Numerous ants of various species inhabit the state of Massachusetts. Most ant species in the state inhabit forested and/or grassy regions, while other species are well known pests to homes and buildings. Some of these ant species are non-native, like the pavement ant, and some non-native species have established an invasive habitat in Massachusetts, such as the European fire ant. However, the most common urban ant pest in Massachusetts is a native species that is commonly referred to as the odorous house ant, or the sugar ant. This ant species is officially known as Tapinoma sessile, but its two common nicknames are fitting due to this ant’s odorous secretions and for its habit of infesting sources of sugar. Luckily, the odorous house ant cannot sting and it will only bite if someone is foolish enough to place their bare hand directly into a nest. Although this ant is not harmful to human health, infestations can be an overwhelming nuisance for homeowners, as this species searches for homes to invade in order to secure water and sweet tasting foods, especially plain sugar. It is not uncommon for homeowners to find odorous house ants infesting sugar bowls and other pantry items.

The odorous house ant is well distributed across the United States and into Mexico and Canada. While most experts agree that this ant is native to North America, it is also categorized as an invasive species in many entomological studies. These ants are notable for their large colony sizes, which can contain hundreds of thousands of individual ants, and for their rapid speed as well as for their habit of foraging in and around homes. Odorous house ant swarms occur between May and July in Massachusetts, and these swarms can occur in a home, which often indicates that a nest has been established indoors. In addition to their high infestation rates, winged swarmers can also be a nuisance for homeowners, as they are attracted to artificial lights in urban and residential areas. Odorous house ants gravitate toward areas of a home that are warm and moist, and any food item that these ants are found infesting should be discarded as contaminated.

Have you ever found ants infesting your pantry?