Citronella Ants

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Citronella Ants outside a home in Arlington VA

 

Citronella Ants (Larger Yellow Ants)

The Larger Yellow ants are common in DC, Maryland, and Northern Virginia, as well as the rest of the eastern and central United States. The Larger Yellow ant is commonly known as the perfumed yellow or citronella ant.

Citronella ants become a nuisance when their alates swarm indoors, or the workers push out soil from cracks in the floor or basement walls. Overwintering alates emerge from cracks and crevices in the walls and floors or from the basement and foundation. Homeowners often mistake them for termites. Other alates that are produced in the spring brood may have mating flights later in the summer. The winged forms are discharged from the colony in mid or late summer, and, after mating, the queens seek places to spend the first winter. New colonies are started the following spring. These newly mated queens sometimes take shelter in houses. Since the colonies of the citronella ant and its near relatives are not uncommon in gardens, the winged forms are occasionally found in buildings or on their walls. Citronella ants nest in the soil, along foundations. Colonies of citronella ants also nest under rocks, trash cans, landscape timbers, and other items lying on the ground. The workers feed almost exclusively on honeydew collected from subterranean homopterans such as root aphids. They do not generally feed on household foods.

Citronella ant workers are monomorphic, and about 4 to 4.5 mm in length. They have reddish-yellow to reddish-brown bodies, a one-segmented pedicel, and a petiolar node that is thick and blunt at the top. They have disproportionately small compound eyes, and the workers emit a distinct lemon-like odor when alarmed or crushed.

 

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