What You Should Know About Odorous House Ants and How to Get Rid of Them
Odorous House ants (Tapinoma sessile) have the reputation of being one of the most common household pests in the United States. This ant species gets its common name from a unique odor that it emits when squashed (think of the sour smell of a mixture of rotting coconuts and bleu cheese, and you'll be pretty close).
Odorous house ants are considered one of the ants most commonly encountered by homeowners.
How do You Identify Odorous House Ants?
Odorous House ants are a tiny ant species, measuring only about 1/8" to 3/16" in length, with dark brown to black, unevenly shaped, smooth and hairless bodies.
Odorous house ants are another adaptive ant species that can thrive outdoors and indoors, in a variety of conditions. Outdoors, these ants are prone to nest in shallow soil underneath stones, yard debris, boards, logs, mulch, etc.
Outdoors, these ants live in colonies that can range in size from hundreds of workers with one queen to thousands of workers and hundreds of queens. Odorous House ant queens can produce thousands of workers and hundreds of productive ants throughout their lifetimes.
Odorous House ants travel in trails, and forage for food and moisture during the day and during the night. They are not picky eaters, and will feed on just about anything, including seeds, plant secretions, and other insects. They prefer sweets over all, particularly honeydew, the sugary waste substance from sap-sucking insects like aphids.
Indoors, Odorous house ants feed on sweets, meats, dairy products, pastries, fruit juices, greasy foods, and raw or cooked vegetables.
Where do You Find Odorous House Ants?
Odorous House ants are native to the United States, in just about any region.
When temperatures start to dip in the fall, Odorous House ants, like many other pests, are likely to start heading indoors for shelter. Odorous House ants are prone to nest in cracks, crevices, floor voids, and wall voids near hot water pipes and heaters, behind cabinets, underneath sinks, and even underneath floors.
How Do Odorous House Ants Get In My House?
Odorous House ants can make their way into your home through windows, cracks in screens, under doorways, and via any number of cracks and crevices around the side of your house. These ants can also climb trees and shrubs to use branches as a bridge to get onto your roof or into your home from the side.
Kitchen cupboards and pantries are frequent Odorous House ant targets and they are known to build their indoor nests near warmth and close to areas where there is moisture (i.e., bathrooms, kitchens).
Do You Have an Odorous House Ant Infestation?
One sign of these ants is noticing their activity. Also, if you notice a "rotten coconut" smell, you might have many Odorous House ants in the vicinity. These ants are one of the few species with the ability to fly, so viewing swarms of them flying around is yet another indication.
Is an Odorous House Ant Problem Serious?
Odorous House ants rarely sting or bite, but the bite is not painful. They are most definitely a nuisance pest, especially in large numbers.
Their foraging takes them all over just about any surface, making them carriers of bacteria. When these ants invade kitchens and food storage areas, they can contaminate food products.
How do You Get Rid of Odorous House Ants?
Odorous house ants are not difficult to manage, but will require some efforts and patience.
Outdoors, place ant bait stations, like Maggie's Farm No Spill Ant Kill bait stations or gel bait, like Maggie's Farm Ant Killer gel bait near foraging trails close to the nest. Maggie's Farm ant baits can wipe out entire colonies of ants, without the mess of other liquid baits. Foraging worker ants find the bait stations or bait droplets you've put out for them, then will go back and share it with the rest of the colony. Works well indoors and outdoors.
Indoors, Maggie's Farm No Spill Ant Kill stations can be used on countertops, in corners, and in any other areas where ant activity has been seen. Remove/wipe up any other food sources when baiting, and do NOT spray areas with bait with any ant killer sprays. You want them to eat the bait and take it back to their nest.
Sprays can be used indoors and outdoors, work well as a spot treatment for Fire ants you see, as well as for killing Odorous House ants nesting in cracks, crevices, baseboards, and wall voids. Maggie's Farm Ant & Roach Killer spray not only kills Odorous ants, it also kills other species of ants (including Carpenter ants), bed bugs, cockroaches, spiders, ticks, fleas, and a variety of other crawling pests. Keep in mind that sprays are not the best long-term solutions (as they only kill ants you can see, not the source of the problem, which is the colony). Sprays can help curb ant populations in the short-term, however.
Maggie’s Farm Yard Bug Spray can be used around the perimeter of your house to create a repellent barrier of protection by preventing Odorous House ants from getting inside. It will also kill them on contact. Plan to repeat spraying about every 45 – 60 days.
Dusts also work well as an ant contact killer, if you can find the colony/nest. Try Maggie's Farm Spider & Insect Dust. For Odorous House ants, CAREFULLY puff dust into wall voids where you might suspect a nest. Repeat a few days later if there is still ant activity.
How do You Prevent Odorous House Ants?
As with any pest invasion, good sanitation to eliminate Odorous House ant food sources is your first preventive measure for effective control. Also:
- Keep your sink free of dirty dishes
- Keep your trash sealed and take it out regularly
- Sweep, mop, vacuum regularly
- Caulk and seal gaps, cracks, and holes in exterior walls to keep Odorous House ants from getting inside.
- Outdoors, remove firewood and any other yard debris away from the side of your home.
- Landscaping mulch shouldn't be more than two inches thick, and should be kept at least 12 inches away from your home's foundation.
- Treat plants for aphids regularly.
- Avoid sprinklers from spraying the side of your home/foundation whenever possible.
Keep the lawn mowed and trees/shrubs trimmed away from touching the side of your home.
For Serious Infestations, Call a Professional
You may never need to call a pest control company to help you manage Odorous House ants, but if you do get overrun by them at home, don't hesitate to call in the professionals.
For more general help with ants, read the following articles:
What are your Odorous ant control tips and tricks? Leave us a comment below!
For scientifically-tested, effective ant control in your home, yard, and garden that is friendly to the environment, try Maggie’s Farm pest control products. Our promise is that our plant and mineral-based products are developed by scientists and seasoned pest control professionals to be the most effective.