Odorous House Ant Control: Protect Your Home


What Do Odorous House Ants Look Like?
illustration of an odorous house ant
Size: Odorous house ant workers are monomorphic, meaning they are all about the same size. On average, the pests range from 1/16 to 1/8 of an inch in length.

Color: The common ant species appears uniformly brown to black.

Characteristics: All odorous house ants possess a head, antennae, an uneven thorax and an abdomen. Fortunately for the homeowner, these ants do not have stingers and are unable to bite.

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  • Entry: The odorous house ant frequently wanders into manmade structures for the combination of warm, moist spaces and sugary treats.
  • Wide Distribution: Given their wide-ranging diet, the pests are capable of surviving in a variety of environments and situations. Furthermore, the high adaptability of the insects makes them particularly bothersome and invasive.


What Do Odorous House Ants Eat?
Sugar serves as the main source of sustenance for the odorous house ant. Honeydew produced by other insects, particularly aphids remains a staple in the diet of the odorous ant species.

The pests even offer protection to the insects that produce the sugary substance.

Other common food sources include:

  • Honeydew (from aphids, mealybugs and scales)
  • Nectar from flowers
  • Fruits
  • Honey
  • Pastries
  • Syrup
  • Other sugary foods

Protein in their diet is typically obtained from feeding on very small insects and their eggs, such as springtails and Zorapterans.

In fact, they will consumer their own eggs as a means of survival when necessary.


Depending on the area odorous house ant colonies range in size from small to extremely large.

Smaller colonies range from 15 to 30 workers and include a single queen, while some of the largest reported colonies swell to as many as 500,000 worker ants and feature several queens.

As a result, larger colonies tend to maintain several nest sites.

Life Cycle
Odorous house ants go through a life cycle of complete metamorphosis featuring an 11 to 26 day egg phase, a larval stage that lasts between 13 and 29 days, a 2 to 3 day prepupal phase and a pupal stage that ranges from 8 to 25 days in duration.

The pests prefer to mate within the colony as opposed to swarming and establishing new nest sites.


  • Seasonal: Look for adult ants in later winter to early spring.
  • Odor: May notice a rotten, coconut-like odor.
  • Food: Look for damaged food storage containers, especially those holding sugary foods.

Problems Caused by Odorous House Ants

Odorous house ants don’t transmit diseases and aren’t capable of biting.

Food Supplies
Most problems caused by odorous house ants center on their preference for sugary foods and their willingness to forage in kitchens and pantries.

The pests generally invade homes in large numbers and are therefore considered a nuisance.

Signs of Infestation

Spotting adult ants in food supplies usually points to the existence of a home infestation.

Finding a nest also clearly reveals an odorous house ant problem. Indoor nests may appear in:

  • Wall voids close to pipes or heaters
  • Bath traps
  • Wood damaged by termites
  • Beneath toilets

While outdoor nests tend to crop up under:

  • Leaf litter
  • Boards
  • Landscaping timbers
  • Piles of lumber or firewood.
  • Bricks
  • Rocks
  • Cardboard and similar debris.

When crushed, odorous house ants emit an aroma similar to the smell of rotten coconuts. The unpleasant scent is usually noticed when a nest is discovered or the ants are crushed.

Prevention Tips

The key to prevention centers on fostering an unfavorable environment for odorous house ants.

This can be achieved by:

  • Sealing Cracks: Caulking or sealing any cracks in the foundation or around doors and windows is a good first step.
  • Sanitation: Adhering to proper sanitation practices also discourages odorous house ants from invading.
  • Food Storage: Seal foods in airtight and ant-proof containers.
  • Landscaping: Keep trees and shrubs well-maintained, and avoid letting the vegetation come into contact with the outside of the home.
  • Debris: Clear any debris that would make a suitable nesting site for the pests.

Tips for Removal from Home

Soapy Water
Since odorous house ants leave chemical trails while scavenging, sponging the foraging adults with soapy water reduces the likelihood of more ants returning.

Baits also work especially well as long as they target sugar-loving ants.

Call on the Experts
Odorous house ant infestations that involve an indoor nest or multiple nesting sites often require the help of a pest control professional.

The use of insecticides may prove necessary for control and professionals possess the experience, training and proper certifications to manage these pests.

Learn more about Western’s comprehensive Home Pest Control Plans.

Call for service: (877) 250-3857