Odorous House Ants
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Tapinoma sessile is a species of ant that goes by the common names odorous house ant, piss ant, sugar ant, and coconut ant.
This species is a scavenger/predator ant that will eat most household foods, especially those that contain sugar, and other insects. Indoors they will colonize near heat sources or in insulation. In hot and dry situations, nests have been found in house plants and even in the lids of toilets. Outdoors they tend to colonize under rocks and exposed soil. They appear, however, to form colonies virtually anywhere, in a variety of conditions. They can trail extensive distances (though their trails are rarely longer than 50 feet), usually along landscape edges. Colonies range in size from 100-10,000, and house several queens (as many as 200, in some instances). They are non-aggressive. While queens can lay as many as 20-30 eggs in single day, they lay only 1-2 (or less) eggs per day on average over long periods of time. Typical time to adult phase of development is 34–38 days. It is believed that queens and male ants are only produced in larger colonies.
They appear to be more likely to invade homes after rain (which washes away the honeydew they collect).
Odorous house ants appear to be highly tolerant of other ants, with compound nests consisting of multiple ant species (including T. sessile) having been observed.
They range in colour from brown to black and range in length from 1/16 to 1/8 inches (1.5–3.2 mm). Their antennae have 12 segments.
Little is known about the lifespan of the ant, though it has been shown that queens can live at least 8 months (and probably much longer), workers at least a few months (and show every indication of living as long as queens), and males appear to live only approximately a week.
The odorous house ant is very tough, and injured workers have been observed to continue living and working with little hindrance. Some queens with crushed abdomens could still lay eggs, and there are documented instances of T. sessile queens surviving without food or water for over two months. They also appear highly tolerant to hot and cold temperatures. These ants are tough to remove from the body and leave an odorous smell as well.
The common names "odorous house ant" and "coconut ant" come from the odor the ants produce when crushed, which is very similar to the pungent odor of a coconut.
Control of odorous house ants should begin with an attempt to locate the origin of the ants. Careful and frequent observation may be necessary to develop an opinion about the source. Ants entering from outdoors can be discouraged by sealing as many cracks and gaps in exterior walls as possible. A insecticide labeled for use outdoors in ant control can be used to control individual ant hills near the house or to create a protective barrier to stop foragers from wandering into the house. For more information about insecticides please see " Insecticides in the Home Landscape and Garden."
Odorous house ant colonies inside the house can be treated with ready-to-use household insecticide sprays or dusts labeled . Inject a small amount of spray or puff or sweep a small amount of dust into the nest area. In areas where workers are observed the ready-to-use ant baits can be placed on or along trails, being careful to exclude contact with the bait by children and pets.
If no source of the ants is determined the sprays, granules and baits can be used according to label directions and indoors or outdoors as already specified in a broad-based attempt to control the pests. A pest control operator can be hired to complete the treatments described. Monthly treatment for a year or more should not be necessary for control.
--from Iowa State University
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