Though not particularly dangerous or threatening (they rarely bite and don’t sting), sugar ants can be quite annoying to deal with especially when they are in your home. These ants congregate in large numbers, they form steady lines, and they go after all things sweet.
These pests, also known as odorous house ants, are highly common household pests, making their way indoors to forage for food—a tendency that increases once it rains.
If you’re dealing with a sugar ant infestation, here’s all the information you need to get back in control and back to an ant-free home! Let’s look at some of the best ways to get rid of sugar ants.
Before you start prepping the artillery, it’s important that you correctly identify what you’re dealing with so that you can launch the best attack against the little critters.
The following features will help you correctly identify a case of odorous house ants:
Color of Sugar Ant:
A sugar ant is typically black or brown.
Size of Sugar Ant:
Sugar ants are extremely small, measuring all of an eighth of an inch long!
Antennae of Sugar Ant:
These ants have 12 distinct antennae parts.
Perhaps the most defining characteristic of a sugar ant is that they’re budding ants, which means that, unlike most other ant species, these ants have multiple queens and therefore, multiple colonies.
The queens form these colonies when they leave the existing nest, with a group of workers, to form their own nests in another spot. These colonies aren’t aggressive and don’t attack each other; they work together to enhance protection and reproduction.
Sugar ants emit a smell commonly described as a “rotting coconut odor” when crushed.
Because they’re all so tiny and more or less the same color, confusing and misidentifying ant species is very easy.
In most cases, it’s enough to identify that you have an ant infestation, even if you can’t identify the particular species, so don’t beat yourself up over not knowing the type of ant!
A trained eye or a microscope is the only way of knowing for sure which species it is unless the ants have very distinct physical features (like ghost ants, which are pale-colored).
99% of the time, taking preventive measures will prevent sugar ants from taking over your home. Prevention is key because it will save you from the larger headache of eliminating them.
Here are some preventive measures that you can take to keep out sugar ants.
1. Sealing Cracks and Crevices
Ants are tiny and can easily make their way through tiny crevices and cracks. Wherever possible, seal or caulk cracks and entry points such as the space around your windows, exterior doors, along the baseboards, and any crevices in your bathroom.
Additionally, ensure that all window screens and sweeps on your exterior doors are undamaged, fitted well, and securely in place.
These measures will not only keep out ants, but other more harmful pests as well, such as roaches, bugs, spiders, and the like—especially if your house has a history of being plagued by pests.
2. Proper Food Storage
Most pests make their way indoors in search of food and water. Once a food source is found, the message is passed on to the others in the colony, and pretty soon, you’ll find dense, steady trails of ants going to and from the food source and the colony.
Therefore, eliminating these sources is the most logical and effective way to prevent them from entering the house.
Sugar ants, as indicated by the name, love sweet things like sugar and will do anything for a sugar meal. Make sure that all sweet food items in your house, such as honey, sugar, and sweet snacks, are properly stored in sealed, airtight containers. Where possible, store sweet things in the refrigerator, as ants hate extreme temperatures.
3. Cleaning Up Crumbs and Spills
In addition to properly storing your food, it’s important that you immediately clean up any spills and crumbs, especially if they’re sweet. Leaving these will quickly attract ants and cause more of a mess.
If prevention doesn’t work, it’s time to think about getting rid of these tiny pests. You can use DIY insecticide, non-toxic home remedies, and you can hire a professional exterminator.
DIY Household Solutions
There is a range of non-toxic solutions that you can use to get rid of a sugar ant infestation. Non-toxic solutions can be a safer option, especially if you have kids or pets in the house. Remember the items suggested below may not work and you would have to try stronger insecticides.
Some options that you can try out:
- Vinegar and Water: Mix equal parts water and vinegar. Pour this into a spray bottle and spray all possible entry points. You can also spray your kitchen countertops, pantry shelves, and other surfaces where you’ve seen these ants or think they might appear.
Ants despise vinegar due to its strong smell. Ants are able to maintain such straight trails because they leave behind pheromones to guide each other to the food source. The smell of the vinegar solution will overpower the pheromones, causing the ants to lose their way and even resulting in them staying away permanently!
It can kill the ants. Don’t directly spray the nest, as this could fragment it and cause the ants to spread and multiply, instead of cutting them down. If you want to know if bleach can kill ants we discuss it in greater length on a different article.
- Diatomaceous Earth: Diatomaceous earth is a great option as it’s completely non-toxic to pets, birds, and kids but gets rid of a range of pests. The earth sticks to the legs and feet of these critters as they walk across it, while also getting into their exoskeleton and joints, eventually killing them.
Spread a thin layer of diatomaceous earth on any ant trails that you find. You can also spread the powder along window sills, floors, wall cracks, baseboards, and any other cracks and crevices.
If you come across a group of sugar ants, you can sprinkle the powder directly over them. Lock them in by drawing a circle with the diatomaceous earth before sprinkling, so that they can’t escape. No guarantee this will work but you can try it.
- Borax and Cream of Tartar: Ants hate both these ingredients. Borax disrupts the digestive systems of ants, killing them eventually, but not before they’ve already transferred the toxin to other ants in the colony. Place a bowl of borax, with an equal amount of sugar mixed in to attract the ants (borax likely won’t attract them), in areas where you’ve seen these ants.
You can also place a bowl of cream of tartar in these spots, or pour lines of the ingredient across entry points (ants don’t cross cream of tartar lines).
Diatomaceous Earth 85%
This is all-natural diatomaceous earth used to kill all types of bugs including ants. It works by making abrasions on pests when they walk or crawl across the dust. This causes cuts that will make them dehydrate and eventually die.
DIY Insecticide Solutions
Some toxic solutions that you can use include insecticide sprays that contain pyrethrin. Make sure that you follow all safety precautions and instructions listed on the bottle. Always use gloves and masks and keep pets and children away from the spray and sprayed areas, as pyrethrin is a known skin irritant.
Again, since we don’t want to break up the nest and spread the ants, remember not to spray the nest but only the areas around the entry point and trails.
You can also use baits to trap ants. These may not kill the entire colony but they can distract ants and trap them. Baits are specifically formulated to attract ants, containing sweet ingredients that are mixed with ant-killing toxins such as borax or boric acid.
Ant baits are easily available and highly effective. You can place them anywhere that you see ants, but placing them in and around the entry points, instead of open spaces and in the path of trails, will kill the ants in non-visible spaces, keeping your cooking and living spaces free of dying ants and the poison in the baits.
The kit below is what we recommend to solve your sugar ant issue.
Sugar Ant Kit
If you need to get rid of sugar ants then this kit will work for you. It comes with 12 bait place stations, bait from Maxforce, Temprid spray, and gel bait single tube.
Make sure you follow the directions and protect yourself when working with chemicals.Pros: Cons:
If the infestation is very severe and none of your preventive or elimination methods are working, seek the help of a professional exterminator. A good exterminator will be able to advise the best course of action and bring in more powerful sprays and insecticides to eliminate sugar ants.
A combination of preventive, non-toxic, and toxic solutions is your best bet against an ant infestation, with prevention being the most important. Always be on the lookout for signs of an infestation, and if you find one, act immediately so that the issue doesn’t compound.
If none of the listed measures work for you, a professional exterminator will be able to get the job done.