When springtime arrives, sugar ants often start to invade homes looking for food and water. Although sugar ants aren’t harmful to humans, they’re rather irritating pests that can be quite tough to control.
Worse, once they are inside your residence, they regularly make their way to your bedroom and onto your bed. And anyone who has crawled into bed with ants know how icky that feeling is.
And so, to help you properly deal with such critters, here are the things that you need to know about eliminating sugar ants. From natural and chemical solutions that are best suited to deal with the pest problem, to prevention methods that would keep these ants from every returning.
But before we get to the methods and the recommended products, let’s discuss what exactly sugar ants are.
What are Sugar Ants?
Sugar ants, or banded sugar ants, are small black ants that are native to Australia and exclusive to that region.
The ants we believe to be sugar ants are actually pavement ants or what we sometimes refer to as pharaoh ants – both common household ants. Pavement ants are black or reddish brown with pale legs while pharaoh ants are yellow or light brown.
These ants are engrossed with sweets and all kinds of sugary foods and scraps. Sugar ants also consume fats, proteins (acquired from eating other insects), and plant pollen. Once they locate a food source, they’ll haul food back to their nest for the rest of the colony.
Where Do Sugar Ants Come From?
Most sugar ants come from outside your home. They have about four to five times more odor receptors than other insects, and can smell food and track scent trails through cracks, crevices, vents, and other openings in your home and foundation.
Only one ant needs to find an entry point. Once an ant finds a food or water supply, it then places a pheromone trail – a fundamental scent trail – for other ants to follow.
Sugar ants also come from current nests inside your home. Their nests are typically in undisturbed spaces, such as inside walls or in basements.
How to Eliminate Sugar Ants
Before get rid of sugar ants, you must first locate and then follow their visible trail as far as you can. This will help you locate their entry point into your home and provide you with a starting point for remediation. After finding the trail and entry point, you must then decide which kind of natural or chemical technique you want to employ to deal with the pesky critters.
Natural Methods of Dealing with Sugar Ants
If you want to stay away from powerful and potentially harmful chemicals when treating a sugar ant infestation, you should check out these natural home solutions:
1) Utilize a vinegar solution to eliminate the sugar ant trail
Combine one part vinegar and one part water and pour the mixture into a spray bottle. Vinegar has acetic acid, which eradicates the scent of an ant trail and functions as a deterrent against these pests. After finding the ants’ entry point, spray along baseboards and all possible entrance paths and trails to prevent ants from traveling along these routes. Wipe up the dead ants with a paper towel and discard them once they’ve been sprayed. To maximize this home remedy, spray in the morning or late afternoon when ants are most active.
2) Spread around used coffee grounds inside your home
Ants are not too fond of the smell and acidity of coffee because it burns them. Spread used coffee grounds around pet bowls and other areas where you want to repel ants. You can also sprinkle coffee grounds outside your home to prevent ants from entering.
3) Lay down whole cloves or bay leaves
The compounds that generate the strong smell in cloves and bay leaves do a fantastic job of deterring sugar ants. Lay out whole cloves along baseboards and place bay leaves under countertops to deter ants.
4) Hang garlic in your kitchen
Identical to cloves and bay leaves, garlic has a pungent odor that confuses ants and throws off their scent trail. Tie garlic on strings and hang them from your pantry door knobs and shelves.
5) Concoct a homemade insect repellent
Combine one part water with a few drops of lavender or peppermint essential oil and pour the solution into a spray bottle. Spray the solution on your kitchen island and on pantry shelves to deter ants from manifesting in those areas.
6) Install a homemade ant trap
Set out honey or corn syrup on a plastic plate. Sugar ants will be drawn to the bait and get stuck in the gooey substance. Once the ants are dead, throw away the plate and remove the trash from your home.
7) Use organic commercial products
Solutions like Orange Guard or EcoSMART Organic Ant & Roach Killer are organic solutions that do a fine job of killing sugar ants. Orange Guard is an all-natural spray that includes orange peel extract to kill ants and the EcoSMART Organic Ant & Roach Killer is an organic and non-toxic liquid made with plant extract to prevent ants from coming back.
