Have you ever stepped on or otherwise crushed trailing ants, smelled a strange odor - a bit like rotten coconuts? If so, it is probable that those ants were odorous house ants -- and you can understand how they got their name!
Odorous house ants are tiny -- but fast. They usually travel in lines, but if they are disturbed or alarmed they will run around erratically – releasing their odor as they run. That smell is a defense mechanism, an alarm to alert other ants that something is amiss.
Some researchers say odorous house ants are making a run at becoming public enemy No. 1 among ants in urban and suburban areas. That’s bad news for homeowners, entomologists say, because these little guys are notoriously tough to control.
The problem for homeowners, is simply this: Odorous house ants don’t stay where they belong. They forage day and night and the numbers of ants you visually see is generally about 5 to 10 percent of the colony. The rest are in the nest. Kill the ones crawling around the bathtub and 95 percent of them remain alive and well back home in the nest.
In the forest, the colonies are very small, one queen, maybe 100 ants. In urban situations, and once indoors, their colonies explode in size. With an absence of competitors and easier access to food, shelter, warmth and moisture these ants can grow super-colonies with millions of workers and thousands of queens. They are most likely to enter buildings when their honeydew supply or sweet supply of food is reduced by natural occurrences such as rainy weather or autumn leaf fall.
Inside, these ants usually construct their nests in wall voids, especially around hot water pipes and heaters, in crevices, sinks, cupboards, etc. However, the nests can occur in a great variety of situations. Once inside, Odorous House Ants are difficult to remove. Your home is like a large incubator – the longer you wait, the larger the population will become and the longer it will take to control the situation.
To Keep Ants Out of Your Home:
Trim back trees and shrubs away from the house to remove this access point. (Ants will use plants as a bridge to get inside or as a bypass to avoid chemical treatments applied to the ground or foundation walls)
Cracks, holes, and joints should be sealed with polyurethane foam or caulk, especially those that are near the ground.
Firewood, rocks, and other materials should not be stored next to a home because it encourages nest building.
Foraging worker ants are quick to find crumbs, grease, food scraps and food in open or partly open containers. Keep foods tightly covered and stored away (Don’t leave open containers of sugars, honey, butter or snacks on countertops or tables). Wipe up spills and crumbs immediately, keep counters and surfaces clean, as ants can have a feast on tiny crumbs and grease.
Clean and empty kitchen garbage cans frequently.
Do not leave pet food in bowls when pets are not eating – this provides an easy-access attractant for all kinds of ants – as well as other pests, such as mice, cockroaches, and flies.
Repair leaky faucets.
Standing water should be eliminated, as odorous house ants are attracted to moisture.