Ants are social insects that live in colonies with populations that can get into the hundreds of thousands. Most ant colonies build nests in soil. Generally odorous ants nest outdoors under items on the ground, such as in around landscape mulch, beneath loose bark on trees, under ground cover, in potted plants and within piles of lumber, firewood or bricks. Nests may also be established inside homes, in walls, beneath carpeting and other suitable voids or spaces. Odorous ants are very opportunistic; living in a variety of nesting sites, moving constantly to avoid poor weather conditions. You may find satellite colonies located close to the main larger colony.
These tiny insects range in size from one-sixteenth of an inch to one-eighth of an inch long. The name is derived from the fact that when these ants are crushed or stepped on they emit an earthy, rotten coconut type of smell. They are also known as stink ants. They are dark grey or brown in colour. When indoors, they colonize areas around hot water pipes and heaters, attracted to the warmth and moisture. Outdoors, odorous ants build shallow nests by digging underground and piling dirt into mounds.
The workers forage for food to carry back to the colony. Foraging can bring ants into your home, because they are attracted to nearly any food humans may leave out. Sugary foods, meats, and grease are particularly attractive to ants. As odorous ants search for food indoors they can create trails along cupboards, sinks and appliances which can contaminate the area and any food that is nearby. When they find food indoors, the odorous ant leaves behind a scent trail, which brings additional ants into the area.
The queens have the sole function of laying eggs in an ant colony. Most ant species have one queen per colony. Ant eggs usually take several months to develop and hatch into larvae. Worker ants feed and look after the developing larvae. The typical development period is between 34 and 83 days. Each ant goes through a metamorphosis that begins as an egg and progresses into adulthood.
Ants are unsightly and a nuisance when found inside a home. Contamination of human and pet food with their excrement is the primary concern.
Odorous ant control should begin with exclusion methods – such as caulking cracks near vents and sealing gaps around utilities. Crevices within walls are common problem areas, as well as underneath sinks and near bathtubs where moisture accumulates. Since the pests love crumbs and clutter, cleaning countertops and vacuuming daily can help limit their numbers.
Keeping the home clean and structurally well maintained generally is the best way to prevent an ant infestation. Keep leftover foods stored in tightly-sealed containers, wipe up crumbs and spills promptly, and sweep the floor regularly. Rinsing food containers prior to disposal also helps eliminate the edible residues that can attract ants. Repair all cracks in the walls and foundation and make sure doors, windows, and other points of entry remain properly sealed, as well. Eliminate standing water. Pests such as odorous house ants are attracted to moisture. Keep tree branches and other plants cut back from the house.
If your preventative measures fail and an ant infestation occurs, contact a pest control specialist. An odorous ant colony is able to reproduce multiple times throughout the year, which means infestations can quickly grow out of control. Regular inspections and service are necessary to find and treat new colonies as they move in from neighboring properties.