Ants in Arizona
Arizona Ant Species
Ants are among the most abundant insects in Arizona and are usually the pest most likely to make homeowner seek professional pest management help. Ants live in colonies and generally build nests underground in decayed wood or inside homes. Being social creatures, each caste of the colony, including workers, queen, soldiers, and winged reproductives, has its respective job to do. Workers tend to the queen, forage for food, and build onto the nest to accommodate the expanding size of the colony. Soldiers protect the colony from predators and assist workers. Winged reproductives are males and females who take to flight, mate, and begin another colony. The queen ant lays eggs that become new colony members, producing several hundred to thousands of eggs at a time.
There are many species of ants that may at some time or another create a nuisance to Arizona homeowners, so this concise list of common nuisance ants provides a source of additional information for each type.
In Arizona, Argentine ants are often located in moist areas around irrigated soil in urban environments. They normally travel in trails between the colony and sources of food. Argentine ants are an invasive ant species, do not usually bite or sting, and live in massive colonies.
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Carpenter ants get their common name as a result of constructing nests and galleries in dry, moist, or rotting wood. However, some of the carpenter ants in Arizona will build nests in the ground.Carpenter ants do not eat wood. Instead, they excavate it in the process of building their nest chambers and galleries. Therefore, carpenter ants are not nearly as destructive as termites, but do create some cosmetic damage, and over time with heavy levels of infestation, may weaken the structural integrity of wood in homes.
Carpenter ants prefer foods like sweets, proteins, living and dead insects, and just about anything they come across to eat. Since they do have a varied diet, the pests will sometimes venture inside to consume food scraps, but more often reside outdoors. Carpenter ants are night time foragers for food. Those concerned about carpenter ants entering their homes or sheds can inspect them at night to check for workers on the ground or trees foraging for food. Also, walk around the perimeter of the house and see if any foragers are moving through an entrance point that leads inside. Carpenter ants do not sting, but may bite.
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These ants get the common name “crazy” since, when they become disturbed, they rush around in a confused, erratic way. Crazy ants are an invasive ant and will bite but cannot sting. They are problems both indoors and outdoors and have a wide variety of preferred sources of food.
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Fire ants are about one-eighth of an inch long, either black or red, and likely to build their nests around yards, gardens, recreation parks, and roadsides. There are three species of fire ants found in Arizona, including the southern fire ant and two species of desert fire ants. Colonies are common in lawns, gardens, school yards, parks, roadsides, and golf courses. Nests generally occur in sunny, open areas and are most common in disturbed and irrigated soil.
While there have been scattered reports of red imported fire ants in Arizona, this aggressive species does not seem to have become established in the state. However, the ants have progressively spread across the southeastern and other southwestern states, so may in time become a serious problem in Arizona. Local residents who encounter a group of very aggressive, stinging ants that only get more numerous as they try to defend themselves could have stumbled upon red imported fire ants. Such encounters must be reported to local or state insect specialists.
These ants are often reported as the most prevalent type found in the Tucson area. They are very heat tolerant and will be observed foraging for food on days so warm that no other ants are active. They have nest entrances that look like small holes in the soil and sometimes grains of sand may encircle the nest entrance. These ants do not bite or sting.
Leafcutter ants have a fascinating lifestyle. They collect parts of plants, tuck them away in their underground nests, expose the plant parts to a specialized fungus that grows on the plants, and then use the fungal growth as a source of food.
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Odorous House Ants
These ants get much of their food from the honeydew produced by aphids. They do not sting or bite, but very often invade homes in search of food and places to nest.
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Able to sting and bite, pavement ants become a nuisance by building nests both outdoors and inside. Outside, they build nests under driveways, patios, sidewalks, and foundations, as well as beneath mulch, landscaping timbers, stones, and logs. One indication of pavement ants is small piles of excavated soil seen in the cracks of expansion joists or paved surfaces.
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Pharaoh ant nests are found both outside and indoors. When a colony is established inside, homeowners are in for a tough time with these small, light colored ants. Because colonies can contain upwards of a few hundred thousand members and multiple queens, they are able to quickly move to a new location and start a new colony.
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These ants do not bite or sting, but the sheer numbers in a colony often make controlling them extremely difficult and discouraging. A major nuisance created by rover ant alates, or winged reproductives, is their tendency to fly into swimming pools.