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ProGuard Fast Facts: Odorous House Ant (OHA)

Scientific Name: Tapinoma sessile

  • Workers are black or brown, and 1⁄16 to 1⁄8 inch long.
  • Antennae have 12 segments
  • Readily identified by crushing one or two specimens to get the "rancid butter" or "rotten coconut" smell 
  • From early May through mid-July these ants will be observed “swarming” (mating). This will be observed as winged ants fly from the colony.
  • Commonly invade homes seeking food & water so are often seen trailing in kitchens, mudrooms and bathrooms.
Kirkland Pest Control, Ant Control

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        Odorous house ants are sometimes abbreviated to “OHAs” (oh-hah) and are commonly referred to as stink ants or sugar ants. These nicknames come from the strong smell given off when the ant is crushed and the type of food they prefer. This smell is sometimes described as being like “rotten coconut”, although most people don’t know what that smells like! The strong odor is their best defense mechanism, alerting other nearby ants to threat. 

        Here in the Pacific northwest the OHA is most commonly black in color although it can have a brownish body as well. The workers are quite small – 1/16” to 1/8” – and do not have a stinger, but they can bite and when threatened can be seen running in an erratic pattern with its abdomen raised. While small, they are quite hardy – it is not uncommon to see injured workers continuing to live and carry on with chores for the colony. Scientists have reported queens with crushed abdomens still laying eggs, and even documented instances of queens surviving without any food or water for months. Return to our ant service options or keep reading about OHA's.

        Odorous house ants are a native species ranging from south Canada to northern Mexico. These ants are highly tolerant to heat and cold, having adapted to the climate of North America. They are mainly an outdoor species, meaning their colonies are outdoors. Ants don’t transmit diseases, and the odorous house ant isn’t categorized as a structurally damaging ant as it doesn’t bore into wood the way that carpenter ants, wood-boring beetles and termites do. Without stingers, there’s no real reason to fear this tiny ant. However, they can become quite a nuisance when they forage and nest indoors. When the nests are outside, they are considered “shallow” and can be found in soil, bark and mulch; under rocks, logs and boards; as well as under siding, behind bricks and even in trash piles! A typical nest consists of a primary or main colony and several satellite colonies. Each will have several queens producing a new egg every day, so colonies can swell in size and move frequently making eradication a challenge for the “DIY” homeowner that uses over-the-counter sprays. In one study at Purdue University, a colony grew to cover almost a city block – that’s 10 to 15 acres in size!

Odorous House Ant In Kirkland, Kirkland Ant Control

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Odorous house ants undergo complete metamorphosis like all other ants. From the egg stage, ants pass through larval, pupal and then adult stages. OHAs are known as “sweet feeders”, which leads to the nickname of sugar ant. Each species of ant will be attracted to sugar, however, so this really is a misnomer. Odorous house ants feed on flower nectar and honeydew, a sugary liquid that is made by aphids and small insects called scales. They also feed on food and food crumbs as well as dead insects and spiders.

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Of the 3 common pest ant species, odorous house ant colonies can get quite large, with a single colony containing over 100,000 ants and multiple nest sites! OHAs are also polygamous, meaning having multiple reproducing queens. With only approximately 10% of the colony out foraging above-ground, this means that successfully getting rid of these small, black ants relies on an ongoing pest control treatment. ProGuard Pest Protection offers effective techniques to provide immediate relief to get rid of ants in your home and a recurring treatment that will, over time, eliminate the colony.                