8) Sprinkle food-grade diatomaceous earth around your residence
Diatomaceous earth is a fine white powder that is made from the crushed remains of marine phytoplankton. Food-grade diatomaceous earth is wholly non-toxic for humans and pets, but particularly deadly for insects. Diatomaceous earth gets into sugar ants’ digestive systems and kills them from the inside out. Sprinkle the powder by ant trails and wipe up the substance after a month.
Chemical Methods of Dealing with Sugar Ants
For more ways of dealing with sugar ants, you can also try the following chemical solutions. Before trying these methods, you must make sure you read the instructions and take obligatory safety precautions to safeguard yourself from harmful chemicals.
In addition, always make sure that you keep chemical solutions away from pets and children.
1) Place ant bait
The concept behind using ant baits to get rid of a sugar ant infestation is that the ants would take the bait back to their colony as food. Once the other ants have consumed the poisonous bait, they’ll die. Most ant baits will have boric acid or Borax, a slow-functioning poison that kills the ants. Try Terro liquid ant baits, which are ant killers that are extremely effective against common household ants.
2) Clean your kitchen countertops using an all-purpose cleaner
Not only will this help clean your kitchen, but it will also break down the pheromones that ants use to follow each other.
How to Deal with Sugar Ants’ Nests
If you see sugar ant nests outside your home, take extra steps to get rid of them right away to keep them from penetrating your home. A sugar ant nest resembles a mini volcano—a little mound with a small hole on top. To deal with one of these nests, just follow these tips:
- Flood the nest with running water from a garden hose for 5–10 minutes or pour boiling water over the nest.
- Dump a cup of bleach down the nest hole to kill the ant colony.
- Sprinkle baking soda down the hole and around the entire nest.
How to Keep Sugar Ants from Invading Your Residence
Since sugar ants are most prevalent between March and September, take countermeasures throughout the year to prevent them from entering your home.
1) Locate damp areas
Sugar ants are drawn to dark and damp areas such as bathrooms, garbage disposals, and kitchen sinks. Wipe away excess water with a dry towel and fix any plumbing leaks to keep ants from forming a nest in these areas
2) Regularly clean your sink
Be thorough when you are rinsing dirty dishes and drain the sink of any standing water. After the sink is cleared of all dishes, wipe down the sink in its entirety with a dry paper towel and make sure you haven’t left any residual food or moisture behind. A garbage disposal may also be a big draw for sugar ants.
To destroy their pheromones, pour a little bleach into the garbage disposal every few days – this should destroy any ant attractants.
3) Sweep your kitchen floor regularly
Even minute amounts of food that are left behind on counters or floors are sufficient enough to attract a trail of ants into your home. Sweep or vacuum at least once a night during the summer to make sure any pheromone trails aren’t left for other sugar ants to follow.
4) Take the trash out on a consistent basis
Holes in garbage bags can draw sugar ants to discarded food and lead them straight to your trash. Use strong garbage bags to prevent holes from forming and take the trash out every time it gets full (once or twice a week).
5) Secure holes in entryways
Since ants usually penetrate your home through cracks and crevices, inspect your doors and windows for holes. Secure any holes and cracks with caulk.
6) Place herbs in your kitchen
Peppermint, sage, and tansy have pungent and strong scents that can help keep ants away. Lay these herbs around your kitchen as an extra preventive measure against sugar ants.
7) Use pesticide on your house’s exterior
As another layer of defense, spray your foundation with a natural pesticide to prevent sugar ants from invading your home.
8) Call a professional
If none of the methods discussed above are working for you, then it is high time that you call a pest control company to evaluate the problem, offer remediation methods, and eradicate the existing ants.
Top Rated and Recommended Ant Killers
1. TERRO Ant Killer Liquid Ant Baits
- Very affordable
- A convenient liquid bait station
- Attracts ants very quickly
- Designed to kill the ants you see and the ants in the colony
If you need to target ants indoors and outdoors, these highly effective liquid Ant Baits from TERRO will strike fear into the hearts of all common household ants.
The active ingredient in the TERRO ant baits is a sweetened liquid borax that is consumed by the ants, which is specifically designed to kill the worker ants within two or three days. This delayed release of the poison gives the ants enough time to share the bait with the rest of the unsuspecting colony. The enclosed liquid in the bait prevents the bait from drying out, so any unsuspecting foraging ant has a continuous supply of liquid, day and night.
