Ants | Posted: May 5, 2023

How To Get Rid of Sugar Ants

Sugar ants — including the aptly named “odorous house ant” — are a group of common ants that are attracted to sweet and sugary substances.

Sugar ants can quickly become a nuisance and a health hazard. They are known to contaminate food and surfaces with bacteria and other pathogens, which can trigger illnesses in humans. Their presence can also cause damage to buildings and structures, as they often build their nests in walls, insulation, and other hidden areas. In some cases, they can even cause electrical problems by chewing through wires.

Sugar ants are difficult to get rid of because of their exceptionally large number of colonies and ability to quickly adapt to changes in their environment. They also have the ability to split their colonies into smaller groups, which can make it even harder to eradicate them completely.

If you have a sugar ant infestation in your home, read on to learn about what they are, how they behave, and what you need to do to get rid of them and keep them away for good.


How to Identify Sugar Ants

Sugar ants in the United States are not a specific species of ant — unlike the Australian “banded sugar ant” — but a group of ant species with similar appearances and behaviors. Sugar ants have earned their name by primarily feeding on sugar and other sweet foods, but they also eat proteins and fats. They are small, usually measuring between 1.5 and 2.5 mm in length, and yellow or brown in color. They can be found both inside and outside of homes because of their exceptional ability to nest anywhere.

Outdoors, sugar ants can build nests in any environment that gives them access to moisture, including in soil, inside trees, and in piles of plant debris. Indoors, sugar ants tend to build nests in hard-to-see and hard-to-reach places, like inside of walls, insulation, furniture, and other crevices.

Common types of sugar ants found inside U.S. homes include:

  • Argentine ants
  • Carpenter ants
  • Odorous house ants
  • Pavement ants
  • Pharaoh ants

How Can I Get Rid of Sugar Ants?

If you see trails of ants on your kitchen countertops, you likely have a sugar ant problem in your home. While difficult to treat, there are steps you can take to disrupt their colony and sugar-hunting. Home remedies are often affordable and convenient, but generally less effective than store-bought ant killer, which can be harmful to humans and animals in the home.

Natural Ant-Control Methods

Some homeowners prefer to employ “natural” pest control methods instead of chemically engineered, commercially available sprays and products.

Vinegar is a cleaning agent that can remove ant-attracting food residues and disrupt the pheromone trails ants use to communicate and navigate between food sources and their colony. White vinegar can also dry out ants’ exoskeletons, causing fatal dehydration.

Peppermint oil, like vinegar, has such a strong scent, it can prevent ants from communicating by scent trails and block the scent of food sources around your home. Peppermint oil has also been known to damage the nervous systems of scent-sensitive ants. Because peppermint oil and other essential oil scents are so strong and noxious, ants may avoid it completely, making it useful as a chemical barrier at entry points.

Cinnamon packs a double-punch as both aromatically repulsive to ants and granular enough to damage or dehydrate their exoskeletons. Some fine granular compounds (including cinnamon) can scratch or cut ant exoskeletons, making them great repellents at entry points, but it won’t kill the colony completely.

DIY Pest Solutions

For ant control measures that are slightly more effective, but often more harmful to children and pets in the home, try some store-bought, DIY pest control options.

Bait stations are engineered to be extremely attractive to sugar ants, but the sugary substance inside the station is poisonous. The sweet, poisonous ant bait is carried back to the colony and distributed among workers and larvae.

Insecticides available at home improvement stores are very effective at paralyzing and killing ants on contact. However, because affected ants die instantly, they cannot carry the toxic chemical back to their colony. Expect to use insecticides repeatedly whenever you see ant trails in your home.

Boric acid and borax affect the ants’ digestive systems, preventing them from properly digesting sugar, fats, and proteins, effectively starving them to death. The chemical — often mixed with granular sugar in DIY ant traps — lowers the pH of ants’ stomachs so they can’t break down food they consume. Boric acid is less toxic to humans than store-bought insecticides, but is still considered dangerous.

Diatomaceous earth, like cinnamon, can kill ants on contact by lacerating their exoskeletons. Diatomaceous earth can also cling to the waxy coating on the outside of the exoskeleton, absorbing its moisture and gradually dehydrating the ants. It is important to source the correct type of diatomaceous earth, as some industrial-grade options can contain additional toxic chemicals that can be harmful to humans and pets.

How Can I Prevent a Sugar Ant Infestation?

Preventing a sugar ant infestation can be done by taking some simple measures to make your home less attractive to ants.

Keep your home clean: Ants are attracted to food sources, so keeping your home clean and free of crumbs and messes can make it less attractive to ants and other pests like cockroaches and rodents.

Seal food containers: Ants have a powerful sense of smell that can lead them to whatever food is left out in the open air. Keep food in sealed containers to prevent ants from sensing and accessing it.

Clean up spills immediately: If you decide to wait to clean up food and drink spills, sugar ants might just beat you to it. Wipe up any spills immediately to prevent ants from being attracted to the residue.

Eliminate entry points: Ant trails can flow through any hole or seam in your home that are as small as 1 mm in diameter. Seal any cracks or crevices in your home’s foundation or walls to prevent ants from entering.

Fix moisture problems: Ants build colonies wherever they find a reliable water source. Repair any leaks or moisture problems in your home to prevent ants from being attracted to damp areas.

Count on Professional Ant Control with Dodson Pest Control

Homeowners and residents can spend a great deal of time dealing with recurring pest infestations and colonies — or they can call pest management professionals with the knowledge and tools necessary to fix the problem permanently. At Dodson, we pride ourselves on having provided the best pest control services available since 1944.

Don’t wait until ants, termites, bed bugs, or roaches have caused major damage and health issues to take action.
Call Dodson Pest Control today to schedule a free inspection.
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