Common Ant Species: Odorous House Ants
One of the most common household pests in the U.S., the odorous house ant, has a claim to fame related to its odor. Squish one of these ants, take a whiff and you’ll know what we’re talking about. Identifying that odor, however, is a topic of great debate among scholarly ant researchers, ant-plagued homeowners and just about everyone else in between. The top odor contenders are rotten coconut and blue cheese, though what these two odors have in common is one of life’s great mysteries.
Odorous house ants are not only smelly, they are also quite small, measuring approximately 2.4-3.25mm long. They have dark brown or black bodies with an unevenly shaped thorax. They have a single node on their petiole, hidden by their abdomens. However, the true telltale characteristic of the odorous house ant is unquestionably the foul odor when their bodies are crushed.
Odorous house ants live in colonies ranging in size from hundreds of workers and one queen to thousands of workers with hundreds of queens. The queens of an odorous house ant colony are capable of producing thousands of workers and hundreds of reproductive ants.
Odorous house ants thrive both indoors and outdoors. They can live virtually anywhere, in a variety of conditions. Outside, these ants nest in the shallow soil beneath stones, boards, logs, mulch, debris, etc. They are most likely to invade buildings during rainy weather or in the fall. Once inside, odorous house ants nest in wall voids around hot water pipes and heaters, under sinks, behind cabinets and beneath the floor.
The odorous house ant is a native species that can be found throughout the United States.
Odorous house ants travel in trails, foraging day and night. Outside, they feed on anything, including insects, seeds and plant secretions, but prefer sweets. They are extremely fond of honeydew, a sugary waste produced from sap-sucking insects such as aphids.
Inside homes, odorous house ants will feed on sweets, meats, grease, dairy products, pastries, cooked or raw vegetables, and fruit juices. As they search for food, the ants will establish trails along kitchen counters, cabinets, sinks and baseboards. Because of this foraging, odorous house ants can easily contaminate human food supplies. While this species does not sting or bite, they can become persistent pests, traveling indoors in large numbers.
Odorous house ants are not difficult to control, but can involve some patience and effort to eliminate, since they feed on almost any household food and forage both inside and outside.
Thanks to their love for all things sweet, odorous house ants are easily controlled with TERRO® liquid ant baits, which contain a mixture of sugar, water and borax. Like all ants, odorous house ants lay down a chemical trail of pheromones between nest sites and food sources. When using ant bait, look for their trails and place the bait nearby. Remove other food sources when baiting and leave the bait in place, undisturbed, as long as the ants are feeding on it.
A contact killer such as TERRO® Ant Killer Spray provides instant knockdown and delivers long-lasting residual repellency for up to six weeks. To treat ants, spray on trails, nests and points of entry. When possible, spray directly on ants and repeat treatment if re-infestation occurs.
Other control solutions include removing standing water, trimming plants and trees back from buildings, and caulking cracks, holes and joints near the ground, doors and windows.