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Know Your Pest! The Odorous House Ant

Jul 25, 2017

Close up of a black house ant crawling across a surface in a house.

Stomping out an ant intrusion is bad enough — dealing with crushed ants that smell bad is just gross. You don’t want to deal with a home invasion from the food-ruining, grease-craving odorous house ant. 

Unfortunately, it is one of the most common pests in the Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Northern Virginia area.

Learn more about this sneaky character and the thousands of friends he may invite over if you’re not careful.

Understanding the Odorous House Ant

Odorous house ants, known to scientists as Tapinoma sessile, are regularly spotted across the United States and are one of four common ant varieties found in Virginia (the others are black ants, carpenter ants, and pavement ants). 

You’ll recognize these pests as the little brownish-black or black ants you may see marching in formation across your floors and countertops in search of a sweet treat. In the wild, these ants love honeydew — but in your home, anything sugary or greasy will do the trick.

If you squash the odorous house ant, they smell— hence the name. Most people say the odor is like burnt coconut or rancid suntan lotion, while others say they smell like blue cheese. Either way, it’s not pleasant.

These ants can be found outdoors in forests, underneath sidewalk tiles or rocks or burrowing around rotten logs. Rain can drive these little fellows into your home in search of food, and once inside, they like to live near warm spots. Common locations for odorous house ant colonies include spaces near heaters, dishwashers or inside insulated walls. 

These ants are most active in the spring and summer months, and settle down in their nest for the fall and winter.

Odorous house ants don’t bite or sting, damage your home or your trees, or transmit diseases, like some of the other animals we come across in our pest control work. But they will contaminate your food and beverages — and there are few more unpleasant shocks that reaching for your breakfast cereal, your sugar bowl or your honey bear and finding it covered in a crawling mass of ants.


Avoiding an Odorous House Ant Infestation 

Finding one ant is not a problem. Hundreds of ants in your home, however, is a more significant issue. 

The first step to getting rid of ants is eliminating what attracts them in the first place. Odorous house ants go bananas for anything sweet — honey, jelly, sugar, even fruits like, well, bananas. If these ants enter your home and find a source of sweet or greasy food, they will return to its nest and bring back dozens — or hundreds — of fellow ants to harvest the sugary goodness. 

If you want to get rid of ants, prioritize sweeping your floors of crumbs and tightly sealing your foods and cupboards, particularly during the spring and summer months. If ants creep into your home and fail to find food, they will move on.

You may also want to consider caulking sidewalk cracks, tightly sealing doors and windows and setting any traps — the notorious “ant hotels” — in window sills or beneath refrigerators, dishwashers or other likely any hiding places. Ant traps lure ants in with sweetly poisoned food, which is returned to the nest to take out the entire colony.

Getting Professional Help for Ant Removal

Once an infestation is underway, you must hire a pest control expert to get rid of ants. The homemade remedies you find on the Internet — cinnamon, cayenne pepper, ant powder, even cut-up hot peppers — don’t work. Ants are almost shockingly clever when they are determined to get to and from a food source.  

Pest control experts can treat the points of entry with child- and pet-safe pesticides, locate and destroy the pheromone trail and even treat your lawn to control the infestation closer to the colony. They know which baits to use that the odorous house ants will eat, take back to the colony, and share with the other ants before succumbing to the poison themselves.

CroppMetcalfe provides expert pest control in Washington, D.C., Maryland and Northern Virginia. 

Get the professional home service you need from our 5-star technicians. Call us today at 1-877-740-6657 or schedule a service appointment online now.




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