The United States is home to at least one thousand ant species, some of which are classified as pest species within residential lawns or homes. A significant amount of non-native ant species have managed to establish an invasive habitat within the US, the most well-known of which are red-imported fire ants and Argentine ants. At least 25 invasive ant species in the United States have been classified as structural pests, but only a few are known to infest and damage structural wood.
When it comes to wood-infesting ant pest species in Arizona, the black carpenter ant is probably the most well-known and destructive. Black carpenter ants can be recognized by their jet-black appearance and relatively massive body size, which has been said to exceed the body size of all other ant species that have so far been documented. The Lasius genus of ants, or “moisture ants”, as they are more commonly known, maintain an abundant, diverse and expansive habitat all over the US. Many moisture ant species are destructive only to wood that has become compromised by rot, decay and an oversaturation of moisture, and most of these pests limit their wood-dwelling habits to natural pieces of rotting wood located within forests. Arizona is also home to a little-known group of invasive ants that infest structural woods, much like carpenter and moisture ants. This obscure group of ants are commonly referred to as “velvety tree ants”, and only three species have been documented as inhabiting the US. As it happens, all three of these potentially destructive velvety ant species can be found in Arizona.
Velvety tree ants get their common name from the white patches of smooth-looking hair located around the exterior of their body. The three velvety ant species found within yards and within homes in Arizona include, L. occidentale, L. apiculatum, and L. luctuosum. The A. apiculatum species is considered a pest to some experts, while it is considered completely harmless by others. But L. luctuosum and L. occidentale are both generally nuisance ant species within structures in the state, but these ants can also bore into wood and inflict painful bites to humans. When the L. luctosem ant species is found infesting a home’s structural wood, they are often mistakenly identified as carpenter ants, and the strong smell they emit when crushed or threatened also cause many people to confuse this species with the odorous house ant.
Have you ever found ants infesting the stored food within your home?