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How to get rid of sugar ants?

There are different ways to get rid of ants. As we mentioned earlier, the first step to getting rid of sugar ants is to identify the ants.

February 26, 2022

33 min read time

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Decades ago, several ships from Asia became unwitting transporters of a couple of the most unlikely passengers. Today these passengers can be found just about anywhere humans are: homes, schools, eateries, workplaces, and so on.


They love warmth, water, and food (especially sugar).

If you haven’t guessed by now, we have been talking about some of the most popular insects out there: the sugar ant, a.k.a the odorous house ants, banded sugar ant, black ants, piss ants, or ship ants (a more telling name).

Seeing as they can be annoying pests on your premises, we would be looking at how to get rid of sugar ants.

What You Need to Know about Sugar Ants

Over centuries, sugar ants have adapted to the point that billions of them march about in different parts of the world as you read this.

Thus, they are arguably one of the most common pests across continents. To learn how to get rid of sugar ants, you’d need to understand them a little better.

So let’s start by looking at a few things that you should know about sugar ants.

How do sugar ants live?

Sugar ants are social insects.

Like all social insects, they live in colonies that can be as large as 350,000 strong ants thronging up and down going about their business. The sugar ant colony consists of a queen, male ants capable of procreating, and a horde of non-reproductive workers. That’s not all, though.

There are at least a hundred other adult females capable of forming a colony of theirs, which explains why you can have several sugar ant colonies on a premise simultaneously. This is because of a process known as “budding’.

Budding refers to a process where several reproductive adult female ants in a nest go in different directions to start new nests.

Sugar ants use chemical signals to communicate with one another as they go in search of food. They use pheromones to mark their food with a unique odor which serves as a beacon when they move to and fro their anthills.

They can do this because they have a very keen sense of smell over a significant distance (sometimes as much as 35 meters!).

Have you ever wondered how they can locate even your best-hidden sweets?

Well, now you know why.

How long do sugar ants live?

It does not take long for a sugar ant to grow. The queen of the sugar ant colony lays eggs in late spring, or early autumn does not take long to hatch into new ants. It takes less than 40 days to grow from an egg to an adult.

The male ants don’t live beyond three weeks, while the worker ants live for about two months. It is only the female sugar ants that have been known to survive up to 10 months.

What do sugar ants eat?

As their name suggests, sugar ants live and die for sugar, sweets, jellies, jam, and candies. They also love fish and foods that have flour and fat (bread, pastries, and whatnot). They are excellent scavengers who are quick to cart away food remnants and waste from your trash bins.

Sugar ants are known to enter into an arrangement with aphids to protect them in exchange for access to the honeydew produced by the aphids. These insects are also open to eating plant pollen, nectar, other insects (like caterpillars), and small animals.

What do sugar ants look like?

Sugar ants are tiny, even for insects. They have three pairs of legs and long antennae that help them pinpoint smells, identify each other, detect and signal danger, and find their way around.

Types of Sugar Ants

 The name sugar ant is an umbrella term for a group of tiny ants that love sweet foods. Here are some of the types of sugar ants you are likely to encounter depending on where you live.

1. Acrobat Ants

The acrobat sugar ants spend a lot of time outdoors and can be identified by a black or dark brown abdomen and reddish-brown bodies.

2. Odorous House Ants

This is arguably the most popular type of sugar ant.

It can be found close to plants and flowers that secrete lots of nectar. They have a robust affinity for sugar, so you are also likely to find them inside your premises, where they will start up a colony as long as the conditions are right.

Odorous house ants can be identified by their black bodies with brown coloring around their abdomen and leg areas.

3. Fire Ants

Fire ants get their name from their fiery color and the sensation that follows their sharp bite. They are mostly found outdoors in their brown or red-colored colonies, but they quickly migrate indoors when they run out of food sources outdoors.

4. Pharaoh Ants

Pharaoh sugar ants also love to build colonies indoors, with dark corners and drainages being their favorite hunting spots. This ant is easily identified by a yellow body that has red marks around its thorax region. They are known to alternate between sugar and protein food sources.

5. Ghost Ants

These are the species of sugar ants that have the food for protection arrangement with aphids. That does not stop them from infesting your kitchen if you give them a reason to.

5. Argentine Ants

This breed of sugar ants is willing to go to the extreme to get sugar food sources. Argentine ants do this in indoor and outdoor spaces and are known to invade beehives to get some honey.

Where To Find Sugar Ants

Knowing how to get rid of sugar ants would require you to know where to find them. Like most pests, sugar ants can set up a colony just about anywhere.

The following are some of the most common places where you are likely to find them:

  • Voids/cavities in your walls
  • Beneath your appliances
  • Close to leaky faucets
  • Around damaged insulation
  • Inside abandoned termite nests
  • Beneath and around stacked firewood
  • In loose soil
  • Inside tree trunks and branches with hollows.
  • Underneath rocks.
  • Around your potted plants.
  • Around your kitchen cabinets.
  • Inside wooden structures.

In most cases, sugar ants invade your home after they have run out of outdoor food sources. They have a horde of odor receptors on them, so it’s easy for them to follow the scent trails of food regardless of where they are.

As soon as scout ants detect the food source, it is only a matter of time before you have a full-blown sugar ant infestation.

Once you know where to find them, it is easier to know how to get rid of sugar ants.

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Signs/Causes/Effects of a Sugar Ant Infestation 

Identifying the signs of a sugar infestation is vital to your plan to get rid of sugar ants. So how does a sugar ant infestation happen in the first place?

