If you’ve noticed a sickly sweet odor in your home, the source could be a troublesome pest known as the odorous house ant. These ants will invade in large numbers if they find that your home has the welcoming amenities they’re after.
As the name suggests, odorous house ants are an ant species best known for the smell that you’ll notice when they’re crushed; this is often described as a rotten coconut odor. Visible ants in the home are the most common sign that you have a problem with this species. If you only see workers in the house seeking food, the nest may be outdoors. If you see winged swarmers in the house as well, you probably have a nest inside somewhere. In either case, this is a pest you don’t want to live with for long.
Odorous house ants are brown to black, with a uniform tone. They range from 1/16 inch to 1/8 inch in length. All members of the colony are roughly the same size, unlike some other species where the ants vary in appearance depending upon their roles. The thorax in the center of the body has an uneven shape. However, these ants are so small that you’re unlikely to notice this detail with the naked eye. These ants are similar in appearance to pavement ants, but you’ll likely be able to distinguish them due to the smell.
You can find odorous house ants throughout the United States. They can build their nests both inside and outside the home. This species is known to move its nests often, typically changing residence about every three months, following rain patterns.
Like many insects, these ants will seek out shelter near food and water sources. Outside, the ants will build nests under rocks or planks. They may also start a colony in wood that’s been damaged by termites. These ants tend to come indoors when their outside food supply is diminished. Odorous house ants can get into the home through tiny cracks in the foundation or around windows and doors.
In the home, they often gravitate toward spots with moisture, such as wall or floor voids near pipes. If you have an area where leaks or condensation are common, you might expect to find ants building a colony nearby. Odorous house ants are partial to sweets, but will also seek out meats. Any unprotected food or scraps in your kitchen will draw them in.
Though odorous house ants can bite, they rarely do. The biggest issue with this type of ant infestation is food contamination. The ants aren’t very discriminatory and can get into many items in your pantry. The cost and inconvenience of losing a significant amount of foodstuffs to an ant infestation are enough to spur nearly any homeowner to action.
A colony of odorous house ants can number anywhere from 100 to 10,000 ants. This species can quickly overtake your kitchen if the infestation is left unaddressed for too long. If you suspect an ant infestation in your home, it’s best to take action right away.
Bait is typically the most effective pest control solution for odorous house ants. The workers will take the bait back to the nest where the colony ingests it. There are many different types of bait available, which is why it’s best to work with a professional exterminator. A knowledgeable pest control expert can select the best bait for your particular type of ant, giving you just what you need to attract your ants to the poison and convince them to take it back home.
An exterminator can also help you identify the ants’ trails. Odorous house ants lay down chemical pheromones to guide others to their finds. Setting bait along these trails is one of the more effective ways to deal with these insects.
Preventive actions will help you keep odorous house ants away in the future. Keep firewood and debris away from the house so you won’t attract ants to areas near the home where they’re likely to send foraging parties inside. Mulch around the house should be less than two inches deep, and always at least 12 inches from the foundation. Trim shrubs and plants back away from the house as well. Be mindful of anything that creates a moist, welcoming environment, like your sprinkler system. Keep moisture away from the house to encourage these ants to stay away as well.
You don’t want odorous house ants in your home, but in their wild habitat, they can be an interesting insect.
Odorous house ants are found throughout southern Canada, northern Mexico, and all 48 continental United States. They’ve even been found in Hawaii. These ants can live anywhere from sea level to an elevation of 4,000 meters. From forests to pastures and bogs to coastlands, this ant species can acclimate to it all. In the city, they will seek out any areas with mulch or debris and typically build their nests near buildings.
The queen in a nest of odorous house ants averages one to two eggs every day, though she can lay 20 to 30 eggs daily. Throughout the egg-laying season, from April through October, the average queen will lay 350 eggs. A nest can have more than one queen; this is more common in urban environments. The young ants reach adulthood in about 24 days.
If you have ants in your home, contact a pest control professional as soon as possible. We can help you identify the insects in your house and come up with a custom treatment plan.