How to Get Rid of Sugar Ants

Although tiny in stature, sugar ants have the persistence of a bulldog and the appetite of a bear fresh out of hibernation. And once your home has been invaded by this army of sugar-loving pests, it’s one heck of a job to get rid of them.

But it’s not all doom and gloom. With a little bit of patience, a good dose of perseverance and our helpful tips in hand, you’ll be able to reclaim your space in no time at all.

Let’s take a look at sugar ants in a bit more detail.

What is a Sugar Ant?

There are more than 16,000 different species of ants in the world and a lot of them like sugar. But the real sugar ant, also known as the banded sugar ant, is native to Australia. Here in the US, sugar ant is the generic name given to any of the ant species that enjoy sweet and sugary things.

Types of Sugar Ants

Some types of sugar ants prefer to live outside, only popping into your home to help themselves to food. These include cornfield ants, false honey ants, rover ants and acrobat ants.

Carpenter ants, Argentine ants, pharaoh ants and pavement ants like the idea of full board and lodging, making ‘su casa’ their ‘casa’ very quickly.

What do Sugar Ants Eat?

As the name suggests, sugar ants like to snack on anything sweet. Think white and brown sugar, powdered sugar, sugary sweets and cakes, soft drinks, cordials, honey, corn syrup, maple syrup, jam, jelly, and fruit. If it’s sweet, it’s theirs to eat.

Even if you live in a sugar-free home, you’re not immune to these sugar-munching monsters. Honeydew, a sweet sticky substance secreted by bugs often found on houseplants attracts them too.

How do Sugar Ants Get Inside?

Best described as stealthy little ninjas, sugar ants get into your home through the smallest spaces, including gaps between your windows and doors, tiny cracks in the wall and even the holes in window or door screens.

Keeping Sugar Ants Away

Keeping sugar ants away can be a real pain, but did you know there are some items already in your home you can use to wage war on these pesky pests? Coffee grounds, pepper, cucumber peels, vinegar and certain essential oils are all effective, and easy ways to keep sugar ants out and stop them coming back again.

Coffee

Coffee. Not only is it the nectar of the gods, but it also has multiple uses around the house, including getting rid of sugar ants. Although the smell itself is a strong repellent, the nitrogen found in the coffee grounds actually burns the ants’ legs, so they’ll avoid it all costs. Just remember, coffee stains so you might want to use it outside.

Pepper

Yup, the pungent smell of good old pepper is an excellent deterrent for sugar ants, but you might have to use it in conjunction with another homemade remedy.

Cucumber

Believe it or not, sugar ants really don’t like the smell of cucumber peels. Placing a few of these around your home, near windows and doorways is an effective method of keeping sugar ants away. You will have to keep the peels moist though; otherwise, there’s no smell.

Essential Oils

Sugar ants are sensitive to certain essential oils, like peppermint and cinnamon. Make a natural repellent with 15 to 20 drops of oil in approximately eight ounces of water and spray it around your home, in doorways, on windowsills and pantry shelves. 

How to Get Rid of Sugar Ants

Ants communicate by releasing pheromones, which is just a fancy way of saying they use their noses to find their way home, locate food and even alert others to potential danger. Removing these lines of communication is one of the quickest ways to get rid of sugar ants. 

Soap and water

One of the most effective deterrents when it comes to sugar ants is soap and water. And yes, we mean the kind of soap or detergent you’ve already got in your kitchen. Just mix it up, and spray any ant trails you see generously. The soapy solution destroys their ‘scents’ of smell and gets rid of them, albeit only temporarily.

Vinegar 

Vinegar mixed with water is an excellent sugar ant deterrent, or if you prefer you can use it undiluted as a natural pesticide. For the best results, we suggest pouring it directly into the nest. 

Boric acid

You can make a really potent pesticide using borax, boric acid and even baking soda. When it’s mixed with water and something sweet, it’s best described as kryptonite for sugar ants and gets rid of them, fast. 

If you’re up to some easy DIY, you can even make your own little ant traps. Simply mix some baking soda with boric acid and a sugary substance of some kind (we used peanut butter) on a strip of cardboard and place them strategically around the house. Not only does this work well as a deterrent, but it also eliminates the entire colony. 

If you have small children or pets in the home, we strongly recommend placing these traps out of reach. 

How to Prevent Re-Infestations

If you’ve gone to the trouble of getting rid of sugar ants, the last thing you want is a re-infestation. Carry on reading to find out how you can keep your home ant-free.

Keep it Clean

You’re probably not going to like this, but ants, like other pests, love environments that are not spotlessly clean. They thrive in homes where food is easily accessible, whether it’s dirty dishes, overflowing trash bags or bowls of fruit lying around.

To stop them coming back, wipe your kitchen counter down after you’ve cooked or prepared food on it. And while it’s not always possible, you might want to wash the dishes straight after they’ve been used and don’t leave leftovers out. 

Also make sure you clean behind refrigerators, furniture and under carpets and rugs. Sugar ants are always on the lookout for food, even the mouldy choco-chip cookie that’s been behind the sofa for three weeks is reasoning enough for them to pop in.

Make Sure Your Food is Stored Correctly

Packing perishable foods in boxes and plastic bags is convenient for you, but did you know it’s also convenient for sugar ants. It doesn’t take them too long to chew through the cereal box to get to that oh so sweet bounty. And half-closed lids on jams and jellies, well, that’s like giving them an all-access park around the funfair. 

Use airtight containers to keep your food safe and pack them in hard to reach places. Other food items must be kept in the fridge or tightly sealed cupboards. If the food isn’t there, the ants won’t come. 

Plug the Holes

We get it, plugging holes is one of the most time consuming and tedious jobs when it comes to keeping sugar ants out of your home, but it’s definitely one of the most effective methods. 

Caulk or a bathroom sealant works well, and if you really want to put an end to these little demons, you can fill the holes with a pesticide and then seal them up. And don’t just plug the big holes. It’s those hard to spot cracks that are the gateways back to sugar ant hell.

Final Thoughts

So there you have it. When it comes to sugar ants, cleanliness is next to antlessness and preventing an infestation is definitely best. But when all your attempts have failed, our handy, non-toxic remedies will help you stop them in their tracks.

Andrew Cunningham
Andrew Cunningham
Hello, Andrew is the co-founder and lead editor for DailyPest.

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