The southwest is home to some of the most dangerous and even deadly insects and arachnids. While scorpions and spiders come to mind first, there is one little ant that commonly invades people’s homes that holds its own amongst these giants as one tiny critter you do not want to cross swords with. The velvety tree ant may not be particularly dangerous to humans, but they make up for it with their extreme aggressiveness.
The velvety tree ant is actually native to the western United States and Mexico, and is a common invasive ant pest throughout Arizona. The species is sometimes confused with smaller carpenter ant species, but the short hairs on its body give it a more velvety appearance, from which it derives its name, as opposed to the shinier carpenter ants. Their head and abdomen are black, with the thorax situated in between them being red in color. Velvety tree ants are very fast and aggressive, reacting to even the smallest threat. Considering this, it is very lucky they do not have stingers. However, they will readily bite a person and then spray formic acid in the wound that causes a painful stinging sensation. An infestation of these pests can truly feel like a waking nightmare.
Velvety tree ants usually build their nests inside some kind of wood, whether it is a hollow tree or tree trunk, old tree stumps, rotting systems of tree roots within the soil. Colonies are large, often containing several thousand workers, which can usually be spotted climbing up and down tall trees as they forage for food in the form of honeydew and other insects. They have no qualms about invading a home to forage for food either, commonly invading homes. This is particularly the case with homes that have wood such as tree limbs in contact with the actual building. This provides an easy bridge for these pests to use to cross from their wooden nesting site or a tree trunk they are foraging along directly to your home and any cracks or crevices they can find on the exterior of the structure to use as a path inside.
The best way to eliminate invading velvety tree ants is to get rid of any conditions that drew them inside in the first place. This includes possible harborages, food sources, and moisture levels. Trimming back branches that may come in contact with your house, as well as any debris or objects on the ground near the building that could provide a harborage or nesting site. Eliminating the presence of insects that provide protein or honeydew food sources is especially important in controlling this ant species, as that is what primarily brings them inside a home in the first place. You may need to rid your house of some other insect pests in order to get rid of these ones.
Have you ever come across velvety tree ants inside your home?