Citronella Ants

What Are They?

Citronella ants get their name from the odor that happens when someone crushes one of the workers.  They give off a string lemon smell.  Many scientists call them “larger yellow ants” or Acanthomyops interjectus (Mayr).

What Do They look Like?

Ranging in color from yellow to light reddish-brown, citronella ant workers measure about 1/3 inch long.

yellow ants
image source:Iowa State


citronella ants
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Where Are They Found?

Citronella ants are most common in the Northeastern and Midwestern states.

There are other species of Acanthomyops ants in the United States. They are also called yellow ants because of their color. In some places, they are called “moisture ants”.

What Do They Eat?

Citronella ants feed on honeydew that they gather from aphids and other insects that live underground. These aphids feed on plant roots.


They Are Nocturnal
The citronella ant workers seldom come out in the daytime, so people rarely see them.

They Can Fly
Citronella ants can also become pests when the winged ants fly out of the colony to find mates. If the winged ants fly out into the living space of the home, they will disturb the people who live in the home.

If they can find decayed wood or wood that has been damaged by termites, citronella ants will often use it as a nesting site. If the ants are living in decayed wood, they will probably leave when the wood is replaced.


Citronella ants make their nest in the ground. As they dig the galleries, they pile the soil up on the surface. When they nest under shrubs or ground-covering plants, the mounds of soil are not visible.

Nests Under the Home
Many times the ants make their nest beside the foundation of a home. Homeowners might not notice a mound of soil in the crawl space of their home.

Citronella ants become pests when they make their nest under a concrete slab that is part of a home – patio, garage, basement, or a slab floor. While the ants dig their tunnels, they often push the soil up through cracks in the slab floor. Homeowners usually get upset when they see these piles of dirt growing on the floor. It is especially frustrating when the dirt piles keep coming back, even after they are cleaned up.

Ways to Get Rid of Them

The moisture problem should be corrected at the same time. If winged ants swarm inside the house, remove them with a vacuum cleaner. Take the vacuum bag outside and dispose of it in the garbage.

It may help to remove the vegetation next to the foundation. A 12″ to 24″ clear zone can discourage the ants from nesting next to the house. It can also help to remove things the ants would find attractive. Put firewood up on a rack and move it as far from the home as possible. Make sure gutters are clean and down spouts drain away from the foundation.

crushed yellow ant
crushed citronella ant