odorus house ants in maryland

The Ants Go Marching



While the beloved children's song chimes "the ants go marching down to the ground to get out of the rain," it fails to mention a detour into our homes.  Ants are a common pest problem for homeowners everywhere, especially as the weather becomes warmer.  They are often found foraging in kitchens, nesting indoors and marching around your property as they make their way back and forth between their colony and their food and water source.  In Maryland, Virginia and Washington D.C., the Odorous house ant makes its presence known by infesting our homes in droves and causing a great deal of frustrations for homeowners.  While the Odorous house ant (you may know them as sugar ants or little black ants) is a difficult pest to get rid of, here are some identification tools to help you in the fight.

What does an Odorous ant look like?  Perhaps more important – what does it smell like?  These ants are small and dark brown to black in color, only measuring about 1/16-1/8 of an inch in size.  They are often seen marching in a line around the foundation of a home, across driveways, or over foliage and will typically be found inside a home in either kitchens or bathrooms, in search of food and moisture.  You can easily identify the Odorous house ant by a characteristic odor produced when the ants feel threatened or are crushed.  To some, this smells like lemon pledge or fouled coconuts.  To determine whether the little black ants you see are indeed the Odorous house ant species, simply crush a few on the end of your finger (if that sounds unappealing, try a paper towel or tissue).  If you think you smell cleaning supplies, congratulations, you're well on your way to being an ant-sniffing pro!

You call them sugar ants, or little black ants – we call them Odorous house ants – and they sure do eat a lot!  In homes, they are attracted to sweet items that are typically found in a kitchen or a pantry, like honey, sugar, peanut butter (with or without the jelly) fruits and also protein packed foods and even meat.  Oftentimes, where you see one, more will soon follow.  One important thing to realize about the Odorous house ant is that you will often only see a handful of ants at a time.  These are the foragers, looking for food and water, and only represent a very small number of the total colony.  An Odorous house ant nest can contain several thousand ants and may be commonly found:

•    In wood damaged or dampened by water
•    Under rocks and patio stones
•    In the soil around a foundation
•    Behind wall voids and around doorways and windowsills

While a single ant may not pose a serious problem, a colony of sugar ants can be difficult to control and eliminate.  Though their presence in a home is more irritating then problematic; ants can potentially contaminate food when they leave droppings behind. 

We all look forward to summer get-togethers, barbecues, and the warm-weather holidays fast approaching.  If you find yourself in a situation where you need immediate relief from ants in the kitchen, here's what you can do until help arrives:

•    First of all DO NOT spray the ants with over the counter insecticides - these materials are repellent and may fracture the colony making long term control much more difficult
•    For an immediate response (but by no means a long term solution) try vinegar – plain old white vinegar will do – just spray it anywhere you see the ants marching
•    Inspect the exterior to look where the ants are entering – in some cases you can seal this off for temporary relief
•    Cut back foliage if you see ants crawling into the house from a nearby bush or tree

Click here for more tips on how to control ants around the home.

Next steps:

•    Contact us to make an appointment to have an inspection and consultation – with a proper inspection we can help you to locate the ant colonies from the exterior and eliminate them


At American Pest we understand how annoying ants can be and that is why we offer homeowners in our service area our Preferred Care program.  With routine residential pest control service we make sure ants and other household pest infestations are effectively resolved, by eliminating entire colonies.

No matter how severe an infestation we can help eliminate ants and other nuisance and damaging pests. For effective pest control in Maryland, Washington D.C. and Northern Virginia call 1-877-282-1886 or click here.

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