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The True Odor of the Odorous House Ant

Clint A. Penick, Adrian A. Smith
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/ae/tmv023 85-87 First published online: 8 June 2015

More than 13,000 ant species have been formally described, yet the general public recognizes only two main categories: red ants and black ants. This system has some limitations, so there has been increased effort to provide additional sensory information for ant identification, including the sense of smell. Nowhere has this been more strongly applied than to the “odorous house ant” (Tapinoma sessile Say), a common household pest in North America that releases a curious odor when crushed (Smith 1928).

At first, using scent to identify ants seems obvious and practical, because ants themselves communicate through smell. However, the sense of smell in humans is far less developed, and there has been recent controversy over what, exactly, the odorous house ant smells like. This species belongs to a …

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