        Ants can come foraging into the home, leaving a pheromone trail for other ants to follow. Your pest technician will inspect areas such as under sinks, along baseboards and window sills, near water heaters and/or piping, and in kitchens and bathrooms. In some cases, satellite colonies are established in the crawl space under the home, or even in the wall void. A perimeter treatment along with spot-treating inside is one possible solution. The most successful extermination method is to find and treat the nests directly. However, this cannot always be accomplished as the nest may be located in inaccessible areas or on the neighbor’s property. For these reasons ant infestations can be problematic for the typical homeowner, but the pros at Proguard Pest Protection provide expert ant extermination. Call (425) 445-8020  now to schedule a service, or go back to learn about other ant services. Liquid baits are most effective at introducing treatment to the colony. Ants drink the sweet bait and store it in their bodies. When they return to the colony, the worker ant regurgitates the bait where the queen and other ants consume the bait as well. While very effective, this process takes time as ants continue to carry the bait back to the colony. This means that homeowners will try various home remedies and internet solutions in an attempt to quicken the ant control: 

  • Sprinkling cinnamon trails around the house
  • “Dusting” window sills and doorways with cayenne pepper
  • Spraying ants with hair spray, gasoline, Windex
  • Piling diatomaceous earth as a perimeter barrier

        These are just a few remedies offered in a quick internet search, and some sound downright dangerous! Others will have little to no effect on the colony if there is any effect at all on the foraging ants and can result in secondary issues such as attracting bigger pests such as mice and rats, or flies and fungus gnats. Also, while several brands of “ant spray” can be readily obtained at the garden store, applying repellent and non-repellent pesticides can negate each other and cause colony disruption which can lead to a satellite colony being created…making the problem worse rather than better!

        Instead, calling ProGuard Pest Protection at (425) 445-8020 delivers a consistent, proven method for getting rid of ants. We know that odorous house ants in Kirkland (including the communities of Juanita, Finn Hill, Totem Lake, Evergreen Hill, Kingsgate, Rose Hill, Highlands, Norkirk, Market, Moss Bay, Everest, Bridle Trails, Central Houghton and Lakeview) have a complex foraging strategy, allocates food depending upon environmental conditions and competes with other insect species in order to survive. We’ve successfully completed ant extermination in neighboring areas as well, including Bothell, Kenmore, Woodinville, Redmond and Bellevue.

        Homeowners can help by caulking cracks and crevices that can be found around foundations. Other sites to seal are small cracks around window frames and door frames as these can provide entry for these little black ants. Odorous house ants will frequently use wires and pipes to come into a home and can even be found inside of electrical boxes and breaker boxes. While this can be visually alarming, and in rare cases a fire hazard, an indoor treatment from ProGuard Pest Protection can get rid of ants and start the process of protecting your home from further infestation. Further inspection may disclose a colony within the wall void, and our experts have professional pesticide dusts as an option to apply that will eradicate the nest. 

        Additionally, maintaining a clean and sanitary home will reduce the likelihood of ant and other pest infestation. In kitchens, ensure that food items – especially sugary ones – are sealed and properly stored. Sugar, syrup, honey and other liquids should be checked to cleaned from drips or other residue on outer surfaces. Pet food containers are a common item that can have solid or liquids smeared on the outside of the container that can attract ants. Another common site for odorous house ants is the recycling bin. Empty soft drink containers and bottles should be rinsed prior to being placed in the recycling so as to not present a pool of sweet liquid. Cleaning up grease and other food spills will also go a long way to removing the food sources that odorous house ants and other ants and pests are attracted to.

        Indoor nesting sites can include potted plants. Any infested plant pots should be removed from the home and a solution of insecticidal soap and water can be used to immerse the plant and treat the infestation. Outdoors, plants are used by ants to support and harvest honeydew from aphids, scale insects, mealybugs or whiteflies. The best practice here is to avoid planting trees and shrubs so close to the house as to make contact. Over time as these landscaping features grow continual pruning is recommended to avoid physical contact with the side of the home so as to prevent a “highway” of sorts for OHAs and other species of ants. Raking back bark and mulch will not only reduce ant infestation along the foundation wall but will also reduce wood-to-soil contact and the associated presence of moisture along siding. Paying attention to leaky exterior faucets and sprinkler heads will cut down on water waste as well as remove a water source for ants and other pest insects.

Return to our ant service options or call ProGuard Pest Protection now at (425) 445-8020 to schedule an odorous house ant service. 

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