Odorous House Ant
General Ant Identifying Features
- The body of an ant is clearly divided into
three sections: the head, the thorax, and the gaster.
- Ants are social insects living in colonies
comprised of one or a few queens, and many workers. The queen generally
stays deep and safe within a nest. Most ants that you see are workers and
these are all females. Depending on species, workers may be similar in size,
or come in a range of sizes.
- Ants tend to come in dark or earth tones.
Different species are black, earth-tone reds, pale tans, and basic browns.
Adult Males and Females
When ant colonies reproduce, the new queens and males may be found
in the colony. These are "flying ants" and have two pairs of wings.
Males generally have small heads, large eyes, large thoraces, and a pair of
claspers at the end of the gaster. Once they fly (and mate), males do not live
very long. After mating, new queens break off their wings and never fly again.
Without wings, they can generally be distinguished from workers by their larger
body size, larger thorax and larger abdomen.
All workers are females.
Immatures (different stages)
Ant larvae are white and grub like. They have no legs and don't move about much
on their own. You can generally see a large, dark stomach through their cuticle.
Ant pupae look like white adult ants, with their legs and antennae pressed close
to their bodies. In some species, larvae spin silk and the pupal stage is inside
Most ants eat a variety of small insects that they capture, dead insects they
happen to find, nectar, or honey dew. They need a balance of carbohydrates and
protein. Protein is especially needed for the queen to make eggs and for the
larvae to grow.
Most ant species live in the soil. Some, like the carpenter
ants, also live in wood (they excavate, but do not actually eat the wood).
Some ants live in cavities made inside plants, such as acorns, twigs, and galls.
A variety of reptiles or amphibians (particularly toads and lizards), spiders,
other insects such as assassin bugs, and other ants may prey on workers. Bats,
birds, and occasionally, people capture and kill or eat the flying males and
Since ants are social they display many behaviors that remind us of our families
and society. For example, worker ants take care of larvae by feeding and washing
them. Ants are able to communicate with each other. They are able to
communicate, among other things, directions (to where the food is) and alarm.
Some Ants are pests.
A few ant species are considered pests, because
they live in and protect territory that we consider ours or because they want to
consume resources that we need. For example, leafcutting ants compete with
us for crop plants in the American tropics. Fire ants colonize damp grasslands
(including lawns!) with alarming ease. Carpenter
ants, adapted for living in dead wood, consider the dead wood (lumber) in
houses fair game, especially if it is damp. A number of opportunistic ant
species can overrun kitchens, pantries, and pet food areas in search of suitable
food items. Also, some ants (like their relatives the wasps and bees) have a
potent sting. As with bees, some people can become hypersensitive to ant stings.
Thatching or "mound ants" get their name because
they construct mounds from small sticks, grass stems, leaves and pine or fir
needles. They may also nest in decayed logs. Under most circumstances, thatching
ants should be considered beneficial, since they are fierce predators of
other insects. However, when they occur in lawns, rockeries, picnic areas and
other areas of human habitation, they can become a severe annoyance.
Thatching ants are often injurious to seedling trees or plants near their nests,
and they have been known to damage the buds of apples, pears and other fruit
trees in the spring. The landscape can be visually disrupted by the presence of
their mounds. Physical contact with them is also displeasing, since they can
bite quite hard and usually spray the area they have bitten with formic acid to
produce a painful sensation which can result in a blistering of the skin if it
is not washed.
An interesting phenomenon demonstrated by thatching ants, as well as other
ants, is the habit of "herding" and maintaining aphid colonies on trees, shrubs
and weeds. This occasionally leads to an aphid problem because, while keeping
aphids for their sweet honeydew, they protect the aphids against natural control
organisms such as wasps and ladybird beetles.
Be sure thatching ants are indeed a threat if you find their mounds on your
property. Frequently, they do not pose a serious problem and no control is
Baits: Thatching ants can sometimes be eliminated with baits
containing boric acid or hydramethylnon. Often a combination of bait types works
best. Repeated bait applications are usually needed to eliminate the colony.
Dusts: Thatching ant nests in buildings can usually be
eliminated with boric acid, diatomaceous earth or pyrethrins. These can also be
applied to cracks and crevices used by the ants as travel routes into problem
areas. In addition to eliminating them in buildings, however, the ants should be
followed to find other nests outdoors.
Thatching ant nests can also be eliminated using spot
treatments of nests with residual insecticides registered for ant control. There
is no need to apply residual insecticides to large areas outdoors. because
the entire nest surface and subterranean portion should be thoroughly treated
this is not environmentally friendly. Saturating the earth with pesticides
may contaminate ground water.
