What do citronella ants look like?
Citronella ants are fairly small insects, usually less than ¼ of an inch long. They have a yellow-brown color and are often mistaken for termites. In the warmer months they can grow wings and fly, which is when you’re most likely to see them, due to their habit of nesting underground.
The easiest way to tell the two apart is by the lemony smell that these ants give off when crushed. They will also give off a lemony scent off when startled, but it doesn’t last long and so shouldn’t cause you any problems.
Habitat of citronella ants
In the wild these bugs like to live in wet or damp places, often nesting in dead wood or underneath trees. You can often spot signs of an infestation by the dirt mounds they leave behind, though this is something they share in common with many other species of ants.
In the urban setting these creepy crawlies like to nest under structures – they’ll leave piles of dirt or sand, depending on what’s underneath, just outside the entrance to their nest. Termites do a similar thing, and their similar looks is where the two are most often confused. However, these ants won’t damage the structures themselves; their presence inside the building points to a pre-existing crack or hole in the foundations that they’ve squeezed through.
Citronella ants prefer being outside your home to being inside it, which is good news for most of the year. Unfortunately, during the summer months they’re driven to swarm, meaning they can invade your house and get everywhere. They tend to leave fairly quickly if they can, but if they can’t find an exit they’ll stick around and be a nuisance for a while.
Are citronella ants dangerous?
The good news is that these ants don’t have stingers, so they can’t sting you. They can bite when they feel threatened, but are not venomous and won’t cause more than a pinch and a slight reddening of the affected area.
More good news is that these ants aren’t interested in human food, so you don’t have to worry about them getting into anything and ruining it – they live off honeydew from aphids underground. This has the side effect of making most commercial ant baits completely useless so don’t try to use them on these yellow pests.
How to prevent citronella ants
- Seal, seal, seal
These critters get into your home through pre-existing cracks or gaps – open doors and windows during the summer months can let them march right in when they swarm. Locate and seal cracks in your skirting boards or floor that you can see. Some cracks are an indication of water damage, so it would be a good idea to waterproof these areas and find the sources of any leaks that might’ve occurred, so you can make sure it doesn’t cause even more cracks.
- Close and cover
In the summer these ants grow wings and take flight – keeping your doors and windows closed in when temperatures rise and you see signs of swarming will keep the worst of them out. It’s fairly obvious when you have a nearby colony since they move in large groups, so be on the look-out.
If you like a good breeze you can invest in an insect curtain for your doors and windows, which should keep any flying ants out while letting the air through.
- Clear and clean
While they can nest under your home, a good foundation will prevent this by blocking their way into the ground. You should move any pieces of dead or rotting wood – fallen trees, rotting structures, etc. – clear away from your home, since these are ideal nesting grounds for citronella ants. They can also nest under things like sheds and decking, so make sure there’s a good layer of sand or similar underneath that’ll discourage them from entering.
How to remove citronella ants
Citronella ants are really complicated to remove by yourself – since they don’t respond to commercial ant baits and aren’t interested in human food at all, so leaving something out laced with a poison isn’t going to do much.
The usual signs of a nest include little piles of sand or sawdust – you find these near cracks in structures, driveways and pavements. Pouring boiling water down these cracks once you’ve found them is a good tactic, but isn’t guaranteed to wipe out the nest entirely.
While ant baits are useless, some pesticides are fairly effective. While the ants themselves can be fairly resistant because of exposure over time, the aphids they feed off aren’t usually so lucky – remove the food and the colony will slowly die. Not all pesticides are guaranteed to work however – check with your local pest control service for advice if needed.
The best way to remove citronella ants is to contact a pest control service or professional ant exterminator near you. They will be able to determine the scope of the infestation, identify the locations of the nests and get rid of them safely, quickly and without damaging your home.
Contact Provincial Pest Control for a free pest control inspection in the Toronto Area