Velvety Tree Ant


Actual Size: 2.5 to 5.5 mm

Characteristics: Reddish thorax with a dark head and black, velvety-textured abdomen.

Legs: 6

Antennae: Yes

Wings: Male and female reproductives have wings.

Habitat: Typically nests outdoors in the crooks of trees, inside hollow trees, or beneath stones.


  • Commonly mistaken for carpenter ants, but has a finer texture of excavated material.
  • Emits a distinct “rotten coconut” odor when crushed.
  • Are very aggressive and may attack intruders.

Velvety Tree Ants in the Pacific Northwest

Velvety tree ants get their name both from their smooth and velvety abdomen, and from their habit of building nests in trees. These ants are known for releasing an unpleasant odor if crushed or otherwise disturbed, which has been reported to smell like rotten coconuts. Velvety tree ants are often mistaken for carpenter ants, because they often live in trees and chew on wood. However, carpenter ants produce coarse frass – which looks like sawdust – while velvety tree ants produce much finer and softer frass.

Velvety Tree Ant Habitat

Outdoors, velvety tree ants usually build nests in the crooks and hollows of tree branches. Popular trees for these ants include oaks, sycamores, pines, and cottonwoods. However, if velvety tree ants travel indoors, they can cause damage similar to carpenter ants. These ants will carve out tunnels in wood to use as their nest, leaving behind fine, sawdust-looking frass. Rather than consuming the wood, velvety tree ants usually eat a wide range of proteins and sugary substances.

Velvety Tree Ants Behaviors, Threats, or Dangers

Velvety tree ants are known to be aggressive and will attack or spray intruders with secretions if they feel threatened or disturbed. During infestations, homeowners often notice a very distinct and unpleasant scent along with small piles of frass or wood shavings. If left unchecked, a colony can cause destruction to your home by chewing tunnels through structures. Should you encounter velvety tree ants in or near your home, it is recommended to contact a professional ant exterminator for help.