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See our feature pages of carpenter ant
identification, photos and control information.
Odorous house ant
- Workers are all the same size, small, 1/8-inch long
- Dark brown to shiny black
- Petiole with 1 node, hidden by abdomen
- Thorax uneven in shape when viewed from side
- Very strong odor when crushed
- Feed on both dead and living insects, favoring aphid and scale
- In homes, forage primarily for sweets
- Travel in both wandering patterns and set trails
- Trails common along branches of trees, foundations, sidewalks,
baseboards, and edges of carpets
- When disturbed, become erratic with their abdomens raised in the
Nest type and size
- Live in shallow nests in soil under stones, wood, or debris
- May nest in various habitats including wooded areas, beaches, wall
voids, and around water pipes and heaters
colonies, with up to 10,000 workers and many queens
What to do when ants invade your home,
- Sponge invaders with soapy water as soon as you see them.
- Plug up ant entryways with caulk or petroleum jelly.
- Remove infested potted plants.
- Clean up food sources such as sugary spills, pet food, or garbage.
- Rely on
to control the ant colony.
(Not Carpenter ants)
Remove food sources by storing food in containers
Managing ants on trees and shrubs
When you find numerous ants on plants, they are
probably attracted to ripening fruit or the sweet honeydew deposited
on the plants by certain sucking insects such as aphids or soft
What to do
- Manage honeydew-producing insects such as aphids and soft scales
on trees and shrubs near the house. Once in trees, ants protect
these pests from natural enemies, making many pest problems worse.
- Remove trees and shrubs that consistently host ants and are
adjacent to houses. Honeydew producers provide a great source of
food for ants, and ant colonies may enlarge as a result and
frequently invade nearby structures.
- Band tree trunks with sticky substances such as Tanglefoot.
- Trim branches to keep them from touching structures or plants so
that ants are forced to climb up the trunk through the Tanglefoot.
- Protect young or sensitive trees from possible injury by
wrapping the trunk with a collar of heavy paper, duct tape, or
fabric tree wrap and coating this with the sticky material.
- Check the sticky material every 1 to 2 weeks and stir with a
stick to prevent it from getting clogged with debris that allows
ants to cross.
- Indoor treatments of wall voids and indoor nest sites may be
necessary; Call a pest control professional.
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Node Ants scientific name # species body size # queens food
monogyne sweets large size (1/4-1/2 in), black, red and black, or brown
polygyne sweets, protein medium size (1/8-1/4 in), thorax and abdomen
covered with long stiff hairs
. 5 monomorphic
monogyne sweets medium size (1/8-1/4 in), light brown to reddish and
dark brown in color, raised tubercle at end of thorax
polygyne sweets, oil medium size (1/8 in), dark brown brown to brown in
monogyne? sweets medium size (1/8 in), yellowish brown to dark brown in
color, similar to Argentine ant, rectangular-shaped head and body
covered with fine hairs, produces a distinct odor when crushed.
polygyne sweets small (1/16 in), dark head and thorax and light colored
abdomen, node hidden from above, distinct odor when crushed
polygyne sweets small to medium size (1/16-1/8 in), brown in color, node
hidden from above, distinct odor when crushed
polygyne sweets medium size (1/8 in), body dark colored, legs light
Two Node Ants
polygynous plants, fungus large size (1/4 -1/2 in), reddish color,
spines on head and thorax, dense foraging trails
monogyne seeds large size (1/2 in), reddish color, head with many small
both sweets, oil, protein medium size (1/8-1/4 in), reddish to brown in
color, no spines on thorax, antennal club of 2 segments
9 monomorphic polygyne protein small size (1/16- 1/8 in), yellow to
light brown in color, no spines on thorax, antennal club of 2 segments
polygyne sweets small size (1/16- 1/8 in), black in color, no spines on
thorax, antennal club of 3 segments
both sweets, protein medium size (1/8-1/4 in), abdomen heart-shaped and
attached towards the top, not straight from the side
polygyne sweets, protein small to medium size (1/16-1/4 in), spines on
thorax, antennal club of 3 segments
polygyne sweets, oil medium size (1/8-1/4 in), head covered with
grooves, dark brown in color, spines on thorax
polygyne sweets, oil, protein small (1/16 in), light reddish to golden
brown in color, antennal club of 3 segments, head with grooves
|The University of Wisconsin has created a comprehensive,
Know your ants, that provides identification and specific control
strategies for some of the most common ants,