The Different Species of Ants in Arizona

Ants marching in a lineIn Arizona, ants are among the most abundant insects that play an important role in the ecosystem. Ants make a positive contribution to their environment by helping to break down dead matter while aerating the soil. However, certain species of ants can damage property and cause painful stings. With over 300 species of ants, it can be hard to identify them all. Yet, there are several that are of significance to Arizona property owners who need to know how to identify and treat problem populations of ants.

Harvester Ants
Harvester ant populations in Arizona may be one of several different types of species. When left alone, these ants can be beneficial to the environment because they help to disperse seeds and serve as food for other wildlife. A harvester ant can be as large as one-half inch long and may be red, black or brown. The large mounds they create are one of their most notable characteristics, and they tend to form their colonies alongside gardens and other plant-filled areas. Harvester ants usually only become a problem for Arizona property owners when their mounds are located near places people may encounter the ants. These ants will aggressively defend their colonies and can inflict one of the most painful stings among all ant species. Those who are allergic to their venom can experience prolonged pain and swelling that may require immediate care.

Carpenter Ants
Most of the ant population is highly visible as they travel along trails to their colony, but carpenter ants can be challenging to detect. These ants bore deep into wooden materials to create galleries that house their colonies. Often, carpenter ants are confused with termites; however, a close inspection can make it easy to tell them apart. Similar to other species of ants, carpenter ants have segmented bodies and bent antennae. They tend to swarm in the late spring and summer months when their mating season occurs. In buildings, they tend to live deep within the interior of the structure and build large colonies that can create serious structural damage as they chew through the wood. Carpenter ants that invade buildings may require fumigation and other pest control strategies designed to minimize the damage they can cause.

Ten Black Ants on White BackgroundFire Ants
Out of the three main species of fire ants that reside in Arizona, the southern fire ant is the most common. According to the University of Arizona, fire ants range in size depending upon their position in the colony. Worker ants are approximately one-sixteenth of an inch long and queens can be as large as one-fourth of an inch. They range in color, but they are typically a shade of reddish-brown. While fire ants normally build their colonies outside, they may occasionally enter buildings if they discover an easy source of fatty or sweet foods available. Fire ants are also very aggressive and an attack may involve many stings from multiple ants. Controlling fire ant populations will generally involve eliminating the queen and then handling subsequent mounds that are built.

Knowing the different species of ants in Arizona is essential for recognizing the diversity of the state’s ecosystem. Although ants play a vital role in the environment, it is important to implement control measures when faced with aggressive or destructive species of ants. By understanding when ants should be left alone to do their work and when to act, Arizona property owners can protect their health and the value of their investments while allowing non-threatening ant populations to thrive.

 

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