Citronella Ants
Citronella ants can be messy and difficult to eliminate.


Named for the peculiar odor they give off when crushed, the citronella ant, sometimes called a yellow ant, is a nuisance pest. The majority of their life cycle is spent underground, which means that they are not often noticed by people.

However, that changes in the summer when citronella ant swarms are common. These winged members of the species may come into buildings through all sorts of construction and expansion gaps, causing a mess and uneasiness.

While not dangerous, citronella ants do introduce a degree of filth into the home, and most people dislike feeling that their space has been invaded by a pest. Eradicating the nest is the only way to effectively eliminate the problem, a task which is often best undertaken through professional ant control


There are two species of citronella ant, which may be referred to as the larger yellow ant and the smaller yellow ant. It is the larger yellow ant that is most commonly encountered in manmade structures in this region.

Adult workers may measure between four and four-and-a-half millimeters and feature antennae with 12 segments. They have one node on the pedicel that connects the abdomen with the thorax. Sparse hair may be observed on the abdomen, thorax and head. A uniform yellow is the most common coloration.

Swarmers are winged members of the species. They may be as much as twice the size of the workers, and their wings are the color of smoke. Body color for swarmers may be anywhere from a pale yellow to a light red-brown.


Citronella ants establish subterranean nests in a variety of locations. Forested areas, pastures, lawns, flower beds and beneath fallen trees all are commonly used. Colonies also may establish themselves adjacent to building foundations and concrete slabs. Occasionally, living in such close proximity to the artificial heat that is generated by human habitations will cause an early spring or late fall swarm. These swarms more typically occur in mid-to-late summer.

A subterranean citronella ant nest may be identified by the mound of soil that is deposited immediately outside the opening. This soil comes from the ants' excavation activities.

Citronella ants generally do not nest inside human habitations, nor do they come inside for food. This species is most often encountered inside during a swarm, frequently because their nest is located next to the foundation or beneath the concrete slab for the basement. On the rare occasions when a citronella ant nest is located within a structure, it is typically in a basement or crawl space where there are moisture problems.


The citronella ant diet consists solely of honeydew. This substance is excreted by insects, like aphids, that feed on the roots of plants. Because their food can mostly be gathered underground, it is unusual for people to see workers inside buildings.


Citronella ants are not known to cause any structural damage, although their presence inside a building may suggest that there are gaps or construction defects that need to be repaired.

Instead, these pests mainly are a nuisance in the summer when the swarmers emerge inside or close to human habitations. Some people mistake these winged ants for termites, resulting in a panicked call to an exterminator. While citronella ants will not hurt the building, it is still advisable to have a pest control technician deal with the problem to ensure the peace of mind of the property's occupants.


Interactions between citronella ants and people are relatively rare given this insect's mainly subterranean lifestyle. Workers often stay within the confines of the nest, which can have many galleries and be quite large. Frequently, the workers will "keep" aphids as a food source, and this species has no reason to seek food in human kitchens.

The swarmers of the species are the individuals that are most likely to be seen by people. Emerging mainly in the summer, these are the reproductive members of the colony. Successful pairs may establish a new colony. Sometimes, these colonies are relatively close to the existing colony, which may translate to twice the headache for the property owners.


Few medical problems are associated with citronella ants. They may bite if they feel threatened, but these attacks are never serious. A small red mark is typically the only sign of a bite.

The citronella ant's other defensive feature is the peculiar lemon scent that they give off when alarmed or when they are crushed. Rare individuals may have an allergic reaction to this citrus-scented chemical if it contacts their skin.


The following signs may indicate a citronella ant control problem:

Earthen mounds located in gardens, lawns or next to foundations
Flying, swarming yellow insects next to or inside structures
Small piles of dirt piled in the cracks between paving stones, sidewalks or driveways


To help prevent a citronella ant issue follow the tips below:

Ensure a tight fit around window and door frames
Make certain that screens on windows and doors are in good repair
Look for small cracks and holes in building exteriors so they can be filled
Check foundations for signs of cracks and seal them


Effective ant control requires a thorough inspection of the building to locate all existing nests, identify the type of ant involved, locate entry points, and determine the best type of treatment.

SafeGuard Pest Control, LLC has been serving Bristol area home and business owners with successful pest control for over 20 years. Our trusted, licensed exterminators can identify the pest and implement immediate treatment so that everyone in the home or office can regain peace of mind.

SafeGuard Pest Control, LLC.
A Division Of Newtown Termite & Pest Control, Inc.
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