Forest Finding: Sugar Ant

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by Colleen Dabrowski

Tapinoma sessile is a species of small ants that are the most common house ant pest in the United States. They go by a variety of names, such as sugar ant, odorous house ant, stink ant and coconut ant, according to Wikipedia. These names come from the smell that is emitted when they are crushed. Some describe the smell as reminiscent of blue cheese, some as coconut, some still as licorice. The ants vary in color from brown to black and are 1/16 inches to ⅛ inches. Their lifespan varies depending on the role in their polydomous (multiple nests) and polygynous (multiple reproducing queens) colonies. Colonies can be anywhere from hundreds to tens of thousands of members strong. Queens live for around eight months, though it is very likely they live longer. Workers live for at least a few months, though likely as long as their queen. Males live for only a few weeks.

Sugar ants are small but mighty. Injured workers have been recorded working and living unfazed. Queens who have been semi-crushed still lay eggs and have been recorded living for two months with no food or water. They also express no reaction to heat or cold. Sugar ants are also named for their diet; they are attracted to sugary substances. When threatened, the sugar ants release a scent from anal sacs and run erratically. This behavior serves to scare away predators.

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