Odorous House Ants
Odorous house ants (aka sugar ants) are small brown-black ants that get their name from the rotten coconut-like odor they omit when crushed. Colonies generally consist of several thousand ants including workers, multiple queens, and swarmers. Swarmers are winged ants (males and females) whose job is to reproduce.
Although odorous house ants do not cause structural damage, they can be an extreme nuisance indoors. Odorous house ants are generally seen March through November, but can appear as early as January or even December. The swarmers, often mistaken for small flies or gnats, are typically seen May through mid-July as they participate in their mating flight.
Habits & Habitat
Odorous house ants are frequent movers due to their extreme sensitivity of changes in their environmental. They will often relocate or split their nests if disturbed or in response to weather changes.
Outdoors, odorous house ants will primarily nest under objects such as pavement, patios, stones, mulch, woodpiles, flower pots, logs, and siding. They will also nest in other ant nests, animal nests, and even bee hives. Odorous house ants feed on insects, seeds, and honeydew from plants and insects. Their fondness of honeydew often times attracts them to insects such as aphids, scales, mealybugs, and white flies, which produce honeydew. When the honeydew supply starts to decrease, generally during rainy weather and when the leaves fall, these ants may enter structures in search of a new food supply.
Indoors, odorous house ants are often found in kitchens and bathrooms. They will nest in a variety of areas including wall voids, crevices around sinks, cupboards, appliances, potted plants, near pipes and heaters, and under carpets and toilets. They prefer sweet foods such as sugars and juices but will also eat foods that are high in protein and greases such as meats and cheeses.
Reduce the Risk
Odorous house ants can be difficult to eliminate since they frequently relocate their nests and have multiple queens within the colony. If alarmed, the queens will pack-up and each queen will relocate a part of the nest, thus multiplying the problem. For this reason, it’s especially important to not try and treat for ants yourself – self-treatment may actually make the problem worse! Getting rid of odorous house ants is best left to a trained and licensed pest professional who will focus on locating the nest and using materials that will not alarm the colony.
To help reduce the risk of an infestation, follow these steps:
- Keep mulch and leaves away from the foundation wall, at least 3-4 feet.
- Avoid excessive use of mulch around the foundation. Other materials such as rock, pea gravel, and other non-organic materials are a good alternative.
- Keep tree branches and limbs, shrubs, and other vegetation at least 18-24 inches from the siding.
- Remove ivy and other crawling plants from the siding.
- Reduce flowering and aphid susceptible plants around the structure.
- Control honeydew producing pests such as aphids, scales, mealybugs, and white flies.
- Seal or caulk cracks and crevices that may be provide entry.
- Keep kitchens free of crumbs and spills.
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