TERRO Ant baits give you a “no mess, no fuss” approach to pest extermination. Each individual pre-packaged bait in the 6-pack is ready for you to use and you do not have to worry about handling or smelling any chemicals.
Simply place the liquid ant bait stations where ants gather and soon enough your home will be ant-free.
If you have a large infestation, place the bait stations all around your home where ants try to infiltrate. Replace the bait stations every three months to keep the ants from planning another attack on your home.
2. Raid Ant & Roach Killer Spray
- Very effective for indoor pest extermination
- Kills ants and a wide range of flying and crawling insects
- Works on contact and as residual spray
- Light lemon scent
Raid Ant and Roach Killer is the ideal choice for when you need to kill insects fast! As a well-known manufacturer of pest eradication products, Raid will deliver an immediate response to ant invasions.
The aerosol spray contains Cypermethrin, a pyrethroid insecticide, which is a very effective insect killer, which can eliminate ants as well as other insects on contact, but it can also be used as an indoor residual spray that can keep your house ant-free for up to four weeks.
You will be pleasantly surprised by the spray’s light lemon scent and it does not leave a lingering odor or an oily residue on surfaces, and it dries quickly.
Although this product doesn’t kill the queen and the colony, it is a highly effective hands-on weapon against small ant invasions, but for a larger ant invasion, you will need to reapply the spray more than once.
3. Safer Diatomaceous Earth Crawling Insect Killer
- Good value for money
- Ideal for indoor and outdoor ant control
- OMRI Listed and USDA-approved
- Kills ants and other crawling insects
If you are looking for a natural alternative to eradicating those invading ants in your home, Safer Brand is a great choice. Safer Brand is made out of naturally-sourced fossilized diatom powder, so it is free of any toxic chemicals, so it is safe for you to use around children and pets.
You can use the powder anywhere ants are present in your home or outside your home where you see ant tracks or mounds. Although the powder is soft to the touch, the microscopic dry and razor-sharp edges of the diatom particles can pierce the ant’s delicate exoskeleton, which causes them to die of dehydration.
To get the best results, apply the power in dry places.
The powder comes in a 4-pound resealable bag, and it is OMRI listed and USDA-approved for organic gardening, and as it does not contain chemicals, the insects cannot develop a resistance or build up an immunity to the product.
You can also use Safer Brand to kill other insects like Bed Bugs, Cockroach, Earwig, Silverfish, Crickets, Millipedes, and Centipedes.
Although Safer Brand Diatomaceous Earth is non-toxic, it can cause moderate eye irritations. When you apply the powder indoors, make sure that the room is well ventilated, and wear a face mask as it can cause breathing problems if you inhale it.
To get the best results apply the powder in a dry place and spread a light coating along cracks and crevices or wherever there has been insect activity. If you have a larger infestation, it may take days or weeks before the powder kills the ants. To clean up the powder use a damp towel or a filterless vacuum cleaner.
4. Combat Max Ant Killing Gel
- Very effective
- On-the-spot application
- No mess and no fuss approach to ant control
- Easy-to-use syringe
- Kills ants inside and outside the home
If you wish to avoid using a spray to kill invading ants, this gel-filled syringe from Combat Max is the ideal choice for killing indoor ant activity.
Combat is a trusted name in pest control and their innovative way of targeting ants gives you a more hands-on approach for removing those seemingly unstoppable ants that move into your home uninvited.
Combat Max is easy to use and it is childproof with a safety mechanism to stop children tampering with the device and squeezing out the gel.
The 27-gram syringe is filled with Fipronil, which is a slow acting, sweet-smelling poison with a high water content that attracts the ants and gives them time to go back to their colony to spread the poison, which kills the ants within 3-5 days. So as well as eliminating them within your home, Combat allows you to target them at their source.
The handy applicator lets you apply the gel to the cracks & crevices where ants enter and love to hide.
As well as applying this gel inside your home, you can also use the gel outside where you see ant tracks, and the gel works on a number of ant types like Carpenter ants, Black ants, and Pharaoh ants. To get the best results, apply the gel directly onto the ant’s tracks.