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Citronella Ants

Summary: Citronella ants live underground, so you rarely see them, but on occasion, they do find their way into homes. Citronella ants are bright yellow and have a strong citrus smell when crushed.

Citronella ants give off a pleasing citrus smell, but I doubt they will be used in perfume production any time soon, nor would I recommend eating them like mints, either.

Citronella ants are also known as Larger Yellow Ants. They are referred to as Citronella ants because they have a strong, but pleasing citrus odor, especially when crushed.


Citronella ants build their nests underground, under logs, or sometimes under the concrete foundations of buildings. Occasionally, a swarm of winged Citronella ants will enter a building through a crack in the foundation. These winged swarmer ants are the reproductive members of the colony and have a darker, red color than the other worker ants. People sometimes think that the winged ants are termites, but it is easy to differentiate ants from termites because ants have pinched waist while termite bodies are straight. These winged ants cannot reproduce indoors and will die shortly so there is no cause for alarm. Simply clean them up with a broom or vacuum cleaner after they die. A standard aerosol pesticide like Raid will speed up the process.

Another interesting fact about Citronella ants is that they feed off honeydew, which is the waste product of aphids. Citronella ants will protect and cultivate populations of aphids, much like humans breed cows. Who knew that ants could be farmers?

Citronella ants should not be confused for Pharaoh ants, which are also yellow, but smaller and lack the distinguishing citrus odor of Citronella ants. Pharaoh ants are more disruptive and difficult to control.

Citronella swarmer

If you find that the Citronella ants are frequently finding their way inside, track them back to their source. The opening to the colony might have a mound of dirt around it where the ants have deposited soil from their underground tunnels. The colony will very often be in the basement, or under a log near the perimeter of your house. Seal up cracks in foundation concrete or at the bottom of basement walls and remove any heavy objects like firewood piles lying close to the building. Keep the yard clean of leaves and grass cuttings. Sprinkle a little  Advance 375a granular ant bait or diatomaceous earth  around the opening of the colony, or pour a few gallons of boiling hot water into the opening to kill the queen and the colony. You should rarely need to call a pest control operator to eliminate Citronella ants.

Click here to watch my short video on how to control ants.

Ask Rick A Question


20 Jul 2009, 22:09
Thanks for he great information Exterminator! FYI, I have these in London, Ontario, Canada as well. There seems to be a lot of Ontarians here with these little critters. My story isn't too different. Last summer I noticed small brownish ants outside the house foundation by the driveway. I then had a MASSIVE outbreak in my basement where the winged ants came out along with the smaller ones. I found that a shop vac was a great way to deal with them. I'd go down and vacuum them up every 10-20 minutes, and could contain them to the outbreak point (the base of a wall). Eventually, I depleted the nest with my shop vac and they were a non-issue. Interestingly, I put some liquid ant killer on some wax paper, but they seemed to have no interest in it.

This summer I had the same problem, but to a lesser extent. I've been treating the outside nests with the granular treatment and perhaps that made the internal outbreak lesser.
10 Aug 2009, 17:41
We had these swarmers around our concrete front porch every summer when I was a kid. My parents called them "termites" but we knew they weren't really termites. I always wondered what they were.
Now, 40 years later, I'm thrilled to find out the story behind those fragrant little critters things that plagued us every August! Thanks for the info!
Lyndsey And Nancy
24 Sep 2009, 18:15
Thanks SOOOOOOOOO much!! we were terrified that these werre termites trying to get into our house, But thanx to you, we now know better, and tha ants are goneThanx again!
21 Oct 2009, 13:27
I had some winged insects all over an outside screened porch yesterday. I called our exterminator who said that Citronella ants were swarming at this time in our area (N.Ky).

I see that your site says that they are yellow, but what I saw was black. I captured a few in a jar so I've got evidence. They said that termites weren't coming out at this time. They appear to have the wings of termites, but the body of ants.

I sprayed with an insect spray and killed several, but an hour later what didn't die went away and I haven't seen them since.

Any thoughts??
23 Sep 2010, 12:19
I have had these citronells ants for the last 4 days in my laundry room and bathroom. There were a few on Sunday, none on Mon, 100's on Tuesday, 9 yesterday and up to about 200 today. How do I find where they are coming from? I live on a slab and there is nothing around the outside of the house that would need to be removed. How can I stop them from coming in my house-they are driving me CRAZY!!!!
Ask the Exterminator
27 Sep 2010, 14:09
Usually you can find the nest for these ants on the outside of the house. I would suggest treating around the outside foundation walls with Advance 375 granular ant bait. The link is in the article.
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