Odorous House Ant

Ants are social insects of the family Formicidae and, along with the related wasps and bees, belong to the order Hymenoptera. Ants evolved from wasp-like ancestors in the mid-Cretaceous period between 110 and 130 million years ago and diversified after the rise of flowering plants. More than 12,500 out of an estimated total of 22,000 species have been classified. They are easily identified by their elbowed antennae and a distinctive node-like structure that forms a slender waist.

Ants form colonies that range in size from a few dozen predatory individuals living in small natural cavities to highly organised colonies that may occupy large territories and consist of millions of individuals. Larger colonies consist mostly of sterile wingless females forming castes of “workers”, “soldiers”, or other specialised groups. Nearly all ant colonies also have some fertile males called “drones” and one or more fertile females called “queens”. The colonies sometimes are described as superorganisms because the ants appear to operate as a unified entity, collectively working together to support the colony.

Las Vegas is home to the Odorous House Ant.

Dark reddish-brown to black and 1/10-inch long. Antennae have 12 segments.

Nests found in a great variety of situations. Inside buildings, they are often found nesting in the walls or beneath the floor. They are most likely to invade buildings during rainy weather. They travel in trails, foraging day and night.

Honeydew melons in the wild. Inside buildings, they prefer sweet items.

Each female in the nest lays one egg a day; young reach adulthood in an average of 24 days; workers and females live for several years.

Because odorous house ants tend to forage inside homes, they can easily contaminate human food supplies. While odorous house ants do not sting or bite, they can become persistent pests, traveling indoors in large numbers.

Odorous house ants are small, measuring between 1/16 and 1/8-inch in length. They have dark brown or black bodies with one node on their petiole, which is hidden by their abdomens. Odorous house ants have an unevenly shaped thorax when viewed from the side. The most distinguishable characteristic of odorous house ants is the smell of rotten cocoanut that is emitted when their bodies are crushed.

Odorous house ants are opportunists, nesting both indoors and outdoors. Indoors, odorous ants can nest in wall crevices, near heaters, water pipes, under carpets, beneath floors or sometimes behind paneling. Outdoors, odorous house ants place their shallow nests beneath soil as well as in logs, mulch, debris, and under rocks.

Like all ants, odorous house ants live in colonies. Each colony may contain two or more queens and over 10,000 workers. The queens of an odorous ant colony can produce thousands of workers and hundreds of reproductives. The reproductives are the future queens.

Odorous house ants forage for food night and day. Outdoors they prefer honeydew from aphids and mealybugs. When the honeydew supply is reduced in autumn, they often move indoors for food. Indoors, they eat meats, sugary foods, dairy products, pastries, cooked or raw vegetables, and fruit juices.

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