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Odorous House Ants

Odorous house ants Tapinoma sessile is commonly called the odorous house ant. This native ant is one of the most adaptable species of ants in the United States. It is widespread and common throughout the country and nests in a wide variety of habitats including sandy beaches, pastures and fields, forests, wet areas (such as bogs) and houses or other buildings.


Odorous House Ant

Odorous house ants are similar to other small, dark colored ant species such as the argentine ant, and the crazy ant. However, the odorous house ant can be identified by the presence of a single node on the petiole that is hidden from view by the abdomen.

The workers are monomorphic, approximately 3mm in length, and solid brown to black in color. These ants get their common name “odorous house ants” from the rotten coconut-like odor they emit when alarmed or crushed. The odor is caused by the release of butyric acid which is sequestered in the ant’s gaster. This coconut-like odor is commonly used to identify these ants in the field.

They use guidelines to move from place to place. Guidelines can result from natural objects such as vines, limbs and trunks of trees and shrubs or from artificial objects such as edges of buildings, baseboards, edge of counters/carpets, etc.

Outdoors, odorous house ants feed on live and dead insects and excrement (honeydew) from aphids, scales and mealybugs. They prefer to feed on small objects that are between 0.1 – 2 mm. In one study they showed a preference for ants and flies. Indoors, they can be found feeding on sweets and other household foods and are often found trailing to water.


Odorous House ants with Queen

The crazy ant is extremely easy to identify on sight by observing its rapid and erratic movements. Confirmation may be made with the aid of a hand lens through which the extremely long antennal scape, long legs, and erect setae are very apparent.The slender-bodied, long-legged worker is capable of extremely rapid movement.

Life Cycle : Odorous house ant colonies are polygynous, and can number in the tens of thousands of workers. The release of male and female reproductives (swarmers) occurs during the summer months between May and July. Males emerge a few days before alate females (unmated reproductives) and it is believed that mating takes place both inside and outside the nest . Queens that mate inside the parent colony will typically stay and begin laying eggs, thus contributing to the population of the parent colony. Incipient colonies are started by potential queens that mate outside the nest. The males die soon after mating and the newly fertilized queens seek out a nest site to begin a new colony.

Once a new nest has been initiated, queens lay eggs throughout the summer and fall months until November. At this time, brood production stops and the ants overwinter as workers, dealate females (queens), and partly grown larvae. In early March, workers emerge from their overwintering state and begin to forage. The queens resume egg laying in April and continue until November.


Odorous House Ant with Larva

Developing larvae that were present in the nest at the beginning of the winter months remain dormant until spring when they continue development, emerging as adult workers in April. The developmental period from egg to adult in spring, summer and fall months is approximately 6-7 weeks. The average time for worker 3 development is 7 weeks, which suggests that four to five generations of workers are produced per year.

Management :Colonies living indoors in wall voids can be treated by injecting an aerosol or dust insecticide into cracks around baseboards, cabinets, door frames, and around electrical switches and plugs. Nests found outside can be drenched with a residual insecticide. When numerous ants appear around the building foundation, a perimeter treatment with a residual insecticide may repel foraging workers and prevent them from re-infesting the structure.

Damage :These ants are opportunistic nesters and can be found outdoors in shallow nests in shady, moist areas such as stones, logs, patios, debris, siding, loose bark, tree cavities, animal nests and bee hives.Indoors, they are usually associated with accessible moisture such as wall voids near pipes and heaters, bathtraps, termite-damaged wood, beneath carpets and toilets


Odorous House ants Nest

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