Odorous Ants: How to Identify and Get Rid of These Pests

The worst part about having odorous ants in your house is the smell. Step on any regular old ant, and it might smell a bit acidic. Accidentally crush an odorous ant, however, and the scent of rotten coconut will fill your nostrils.

Do you have an issue with other stinging or damaging ants? Read these suggested articles:

How to identify and get rid of fire ants.

How to identify and get rid of carpenter ants.

Beware of the red veil event ants.

How to get rid of harvester ants.

Odorous ants
Group of odorous ants. Photo credit: Shutterstock.com/Diane Isabel

Odorous ants: Description.

Odorous ants (Tapinoma sessile), stink ants, coconut ants, and sugar ants are social insects and common household pests. In the wild, they forage for honeydew, but in households, they are attracted to sweet and sugary foods and fluids. When crushed, they produce an obnoxious, rotten coconut odor.

Odorous ants are brown or black and measure between 1/16th to 1/8th of an inch in size. They are found throughout the United States.

Odorous ant colonies may have hundreds to tens of thousands of ants, with larges nests having more than one queen

Odorous ants are remarkably resilient and tough. Badly injured workers and queens are capable of carrying out their regular duties. In addition, odorous ants can survive in climate extremes that routinely kill off other ants, with heat and cold having little effect on them.

Related: How long do ants live?

Related: What do ants eat?

Where to find an odorous ant nest in your home.

Odorous house ants will create nests inside and outside your home. Nests will be found near water sources (pipes, faucets), around heaters, inside wall cracks, under carpeting, and in voids beneath the flooring.

Many odorous ant infestations occur after floods or heavy rains.

Keeping odorous ants out of your home.

For those who heat their homes with firewood, check the wood before bringing it inside. It is also wise to store your firewood well away from the house and elevated to prevent direct contact with the ground.

The key to keeping odorous ants outside of your home is deny them the water they need to survive. This means caulking cracks and openings around your windows and doors, cutting back vegetation and branches, and removing pools and puddles of standing water against your foundation.

A properly sealed home means even if you bring odorous ants inside, they can’t get to a water source outside.

How to get rid of odorous ants in the house.

The only way to get rid of odorous ants in your house is to find their nests. But, unfortunately, the only way to find their nests is to follow them home like you were a cop in an old movie.

Place some sugary bait where they will eventually find it, and sit back and wait. It may take a few days for the odorous ants to find the bait, and you may not catch them at it right away. If needed, keep adding bait.

Eventually, some lucky odorous ant will find your sugary treat and leave a scent trail back to the nest. Once it gets home, all the other ants will head for that bait pile like carb-seeking missiles.
Now you just have to put a tail on them. Those odorous ants returning home should lead you to a crack or opening between the floor and a wall or behind a cabinet before disappearing.

Now all you have to do is drill a series of small holes (just big enough to admit the nozzle of a boric acid applicator) to cover a 5-foot wide area around the odorous ants’ entry point. This should allow you to puff enough boric acid into the void and come into contact with most of the nest.

Using boric acid works best because even if the nest is outside, the poisonous boric acid doesn’t kill the odorous ant until well after it has returned the delicious poison to its nest and fed its queen and other workers. Boric acid is a foraging ant’s worst enemy—it tastes delicious but kills them.

Dealing with odorous ants outside your home.

Finding an outdoor nest is tricky. Grab a flashlight and inspect the outside of your home’s foundation. Any penetrations in your foundation should be checked for odorous ants headed inside to forage in your kitchen.

Where possible, consider using a pest-blocking foam (I love this stuff) to seal off cracks and open spaces where pipes or utility pipes enter the foundation.

Once you find a nest outdoors, apply some Seven Dust per the manufacturer’s instructions.

Dennis V. Gilmore Jr.

Dennis V. Gilmore Jr. is a former Marine Sergeant and the author of several books, including two on night hunting coyotes and red and gray fox. He has written several hundred articles on predator hunting for ThePredatorHunter.com.

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