Some people call these little black ants “sweet ants” or “sugar ants”, but their official name is “Odorous House Ants”. These ants started to appear in the Seattle area about 10 years ago, probably introduced through landscape material from Arizona or states further east. Odorous House Ants get their name because of a strange odor or smell if you crush them, and the fact that they often are found in the wall voids of homes. There is nothing significant about the odor, except that it impressed the entomologists enough when the ants were first discovered in the United States for them to make it part of their name.
Below are some critical points about this invasive ant:
30 to 50 Queens per Colony
Most ant species in the Pacific Northwest only have one queen. If you kill the queen, then the whole colony will collapse. That isn’t the case with Odorous House Ants. Because they have so many queens it is easier for the colony to survive most treatments and fairly quickly rebuild their colonies.
They Love Living in the Walls
While the Odorous House Ants can survive outside in Washington State because of our mild winters, they love living in wall and ceiling voids of our homes. Odorous House Ants prefer being in the walls of kitchens and bathrooms because of the slight moisture around the water lines. But if a homeowner starts to spray they will split their colony and can easily move into different sections of the house.
Almost all over-the-counter ant sprays have repellants in them, and while the sprays may kill some of them, the repellents cause the ant colonies to split into two new colonies. Odorous House Ants are unique in that when they are stressed out, half of the queens move and the colony splits in two. Within months, you could easily have two colonies instead of just the original one. Even natural products (like vinegar, or peppermint oil) will cause the colonies panic and split.
Ants by the Thousands
While Odorous House Ants don’t damage the wood in your home, they will hunker down in the insulation of your wall voids and reproduce by the thousands. During the summer months they will predominantly feed outside and so you may not see their numbers building up until they are driven back into the house because of the cold or a rain storm. Theoretically, these ants can build up colonies that reach tens of thousands and then when their numbers get too big they just split into a second or third colony.
You are NOT alone When these ants move into a neighborhood, they pretty much take over the entire area. So if it’s any consolation, your neighbors are also probably struggling with the same issues that you are. And while these ants will probably never completely go away in the neighborhood, there is a way to protect your home and bring you back to sanity.
Windex is Your New Best Friend
We don’t fully understand why, but Windex will kill the worker ants on contact. It won’t kill the entire colony or the queens, but it is a great option for the homeowner if they have a colony move or encounter large numbers of ants suddenly. Over-the-counter baits can also work, but usually the ants start to avoid the baits at some point if that is the only treatment method.
Your Honey-Do-List Just Got Longer
I apologize to all the husbands out there. But as it turns out, keeping vegetation back away from the home is critical at managing and reducing the Odorous House Ant populations. The more things are cut back, the harder it is for the ants to avoid effective treatment programs. Besides, it will also make your house look nicer!
Long Term Programs Do Work
Because at Green City Pest Control we can use multiple products when treating for Odorous House Ants, we can design a program that eventually will get the ants under control and reduce their chances of moving back into the home. Consistent treatment programs allow a more targeted treatment approach that can properly protect your home and yard from these challenging ants.
Green City Pest Control is owned and managed by one of the few Urban Entomologists in the Seattle area who has been designing pest management programs for challenging situations over the past 30 years.