Odorous Ants: What Do They Want And How To Get Rid of Them

(Lead photo by Katja Schulz (CC BY 2.0)

Ants of all kinds can be found on every continent in the world except Antarctica. Scientists estimate that there are about 10 quadrillion ants (one million billion ants) roaming the earth today, and more than 10,000 recognized species occurring around the world. 

This number is staggering, even if thoughts don’t go beyond that proverbial picnic these insects are known to invade and ruin during the warmer, more pleasant times of the year. 

All ants occur in large numbers. They are the plague of Pittsburgh homeowners and businesses, and in general remain one of the most common insects for whom homeowners request pest-control and pest-management services from our teams at Pestco.


This species emits an unpleasant and rotten coconut odor when crushed, which is how theses insects earned their descriptive moniker.

Indigenous to the United States, these ants are very social and live in huge colonies of up to 100,000 members.

Ants are classified into two main groups that correspond to the number of bumps or “nodes” in their constricted waist.

Pittsburgh Residential Ant Control

Odorous house ants are sometimes confused with pavement ants and Argentine ants, but are distinguished from them by both their darker color and the fact that they have just one node that is flattened and hidden from view by their gaster, which is considered to be the”abdomen” of ants.

The elusive odor of this ant species has spawned a rather peculiar controversy. 

One older study compared the smell to blue cheese (Forney and Markovetz, 1971), while other more recent sources described their smell as similar to ‘rancid butter,’ ‘cleaning solution’ or most often, ‘rotten coconuts.’ 

Some sources have even gone so far as to attempt to rename the odorous house ant the “coconut ant.” 

Pittsburgh Ant Infestation Control

The Key To Recognizing A Home Infestation

Our pest-control and pest-management specialists often warn that if a homeowner notices only a few workers (wingless ants) in the house this usually means that these ants are nesting outdoors and entering the home in search of food. 

If, on the other hand, winged swarmers are found indoors, or if workers are consistently seen in great abundance, this is a clear indication that the nest is somewhere inside the residence.

A Few Interesting Facts About Odorous Ants

1) Odorous Ants Are Monomorphic

This means that both the males and females of the species are all of similar size, about 1/12-to 1/8-inches long. Their bodies are also uniform in color, ranging from brown to black.

2. These Ants Use Edges To Guide Them From Place to Place

Indoors, this can be siding, home foundations, baseboards, counters, wires or pipes. Outdoors, trees or vines are the most commonly utilized.

3. Odorous Ants Are Tough

Injured females have been known to still lay eggs and survive for as long as two months without food or water. Worker ants, even even while missing body parts, have been observed continuing to live and work.

4. Odorous House Ants Love Sweet Foods

This species is particularly fond of aphid honeydew and nectar from flowers and buds.They often move indoors during the cooler months when honeydew becomes less abundant. There they feed on dead insects, pet food and grease. Their ability to forage and survive on many types of food brings them into our pantries where they are known to contaminate stored products.

5. These Ants Nest Near Moisture

Nesting sites usually are determined by their proximity to moisture and heat. Odorous house ants love standing water and leaky pipes. Indoors, they seek out the damp interiors of houseplants and under toilet lids. Outside, they are commonly found under rocks, bricks, exposed soil and firewood stacks.

6. Odorous Ants Sometimes Share Nesting Areas With Other Species

While odorous house ants tend to overwinter in one nest, when warmer weather arrives, the colony expands with many queens and a host of locations. At this time of the year, they can often be found either sharing or invading nesting areas with other ant species.

7. They Keep Strict Daily Agendas

Like other ant species, odorous house ants maintain regular shifts for working, sleeping, and eating. They are also known to stretch and yawn when they wake up in their own own little, ant-like way!

8. A Singular Ant Can Carry Up To 50 Times Its Own Body Weight 

This fact, which is true of all ant species, makes them one of the world’s strongest creatures relative to their own size. In comparison, If an average man was as strong as a typical ant, he would be able to lift 9,000 pounds! 

