Sugar ants are a prevalent, invasive insect found throughout America.
Every spring, sugar ants will start to foray indoors in quest of food for their colony. These ants aren’t harmful to people, but they can be a nuisance and a challenge to get rid of.
In this article we cover the best options for getting rid of sugar ants and strategies for preventing their return.
What are sugar ants?
There are several types of sugar ant. Some sugar ants prefer to reside and feed within your home, while others can be found both inside and outside your property.
Examples of sugar ants commonly found outdoors are acrobat ants, false honey ants, and rover ants. Alternatively, odorous house ants, pavement ants, and pharaoh ants are types of sugar ants usually found within homes around the US.
How to identify sugar ants?
Typically, when we hear the term “sugar ants,” we think of the more common odorous house ant, pavement ant, or pharaoh ant as these are usually the nuisance ants that we try to get rid of from our homes (pharaoh ants are more common in the warmer climates of the south but can be found in heated homes further north).
Odorous House Ant
Odorous house ants are a small type of ant with the capacity to emit a strong, “rotten coconut” odour when crushed.
Adults are 1/16th to 1/8th of an inch long and vary in hue from dark brown to black. Odorous house ants, like other ant species, have six legs and an oval, segmented body.
The head and thorax of an adult pavement ant both have grooved parallel lines, and the thorax also contains a pair of tiny spines that protrude out from the rear end. Pavement ants may range in colour from a dark brown to a black hue.
The reproductive individuals of the colony are winged and are a little bit larger than the workers. Workers reach a maximum length of approximately 1/8 of an inch, while queens reach a maximum length of around 3/8 of an inch.
The length of a Pharaoh worker ranges from 1.5 to 2 millimetres, or little more than 1/16 of an inch. They range in hue from a pale yellow to a reddish brown, and their abdomens are darker.
Pharaoh ant workers are equipped with a stinger that does not function but is utilised to produce pheromones.
Males are around 3 millimetres in length, black, and winged (but do not fly). Queens have a deep red colour and range in length from 3.6 to 5 mm. They are born with wings, but shortly after mating, those wings fall off, and they are unable to fly.
What causes sugar ants in your home?
Many factors can contribute to an infestation of sugar ants in your home. However, the main factor is usually an attractant within the house.
All forms of sugar, including crumbs, attract these ants. Fats, proteins (obtained via devouring other insects), and plant pollen are also part of their diet.
Other factors include:
- The onset of springlike temperatures
- A neighboring nest (outside or inside)
- Recent rainfall
Signs of sugar ants in your home
Active trailing is the most noticeable symptom of sugar ants within the house. In the absence of visible trails, a sugar ant infestation may go unnoticed even if the colony is located in close proximity or even inside the building.
To check for nests in the house, it’s best to search near warm areas as this is likely where the sugar ants will be. Such areas include:
- Under flooring
- Close to the water heaters/tanks
- Near copper plumbing
Once an infestation has been confirmed, there are a number of ways we can get rid of sugar ants and tips to prevent their return. Carry on reading to find out!
10 ways to get rid of sugar ants
1. White vinegar home remedy
A great, natural way to get rid of sugar ants is to mix equal parts of water and white vinegar (50/50) and pour the liquid into a spray bottle. Acetic acid, which is found in vinegar, helps to eliminate the odor of an ant trail whilst also serving as a deterrent against these pesky insects.
Once you have located the spot where the ants are entering, spray the area with the solution, including any probable entrance pathways or trails. This will prevent the ants from going along these paths.
After the ants have been sprayed, use a paper towel to pick up any dead ants and discard them. Spray the mixture in the early morning or late afternoon, when the sugar ants are most active, for the best results from this home treatment.
2. Lemon eucalyptus oil
Using the oil from the lemon eucalyptus tree, which is itself a natural insecticide, can provide a great way to get rid of sugar ants naturally.
Soak a cotton ball with undiluted oil and then place the cotton ball at a location that is known to be frequented by sugar ants. The oil will act as a natural deterrent, dissuading the ants from entering your home.
For best results, it is recommended to replace the cotton ball every few days.
3. Recycle used coffee grounds
Re-using old coffee grounds is another great way to stop sugar ants in your home. Sugar ants avoid the aroma and acidity of coffee because it causes their bodies to become irritated and burnt.
Spread old coffee grounds around locations where you wish to prevent ants from congregating, such as around pet bowls and other food storage areas.
As a further preventative, you may also scatter used coffee grounds around the exterior of your property to keep ants away.
4. Essential oils
Cinnamon oil, neem oil, tea tree oil, and peppermint oil are all effective natural insect repellents, and so this method makes a great all-round repellent, which may be useful in combating other types of insects, such as mosquitoes.
Simply add two cups of water with ten to twenty drops of peppermint essential oil, tea tree oil, cinnamon oil, or neem oil. The resulting mixture can then be sprayed all over the home and allowed to air dry.
Respray this solution everyday for best results.
5. Food-grade diatomaceous earth
Diatomaceous earth is a very fine white powder that is produced by grinding up the skeletal remains of marine phytoplankton.
Food-grade diatomaceous earth is perfectly safe for humans and animals, yet it is very lethal to insects. The ants’ digestive tracts are penetrated by the diatomaceous earth, which then causes death from the inside out.
Spread the powder along the known sugar ant paths and congregation areas, and then brush the powder up after around a month has passed.
If, after this time has passed, the ants are still active and causing a nuisance, then fresh powder can be laid down and the process repeated.
6. Whole cloves
Cloves contain volatile aromatic chemicals, which are responsible for their pungent odor. These compounds are quite effective for warding off sugar ants.
Ants may be discouraged from entering the home by using whole cloves in areas where the ants are known to enter, such as along baseboards.
