The velvety tree ant is one of many nuisance ant pest species commonly found around and within Arizona homes. These ants establish nests within dead wood sources that have become decayed or waterlogged. This species’ most common nesting sites are located within tree stumps, dead trees, isolated logs, beneath the bark of living trees, and within soil located beneath dead wood. These ants have also been known to nest within structural and cosmetic wood sources, especially in damaged structural wood that makes contact with the ground soil. While velvety tree ants do not feed on structural wood like termites do, they can cause further damage to structural and cosmetic wood sources that have already become compromised by rainwater, plumbing leaks or lawn irrigation. Velvety tree ants may also infest yards where they build an extensive network of foraging trails below and above the ground. Although these ants do not sting, they may bite when disturbed.
In addition to nesting within damaged structural and cosmetic wood sources, velvety tree ants may also establish centralized nesting sites within decayed natural wood sources located on residential lawns. These ants sometimes become abundant near or alongside structural foundations where the pests can easily invade indoor areas in large numbers. Reproductive swarmers emerge from colony nesting sites every summer, and these swarms have been known to emerge from infested structural wood within homes. The nests that these ant pests excavate within wood resembles a honeycomb, and workers venture back and forth between the nest and the outside environment where they prey upon honeydew-rich aphids and other insects. Velvety tree ants feed on a variety of human foods as well, which may attract large numbers of worker ants into indoor living areas, particularly kitchens and pantries.
Black to brown colored velvety tree ant workers range from ⅛ to ¼ of an inch in length, and they are often confused with odorous house ants due to their similar indoor foraging habits, appearance and for the unpleasant odor that workers emit when they become threatened or crushed. Velvety tree ants are also frequently confused with carpenter ants due to their habit of nesting within decayed structural and cosmetic wood within homes.
Have you ever found ants congregating in your cupboard or pantry?