9. Odorous House Ant Colonies Occur Both Indoors And Outdoors 

Colony structure and behavior is drastically influenced by where these ants are located. In forests and other natural settings, their colonies tend to be small, often containing less than 100 workers, and the ants are quiet and peaceful. In urban areas, however this species can produce much larger populations with multiple queens, tens of thousands of workers and many different sites in which they sometime behave as an invasive species.

10. This Species Has Odd Nesting Habits

Unlike other ant species, the odorous house ant does not produce mounds, Instead, they prefer pre-existing cavities such as: tubes abandoned by subterranean termites, small hollow voids beneath rocks, among log piles, fallen leaves, and mulch beds. They have even been known to nest within the cozy space inside a “Hide-a-Key” fake rock.

5 Prevention Tips To Help Protect Against Odorous Ants

The average home owner can protect their residence by taking the following steps. 

If odorous acts invade, however, simple baits and other over-the-counter strategies may not be sufficient, and the professional services of a pest-management and pest-control company may be needed to totally eradicate these tenacious insects.

Pittsburgh Ant Control For Businesses

1. Eliminate Standing Water On Property

Due to the fact that odorous house ants are attracted to moisture, eliminating this will render a property unattractive to both settlement and breeding. Home-owners should be particularly vigilant after heavy rains when these ants may enter homes attempting to escape the flooding of their shallow nest. When indoors, if a source of moisture is nearby, they tend to nest in hollow cavities such as wall voids. 

2. Cut Back Any Tall Trees And Shrubs

These ants can gain ingress via tree branches and overgrown shrubs. Keep them trimmed so that they do not touch the home. These ants will climb trees and plants and find cracks and crevices through which they can enter a residence and make themselves at home.

3. Seal All Visible Crack And Crevice

Seal cracks and other openings around the bottom of your property to prevent ants from finding an access point. 

4. Do Not Leave Your Pet Food Exposed

If at all possible, remove bowls when pets are not eating. Exposed food is very attractive to all kinds of ants as well as to other pests, such as mice, cockroaches, and flies.

5. Protect Foods and Kitchen Counters From Ants

Keep foods tightly covered and stored. Wipe counters and surfaces clean. Odorous house ants can feast on tiny crumbs and grease.

The Most Effective Solution Against Odorous Ants – Pestco!

Since our inception back in 1948, Pestco Professional Services has been a name that is synonymous with superior pest-control and pest management solutions throughout Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and surrounding areas.

Over the course of more than seven decades, we have mushroomed into an industrial leader, offering the best exterminating services, products and solutions that money can buy.


Pestco Professional Services Pest Control


In fact, we are a 5-star, family-owned company with an impeccable reputation, we are Google Guaranteed, Quality Pro and Sentricon Certified, and proud members of the National Pest Management Society, and 2 of the 7 Ace-certified technicians throughout all of Western PA are a part of our close-nit family!

Formerly limited to industrial and commercial spaces, we have recently launched a new division headed by Bob Weimer that focuses on pest-control and pest management for private homes and residences.

We understand that each infestation presents its own set of problems and challenges, and they are prepared to meet all of them head-on with integrated techniques and strategies.

Our technicians attend company workshops regularly to ensure they are always a few steps ahead of the pests they are likely to encounter.

Pestco Professional Services Truck

Our pro-active approach entails among other services an extensive and thorough examination of the affected residence and the sealing up of any cracks and crevices that might permit ingress.

Our main selling point concerning a pest exclusion policy is the fact that it’s much easier and safer for the environment to keep pests out of a home than it is to eradicate an infestation once it takes hold.

Pest exclusion is a first line of defense against infestations, and our integrated pest management services are cost-effective and eco-friendly.

In Conclusion

So call Pestco today! To ensure peace of mind and concentrate instead on daily living, let us transform your home into a pest-free place to live and thrive! (412) 252-5200

Final thought about pest control: I don’t care how small that bug is. I want it dead! ~ DoMyOwn.com

Photo Credits: Pixabay

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