7. Honey trap
Honey can be placed in an open container for a sticky trap or combined with Boric acid powder to set a lethal trap for sugar ants.
Place this trap wherever ants are a problem, but be sure to keep the trap out of the reach of children and pets if using Boric acid powder.
Within three weeks of exposure, sugar ants, including the queen, can be killed by boric acid by the erosion of their outer shells and stomachs.
Remember – you should wear gloves and keep boric acid out of the reach of children and animals.
8. Glass cleaner home remedy
Sugar ants can be killed by spraying a solution of equal parts liquid dish soap and glass cleaner on them, or the locations where they seem to gather.
After spraying, the area can be wiped down, which will leave a light residue that will act as a barrier to stop them from entering.
9. Bay leaves
Similar to cloves, the strong scent of bay leaves comes from the volatile aromatic compounds they contain. Use of these substances has proven to be quite beneficial in preventing sugar ant infestations.
In order to prevent ants from entering the house, bay leaves can be tucked under worktops and placed in other entry points.
10. Organic commercial products
Sugar ants can be effectively eradicated using organic products like Orange Guard or EcoSMART Organic Ant & Roach Killer.
Both the EcoSMART Organic Ant & Roach Killer, a liquid manufactured with plant extract, and the Orange Guard, a spray, can be used to get rid of ants.
10 ways to prevent sugar ants in your home
1. Eliminate their food source
In order to effectively control any pest, it is crucial to first remove any potential food sources they might be using.
The sugar ant’s name alludes to its fervent desire for sugary treats, and they’ll go to great lengths to find these sugary treats. If sugar ants have invaded your home, it is important to take immediate action to eliminate any potential food sources for more of them.
Sugar ants will send a signal to the rest of the ants in the colony once they have located a reliable food supply.
Follow the ant trail if you see a large number of them to see if you can figure out what they’re eating. Something as simple as crumbs under the coffee table could be the culprit.
2. Seal them out
Keep all doors and windows closed and make sure any cracks in the exterior walls are sealed off. You should also avoid letting garden vegetation touch your house, as this invites pests like ants inside.
3. Prevent damp areas
Ants like damp and dark places, such as under sinks and in bathrooms. In order to stop sugar ants from establishing a colony in a damp place, you should regularly dry any damp areas off with a towel and rectify any plumbing leaks.
4. Vacuum regularly
Any crumbs or scraps of food left on the floor or in the sink can attract ants. It is also important to sweep or vacuum at least once a night throughout the summer to remove ant pheromone trails.
5. Keep potted herbs
Ants can be deterred with the help of the potent odors of peppermint, sage, and tansy. Keep these herbs in pots around the house as a second line of defense against sugar ants.
6. Take the trash out regularly
Sugar ants can easily find their way inside trash cans if waste bags have holes in them. Therefore, you should always use sturdy waste bags to avoid this problem.
Trash should also be emptied as soon as it gets full.
7. Clean your sink
Make sure the dishes are completely rinsed and the sink is empty. After you’ve finished washing the dishes, give the sink a good wipe down with a dry paper towel to remove any traces of food or water.
Sugar ants may also be attracted by a garbage disposal. Spot-treat the garbage disposal with bleach once every few days to eliminate ant pheromones.
8. Hang garlic
Garlic, like cloves and bay leaves, has a potent odor that can mislead and divert an ant’s sense of smell. Garlic bulbs can be hung from the knobs and shelves of a pantry by means of strings.
9. Wipe your counters
Nightly wiping of kitchen surfaces with an all-purpose cleanser will not only help keep your home clean, but will also neutralize the pheromones that ants use to find and follow each other.
10. Remove pet bowls
Pet food is another major attractant for ants, therefore remove and clean pet dishes immediately after use.
It’s not easy to get rid of sugar ants. The methods presented here, however, are all non-hazardous and should be able to rid your home of these pests once and for all.
All the techniques described here are safe for use around the house and the environment because they are chemical-free and non-intrusive.
If you’ve tried everything on this list and the ants keep coming back, it might be time to call in the professionals. They can assess the situation, suggest solutions, and get rid of the ants once and for all.
When it comes to humans, sugar ants are completely harmless because they do not sting. If threatened, they might bite as a means of self-defense. However, you won’t feel any pain or have any adverse effects from this.
Honey, jam, cake, sweets, fruit, and soft drinks are just some of the sugary foods and drinks that sugar ants love to eat, so it’s important to keep these things out of the kitchen and clean up any crumbs they may have left behind.
Sugar ants are primarily attracted to food sources. The number of sugar ants in your home can be reduced by eliminating all potential food sources. This improves the odds of eradicating ants permanently with home remedies and stopping a new infestation before it ever begins.
Typically, sugar ants are found in more warmer climates with higher humidity. As a result, their presence in any given dwelling usually coincides with the start of the late spring and summer months. Outdoors, they favor secluded cavities in wood, while once inside a building, they’ll be drawn to any damp spots.
Nests of sugar ants look like miniature volcanoes, with a little opening at the summit of a mound.
Ants are attracted to sugar, so if you’re looking for an ant nest, you’re more likely to locate one outside. The best way to spot ant activity and thus locate the nest is by conducting a comprehensive survey of your yard and surrounding area.
Within the home, nests may be situated anywhere, though they are most commonly discovered in the attic, ceiling, or a crawlspace.
Once a nest is located, the following steps can be taken to destroy it:
1. Run a yard hose over the nest for 5-10 minutes or pour boiling water over it to destroy it.
2. Pour a cup of bleach into the tunnel entrance.
3. Pour baking soda in the opening and around the entire nest.
When sugar ants find their way inside, they can be a real nuisance. They will eat through anything from paper to cardboard to plastic bags in order to get to their food source.