Odorous House Ants: What You Need to Know

There are many types of ants—more than 10,000, in fact! In our area, however, there are a few house ants that are more common than others, including the odorous house ant.

Today, we’re doing a deep dive into the odorous house ant. How can you identify it? Why does it enter your home? And what should you do about an odorous ant problem in your house?

Keep reading for odorous house ants 101!

What Are Odorous House Ants

This type of ant is native to most of North America, from Canada down to Mexico, and it’s one of the most common ants in Ohio.

Like all ants, odorous house ants live in colonies. These colonies range from hundreds to thousands of ants. Colonies can be located outside—often under rocks and boards—or inside buildings, including under floors, inside wall crevices, near pipes, and behind paneling. They prefer to create their colonies near sources of heat and moisture.

Worker ants leave the colonies in search of food to bring back. While odorous house ants will feed on just about anything—from the nectar of flowers to dead insects to grease—they have a sweet tooth! When outside, they prefer aphid honeydew. (No, not the melon: aphid honeydew is a sugar-rich waste product of aphids.) However, when outside sources of food are less available, odorous house ants will move indoors to forage for food.

How to Identify Odorous House Ants

Odorous house ants are uniformly small: about 1/16 to 1/8 of an inch long. They are brown or black in color. (The males and females are the same size and color, unlike some other pests.)

The most distinctive characteristic of odorous house ants is their odor! When crushed, these ants emit an unpleasant, rotten-smelling odor. For most homeowners, this will be the first clue that the ants in their home are odorous house ants.

Another obvious sign of this type of house ant is in their movement: odorous house ants tend to travel quickly in single-file lines.

Why Your Home Gets Odorous House Ants

Like many pests, odorous house ants come inside in search of food and water. If your home provides easy access to these two things, you can be sure that ants will feel welcome!

Here is a short list of house ant attractants:

  • Sweet foods left out, including syrup, jelly, honey, pastries, desserts, sugar, candies, soft drinks, etc.
  • Food crumbs and cooking spills in your kitchen
  • Unsealed food pantry items
  • Trash cans full of food scraps
  • Dirty, un-rinsed dishes left in the sink overnight
  • Pet food left out
  • Moisture from leaky pipes
  • Flowers and plants (from the scent of flowers and moisture in the soil)
  • Mulch and wood piles near the home (which provide shelter for ants)

Not only are odorous house ants a nuisance, they can ruin your food! Since they can fit through the smallest gaps, you might eventually find them in every box and bag in your pantry.

How to Get Rid of House Ants

When workers find easy sources of food in your home, they leave a pheromone scent trail. Other ants from the colony then follow that trail to your house. As a result, killing an ant or two at a time won’t solve an infestation.

So what should you do about odorous house ants?

First, as the homeowner, you should eliminate all house ant attractants. This includes doing the following:

  • Secure leftover food: put it in sealed containers or the refrigerator.
  • Clean up crumbs and spills immediately.
  • Take the trash out daily.
  • Rinse or wash dishes daily.
  • Seal food pantry items securely in plastic or glass Tupperware (instead of the flimsy paper or plastic packaging the food comes in).
  • Fix any leaky pipes.
  • Seal pet food and don’t leave it out overnight.

It’s also a good idea to make sure mulch isn’t placed too close to the home, and to replace any rotted trim or woodwork around the home where ants can nest.

Second, it’s important to deal with the colony. Most homeowners want or need help with this step: pest control can be complicated! It can also be dangerous if done improperly.

To control ant colonies, there are several options available. Perimeter treatments can help to keep ants from entering the home. In addition, baits can be used. (For odorous house ants, pick baits designed for sweet-loving ants.) Worker ants take the baits back to the nest, eliminating the rest of the colony.

Finally, when it coming to getting rid of ants, what you shouldn’t do is DIY. That’s because DIY solutions for ants are almost universally ineffective.

Call ScherZinger for Help with an Ant Problem

For help with an ant problem—whether odorous house ants or any other type—call ScherZinger Pest Control.

We’re here for you. Our expert pest control technicians have the experience and knowledge necessary to quickly and safely get your home back to being ant-free!