Odorous House Ant


Actual Size: 1/16″ to 1/8″

Characteristics: Small; brown or black. Emits a “rotten coconut” smell when crushed; hence the name.

Legs: 6

Antennae: Yes

Wings: The reproductive males and females have wings.

Habitat: Attracted to moisture; will nest in wall voids near water pipes, heaters, leaking fixtures, and damaged wood.


  • Will nest inside homes in wall voids near heat sources.
  • Prefers to eat sweets, but will eat almost any household food.
  • Enters structures during and after heavy rains when the honeydew of plants has been washed away.

Odorous House Ants in Iowa

In Iowa, odorous house ants are difficult to control and emit a rotten, coconut-like odor when crushed. Named for their offensive odor, colonies begin in the spring and summer months by budding, which occurs when a mated queen crawls out of the nest with some workers to establish a new colony. Their ability to cooperate with workers from related subcolonies, allows odorous house ants to become established quickly. Also known as sugar ants, they prefer to nest outdoors and eat the honeydew produced by aphids and mealybugs. However, during heavy rains, when the honeydew of plants has been washed away, they will invade homes in search of food.

Odorous House Ant Habitat

The odorous house ant is adaptive and can survive in a variety of environments. Outdoors, their nests are found under stones, logs, planters, or under stacks of firewood. They forage into structures looking for food and are typically found in kitchens and food prep areas. When looking for a suitable nesting site, odorous house ants prefer areas near moisture—wall voids near water pipes, heaters, leaking fixtures, and damaged wood are all ideal habitats for them. Searching for food night and day, odorous ants invade insulation, window frames, electrical sockets, walls, and plumbing areas in kitchens and bathrooms.

Odorous House Ant Behaviors, Threats, or Dangers

Although they do not sting or bite and prefer to be outdoors, odorous house ants will forage into homes, especially during rainy weather. As they invade kitchens and food prep areas, odorous house ants contaminate food. When foraging for food, workers and scouts leave behind an invisible scent trail from the food source, your home, back to their nest. Foraging worker ants are quick to find crumbs, grease, food scraps, and food in open or partly open containers. If an odorous house ant issue is suspected, it is best to contact a professional ant exterminator.