Have you ever sustained ant bites within your home?