Citronella Ants Scientific Name: Pheidole megacephala
All about Citronella Ants
Step on a Citronella ant and you may suddenly feel like you’ve walked onto a newly cleaned wood floor. Not that the Citronella ant should be used to clean wood floors, and should especially not be used to ward off pests, but it does – strangely – emit a lemon scented odor when crushed.
What do Citronella ants look like?
Interestingly, the Citronella ant not only smells like a lemon but looks like one too! It is also known as the “large yellow ant” because it is commonly light yellow and large in size: as big as 5mm in length. It has antennae segmented into twelve parts with the first long segment shorter than its head. The antennae gradually taper into an enlarged end and the top of the thorax has a distinctive “dip” when viewed from the side. Around the anal opening of the ant there is a small circle of hairs (though most would prefer not to get close enough to use this as a distinguishing feature). Citronella ants undergoing a reproductive cycle, the queen ants, have wings.
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Citronella ants Habitat and Food Source
Citronella ants are common throughout the U.S. from New England to the Pacific Northwest and south to Florida and Mexico.
Citronella ants nest underground in the soil usually under logs, stones, or timber but may also be found in the soil of potted plants, beneath slab foundations, and inside rotted wood. Citronella ants often leave mounds of soil and soil-covered debris that may resemble foraging tubes made by termites. Inside homes Citronella ants may nest in areas of high moisture and wood already damaged by termites or fungus. If Citronella ants have invaded your home, it may be a good sign you have rotting wood or a termite problem. Simply removing and replacing rotted or moist wood could be an easy way of getting rid of a Citronella ant infestation.
Citronella ants eat both living and dead insects, small invertebrates, as well as the honeydew produced by aphids, soft scale insects, mealybugs, whiteflies, and planthoppers. These ants may forage for sweets, fats, and proteins inside homes but it is not common.
Citronella ants Life Cycle
Winged Queen Citronella ants mate in late September and October (the swarming season) then seal themselves in a small nest in rotted wood or soil to lay their eggs. The worker Citronella ants then care for and feed the ant larvae until they pupate. The adult ants will then emerge as workers and begin the cycle again.
Citronella ants and Humans
Citronella ants may enter through cracks of slabs or basement walls and become quite a nuisance for a homeowner. The Citronella ant may nest indoors which can become a huge problem. The nest should be eliminated immediately. Most Citronella ants, though, prefer to nest outdoors but may still be in close proximity to your home.
Citronella Ant Control
Citronella ants will often build a nest in or around homes. If this is the case, it may be that there is a moisture or rotting problem with the wood. Any moist or rotting wood should be identified, removed, and replaced before extermination of the Citronella ant. Citronella ants will also nest in gardens and lawns and in this case can become a problem for homeowners. If an ant infestation has grown large in numbers, a professional will be required to eliminate this pest.
- Inside: Baits are a very effective way of controlling Citronella ant populations that have made their way indoors. Not only will the ant itself die, but it may take bait back to the colony as a food source and destroy much more of the colony. Baits can also help to identify the nesting location if it is not known. A professional will set baited traps in appropriate locations and have a wide selection of products: Advance and Maxforce being among the most common. Liquid or dust pesticides may also be used in places indoors where ants have been seen.
- Outside: Once the nest is located, professionals use a large array of pesticides to drench the nests of the ant. Phantom, Termidor, Talstar, or Demand are commonly used to eradicate ant colonies. Pesticide application is concentrated to the nest.
DIY and Green Solutions for Citronella Ant Control
Small infestations of the Citronella ant can be managed using some easy do-it-yourself methods. There are many preventative or natural methods of deterring ants if pesticides are not desired.
- Indoors: Do-it-yourself baits like Raid or Combat can be used to find the nesting site and kill off ants indoors. Set baits in tight spaces like areas behind appliances, walls, and cabinets or behind window or door frames. In general, place baits wherever ants have been seen. Spraying insecticides or cleaning products near the baits will have the opposite of the desired effect. Bait products should be rotated if one bait isn’t working, and fresh baits should be set out often. Keep your home tidy and food in tight-fitting containers. Eliminate reasons for ants to come inside.
- Outdoors: Citronella Ant colonies established outdoors can prove difficult to remove. Mounds may cover the opening to a nest which makes it more conspicuous. Granular bait and liquid or dust pesticides are often used to drench the entire mound. Insecticides may also be sprayed around the perimeter of your building, around the foundation and up the walls.
Don’t be fooled by the lemony scent of these ants if you happen to step on one – they are undoubtedly unwelcome wherever they’re found inside and out. Re-think your landscaping plan or invest in a pest control company and Citronella ant infestations shouldn’t leave you pulling your hair out for long.