Odorous House Ant

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  • Colour Dark grey or brown
  • Size From 2 mm to 3 mm long
  • Also known as Stink ants and coconut ants.
  • Notes Odorous ants emit a rotten, earthy smell when crushed underfoot.

How to Identify Odorous Ants

Odorous house ants, also known as stink ants or coconut ants, are distinctive due to the unique odour they release when crushed—a smell that’s often compared to rotten coconuts.  They are also identifiable by being small, just 3 mm in length, brownish in colour and with no visible node due to their abdomen. Odorous house ants  tend to inhabit a variety of nesting sites and are known for frequently relocating their colonies to evade adverse weather conditions. Notably, this species can form supercolonies, which consist of satellite colonies located close to the main colony.

Habitat, Diet, and Life Cycle

Odorous house ants are highly adaptable creatures that are active throughout the year, especially in Canada. Their natural habitats encompass diverse environments including beaches, bogs, and swamps. However, they are most notable for their tendency to invade properties.

Where do Odorous House Ants Live?

Odorous house ants are known for their adaptability and ability to thrive in diverse environments.

In their natural habitat, odorous house ants typically nest outdoors in areas such as soil, leaf litter, mulch, cavities or under loose tree barks,  rocks and logs. They are attracted to moisture-rich locations, making them commonly found near water sources like streams, ponds, or gardens. These ants are known to establish multiple colonies, each containing numerous worker ants.

Not just confined to the outdoors, odorous house ants have earned a reputation as a common household pest. They often infiltrate homes and buildings in search of food and shelter. Indoors, they can nest in wall voids, beneath floorboards, around hot water pipes,  in insulations, attics, and other hidden areas. 

These ants can enter through minuscule cracks along foundations, around windows, and near utility lines. When indoors, they colonize areas around hot water pipes and heaters, attracted to the warmth and moisture. Outdoors, odorous ants build shallow nests by digging underground and piling dirt into mounds.


Workers will travel great distances while foraging for food. As odorous ants search for food indoors, they can create trails along cupboards, sinks and appliances, contaminating food. When they find sustenance indoors, the odorous ant leaves behind a scent trail, which brings additional ants to the area. Typical food sources include dairy products, vegetables, and fruits, though lunch meats, sugary foods, and crumbs are also favourites.

These pests are quite resourceful, willing to pick things up and move their nest if conditions are unfavourable. With a healthy colony containing as many as 100,000 workers, you need to be sure you deal with the infestation properly the very first time. Otherwise, you may find yourself with two or more colonies budding from the original.

Odorous Ants Removal

Odorous ant control should begin with exclusion methods, such as caulking cracks near vents and sealing gaps around utilities, window and door sills. Areas prone to these ant infestations include wall crevices, underneath sinks, and locations near bathtubs where moisture gathers. Since these pests are particularly attracted to food debris and clutter, cleaning countertops and vacuuming daily can help limit their numbers. While some might resort to targeted treatments to combat odorous house ants, these methods can often prove ineffective for stubborn infestations. For professional and reliable solutions, we recommended consulting pest control experts such as our team at Orkin Canada.

How to Prevent Odorous Ants from Invading

Here are some tips to prevent odorous ants from entering your home or business:

  • Immediately clean up food debris and crumbs. 
  • Caulk cracks and seal gaps. 
  • Clean kitchen countertops regularly. 
  • Vacuum food storage areas daily. 
  • Fix dripping faucets and condensation.
  • Fix leaky pipes. 
  • Move wood piles away from structures. 
  • Trim back overhanging trees and shrubs.
  • Ensure proper water drainage away from building foundation.
  • Use non-moisture retaining mulch in flowerbed around building foundation. Water retaining mulch  such as wood chips or bark chips provide moist environment for ant to nest and enter building.

How to Get Rid of Odorous Ants in Walls

If you have noticed an odorous house ant infestation in your home or business, you may want to tackle this issue promptly. Ant control and removal are best done over a period of time and will require patience. This can be challenging, so here are some steps you can take to start the removal process:

Step 1: Identification and Confirmation

First, you’ll need to confirm that the ants in your walls are indeed odorous house ants. These ants have dark brown or black bodies, are about 3 mm long, and emit a distinctive smell when crushed. Accurately identifying the ant species will allow you to adopt effective strategies for their removal.

Step 2: Locate the Ant Trails and Nests

Observe the ants’ movement patterns to trace their trails. Inspect your walls for cracks, crevices, or gaps that the ants could use as entry and exit points. This will help you determine the most likely nesting areas. Common locations for nests include wall voids, behind baseboards, under sinks,  bathtubs, and around electrical outlets.

