The Odorous House Ant

The Odorous House ant despite its name is most often found outside. Odorous house also known as coconut ants do however invade structures when conditions such as too much or not enough rain exists. This specie of ant is found throughout the United States but less likely in areas where heavy populations of Argentine ants exist. Its named because of the coconut smell that’s emitted when it is crushed, injured or alarmed. The colony can range from 10,000 to 100,000 individuals and has multiple queens. (up to 200) This ant can be difficult to control and is tougher than it might appear.

Odorous house ants are very resilient with weather extremes, they appear to thrive even with lack of food and water and are still productive in colony work even with severe injuries such as if crushed or damage in battle. Tolerant of other ant species the odorous house ant will actually house other ants or live in close proximity sharing food and resources. It only quickly reacts if aphids which they tend to for their secretions of honeydew are suddenly in decline. This happens most often with heavy rains which washes these plant feeders away or invading ants move in to take over the territory and its spoils. This is the most likely time the odorous house ant will move indoors.

How They Travel

This ant swarms from June to mid July and mating pairs may be taken by wind some distance away. Budding is also a process where new colonies are formed. Queens exit the nest and can take with them a number of workers to establish new sites. Odorous house ant queens are also capable of budding without the workers aid. While not widely reported, nests can be transported in shipped goods such as with landscaping material but nests are often considered ‘temporary’ and frequently moved so this is not as likely as with other ants.

How Best To Identify Odorous House Ants

Odorous house ants are often confused with Argentine, ghost and little black ants. Odorous house ants are monomorphic meaning ‘all the same size.’ Under magnification they have no node on the petiole. (bump on the connection between the thorax and abdomen) They range in color from black to brown but are uniformly so and are only about 1/16 to 1/8th inch in length. Trailing ants often travel in columns and run erratically when disturbed with their abdomens tipped upwards and emit the coconut smell as an alarm.

Treatment And Elimination

Outdoors this ant is seldom noticed by the home owner and control is rarely needed. Inside the key is to spot the early signs of this ant when it is much easier to gain control. The longer the infestation is let go, the harder it is to treat them. Removal of food and water is usually all that’s needed to thwart early foraging ants. When conditions worsen you may need baits such as Terro, Advion gel or other sweet baits applied. Residual sprays along known trails may kill foragers and stop those outside from entering but with established indoor nests you may actually worsen the problem. If populations outside are heavy and conditions are forcing more ants in, outdoor applications may become necessary. Power sprays around the home with products like Bifen I/T or other suitable insecticides may provide relief from ant pressure and individuals coming in. This ant prefers to nest near heated walls and moisture so dust in voids may be considered where ants are suspected or those conditions exist. Non repellants such as Termidor, Arilon or Phantom may be needed to achieve control. Certain restrictions may apply to use or areas applied so please read the label.

About The Bug Doctor

Jerry Schappert is a certified pest control operator and Associate Certified Entomologist with over two and a half decades of experience from birds to termites and everything in between. He started as a route technician and worked his way up to commercial/national accounts representative. Always learning in his craft he is familiar with rural pest services and big city control techniques. Jerry has owned and operated a successful pest control company since 1993 in Ocala,Florida. While his knowledge and practical application has benefitted his community Jerry wanted to impart his wisdom on a broader scale to help many more. Pestcemetery.com was born from that idea in 2007 and has been well received. It is the goal of this site to inform you with his keen insights and safely guide you through your pest control treatment needs.
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  • Mel

    Odorous house ants are my favorite ants because they’re the most challenging in the Pacific Northwest. Encountering a severe interior and exterior infestation of these guys when I wish I had a power sprayer.  They’re good training for when the Argentine ants migrate a little further north.

    Do you have a favorite ant which you love to battle?

  • Power sprayers make life a bit easier on some pests for sure but it’s the tech who can handle infestations like these with just hand tools that I would want on my accounts. My favorite ant is the carpenter ant with a close 2nd to the Acrobat ant– they sure can take you on a ride when you’re trying to follow their trails.