Citronella Ants

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Identification

  • Colour Light-yellow to dark yellow or light-brown
  • Size Up to 25 mm long
  • Also known as Yellow ants
  • Description Citronella ants have tiny hairs all over their bodies and antennae made up of 12 segments, with the last segments enlarging gradually towards the tip.
  • Notes When crushed underfoot, the worker ants give off a lemon-like odour.

How to identify Citronella Ants

Yellow ant workers grow to be anywhere between 3 and 4.5 mm in size. Swarmers have wings and are typically slightly larger than workers of the same species. Despite their name, yellow ants are not traditionally solid yellow in colour; instead, the insects generally appear reddish-yellow to reddish-brown. When crushed or disturbed, worker emit a distinctive and strong lemon-like odour.

Signs of an infestation

Yellow ants typically leave mounds of soil around their nest openings. Finding these mounds and openings close to building foundations, in gardens or lawns, or under yard debris points to a yellow ant infestation. The sighting of swarming alates also means that an established colony of yellow ants is probably somewhere nearby.

Citronella Ants Removal

Due to the yellow ant’s classification as a low-threat nuisance pest, it is typically recommended that homeowners leave the insects and their nests alone. If alates get in the home, vacuuming up the winged ants is an effective and non-intrusive means of control. However, if the surrounding colony swarms more than once a year, residents of the affected property should consider contacting a pest control specialist for professional removal.

How to prevent Citronella Ants from invading

To keep yellow ant workers and swarmers out of the house, residents should locate and remedy cracks in the foundation, broken window and door screens, and other potential entry points. Additionally, homeowners should keep lawns clear of debris and make sure drainage flows properly away from the house rather than soaking into the soil around the structure.

Habitat, Diet, and Life Cycle

Habitat

As subterranean creatures, yellow ants nest underground, preferably in moist soil. Common nesting sites include open woods, pastures, fields, gardens, lawns, and locations next to house foundations, beneath concrete slabs or large rocks, and in rotting logs.

Diet

With no recorded evidence of yellow ants foraging for human food items, it is thought that the insects feed almost exclusively on the honeydew of subterranean plant-sucking insects. In fact, researchers who study the species believe the ants tend aphids in the same way dairy farmers tend cows.

Life Cycle

Since the colonies remain under ground, little is known about the inner-workings or reproductive habits of yellow ants. The pests produce winged alates in the early spring. In mid to late summer, winged yellow ants are often mistaken for termites when they start swarming. Pairs of males and females fly off in search of suitable locations to start new colonies. The fertilized females then shed their wings, overwinter, and become the queens of their newly established nests.

Commonly Asked Questions

Why do I have citronella ants?

Citronella ants like to nest in warm, moist, concealed areas, under logs, in gardens, under patios and concrete slabs, and in the soil around foundation walls.

Underground colonies are rarely found indoors, as these ants feed on the honeydew produced by aphids and mealybugs, although sometimes workers enter homes on their way across lawns, gardens, and wooded areas nearby.

More commonly spotted in homes are flying males and females swarming to reproduce in the spring and fall. They usually get inside through tears and gaps in screens and doors.

How worried should I be about citronella ants?

Citronella ants do not cause structural damage or reproduce indoors, but they are a nuisance, and due to their feeding behaviour, cannot be trapped with baits. The best way to eliminate a citronella ant infestation is with the help of professional pest control services.

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