Step 3: Clean and Remove Attractants

Thoroughly clean your kitchen and pantry area to eliminate any food or water sources that may attract the ants. Wipe down countertops, sweep or vacuum floors, and seal food in airtight containers. Fix any plumbing leaks or moisture issues that may draw ants to your walls.

Step 4: Seal Entry Points

Seal off any entry points in the walls to prevent ants from gaining access. Use caulk to seal cracks, gaps, and openings around windows, doors, baseboards, and pipes. Pay special attention to the areas where you’ve noticed ant activity or trails.

Step 5: Use Ant Baits

Set up registered  ant baits along the identified trails and near suspected nesting areas. Odorous house ants are known to be attracted to sweet baits. You can purchase ready-to-use approved ant baits from stores or make your own using a mixture of sugar and borax. Follow the instructions on the product label for proper placement and usage.

Step 6: Monitor and Refresh Baits

Keep an eye on the ant baits and replace them as needed. The ants will consume the bait and carry it back to the nest, sharing it with other colony members, including the queen. This will help eliminate the entire colony over time. Refrain from using spray treatments that may deter ants from the baits.

Step 7: Seek Professional Assistance

If your efforts to eliminate the ants from the walls are unsuccessful, or if the infestation continues to worsen, it may be time to consult a professional pest control service. At Orkin Canada, we have the knowledge, experience, and specialized tools to effectively address ant infestations, including treating the walls and targeting hidden nests.

Commonly Asked Questions

Why do I have odorous ants?

Odorous ants typically inhabit landscapes, beaches, bogs, and swamps, building shallow nests outdoors by digging underground and forming dirt mounds. However, they are known to venture into homes in search of food and shelter. These ants can enter homes through minuscule cracks along foundations, around windows, and near utility lines. Once indoors, they like to build nests in crevices within walls, around hot water pipes and heaters, underneath sinks and near bathtubs, attracted to the warmth and moisture.

When it comes to food, odorous ants are foragers and are attracted to dairy products, vegetables, fruits, lunch meats, sugary foods, and crumbs.

How worried should I be about odorous ants?

Odorous ants can contaminate human and pet food with their presence, and their smell may become a source of discomfort. Additionally, the scent trails they create along cupboards, sinks, and appliances can bring additional pests to the area.

Unfortunately, this species of ant is not easily eradicated. A healthy colony can have up to 100,000 workers. A supercolony grows even bigger, with many satellite colonies located close to one main colony.

Odorous ants are able to reproduce multiple times throughout the year, which means infestations can quickly grow out of control. To truly prevent an infestation of odorous ants, professional pest control services are crucial.

Are odorous ants dangerous?

While odorous ants may be a nuisance, they are generally not considered dangerous to humans.

In terms of physical harm, odorous ants do not possess a venomous sting or bite. Unlike some other ant species, they do not pose a direct threat to humans in terms of causing pain or transmitting diseases. However, their presence can still be undesirable due to the smell they release when crushed, their foraging habits and potential aesthetic damage to property.

Odorous ants are attracted to sugary substances and can quickly infest kitchens, pantries, and other areas where food is stored. They leave scent trails, allowing other ants to follow and join in the search for food sources. This behaviour can lead to food contamination, which may pose health risks. 

While odorous ants may not be inherently dangerous, they can still create significant inconveniences and potential risks. Infestations can be difficult to control as these ants establish multiple colonies and can quickly adapt to changes in their environment. It is often necessary to employ professional pest control services to effectively eliminate an infestation and prevent future occurrences.

Do odorous house ants bite?

Odorous house ants are generally not known for biting humans. Unlike some other ant species that have well-developed mandibles and use them for defence or hunting, odorous house ants have relatively small mandibles that are not strong enough to cause significant harm. Their primary mode of defence is to release a foul odour when disturbed, hence their name.

In rare cases, if a person accidentally crushes an odorous house ant against their skin, it might result in a slight pinch or irritation, but it is typically not a painful experience. The irritation is more likely to be caused by the formic acid released by the ants when they are disturbed rather than a true bite.

It is important to note that individual reactions to ant bites or irritations can vary. Some people may be more sensitive or allergic to ant bites and could experience localized itching, redness, or swelling.

The main concern with odorous house ants is not their biting behaviour but rather their tendency to invade homes in search of food and moisture, which can cause frustration for homeowners.

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