Let’s say scout ants detect a food source using their antennae. It traces the food source; then it starts hauling the food back to the nest.

But before it does that, it creates a pheromone trail to the ant nest so that other ants can easily track the food source. This pheromone trail is the reason why you might have noticed an army of ants trudging to and fro your premises.

It is pretty easy to tell when sugar ants have infested your home because of certain telltale signs.

Here are some of the most common symptoms of a sugar ant infestation:

  • An unusually large number of sugar ants are moving about your home. Sugar ants rarely leave until they have depleted a food source.
  • You will notice some damage on your wooden furniture damage
  • You would find nesting sites around inside and your home or inside(especially around those areas we mentioned a few paragraphs back).

Effects of A Sugar Ant Infestation

Sugar ant’s bite is rare, so they might not be overly dangerous. However, you are at significant risk if you have an open wound and sugar ants are around.

The reason is that they smell blood and are attracted to it. So you risk getting your wound infected by a pathogen carry ant walking across it. That is why you need to know how to get rid of sugar ants.

But they can be very irritating to have around. For one, once they get into your food in large numbers, you might not want to eat that food again. They are also effective vectors of pathogens since they cover much ground and are likely to come across many pollutants. This increases the risk of contracting streptococcus and staphylococcus, among others.

Sugar ants also store rotting food remains and mold in their ant nests, and these can pose serious health risks to people who live around the premises.

Then there is the thing about damaging the wooden structures in the house like furniture, wooden

beams, and ceilings. Damaged wooden structures can lead to significant repair costs. These are some of the reasons why some folks are constantly looking for how to get rid of sugar ants.

Causes of Sugar Ant Infestations

Heavy rains and floods are known to displace sugar ants, and if your home or premises provides a suitable cover for them, they are bound to infest it.

That said, here are some of the more common causes of sugar ant infestations:

  • Food crumbs that litter different areas of the house like the kitchen countertop, floor, or  sofa
  • Carelessly kept sweet foods
  • Leftover pet food
  • Spills from sugary drinks
  • Rotten fruits left around the house and in the trash

Once you understand the causes of ant infestations, you are closer to working out how to get rid of sugar ants.

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How Do I Get Rid of Tiny Ants in My House?

There are different ways to get rid of ants. As we mentioned earlier, the first step to getting rid of sugar ants is to identify the ants.

Except you are a trained pest control professional, it might be difficult for you to detect the type of ant infestation that you might be experiencing.

So your best bet would be to get some professional advice to help you determine what kind of ant has invaded your premises.

Finding out the kind of black ant infestation will help you decide how to get rid of sugar ants. Once you have ascertained the type of ant that has invaded your home, you can then take the following steps to eliminate them:

1. Inspect your environment

You must take a good look around your home and premises to detect their entry point. This is an important step on how to get rid of sugar ants.

No thanks to their size; tiny ants can enter your home from just about anywhere. So your inspection should cover voids in your walls, window cracks, doorways, lighting fixtures, kitchen sinks, bathrooms, and the pantry, among others.

The best way to detect their entry points is to follow the trail of ants from their nesting site to the point where they got into the house.

2. Use a vinegar solution or all-purpose cleaners

Using vinegar solutions is a great tip on how to get rid of sugar ants. The active ingredient in vinegar is acetic or boric acid, which is great for removing scents.

Once you detect an ant trail, you might want to use a vinegar solution on them. To get a vinegar solution, mix one-part water and one part vinegar. You then apply it to the entry points you detected.

The vinegar solution throws off the pheromone scent and stops them from traveling along that trail.

The best time to do this would be when ants are the most active, like in the morning and late in the afternoon.

You could also clean your kitchen countertops with an all-purpose cleaner as it displaces the pheromones trail.

3. Disperse coffee grounds around

Coffee grounds are acidic, and they have a strong smell that puts ants off. You can disperse some coffee grounds around the areas that you notice the ants milling about.

4. Use cloves, bay leaves, and garlic

Ants have strong odor receptors, which gives them a strong sense of smell that could also be a weakness. To exploit this weakness, have some garlic, cloves, and bay leaves lying around the house. The pungent smell from these substances has a way of repelling ants around the house.

5. Use a homemade insect repellent

You can create this by mixing some water with a few drops of essential oils like peppermint. Pour the solution into a spray bottle before spraying it around the areas where you found the ants.

6. Create an ant trap

To do this, put some honey or some other sweet, syrupy substance on a plastic plate. The ants detect the content of the plastic plate and try to lick it. But they end getting stuck there. After a while, they will die off, and you can then get rid of the plastic plate.

7. Use organic commercial products

A range of organic, non-toxic products is designed to help you get rid of your ant problems. All of them are made from organic products and are nontoxic. Plus, they are pretty effective, too, so you could opt for them if you can make any of the homemade remedies for getting rid of ants.

8. Use food-grade diatomaceous earth

This is one of the more popular home remedies and is a common way of naturally getting rid of sugar ants.

Diatomaceous earth is an organic material that is made from crushing the remains of marine phytoplankton. The food-grade version of diatomaceous earth is a great ant killer because it kills them from inside out.

All you need to do is scatter some of it along the ant trails and wipe it up after a while. It is one of the best ways of getting rid of sugar ants naturally.

9. Use ant bait

The ant bait is another great ant killer. It is set up so that the unsuspecting ants take the poisoned food to their ant nest. The entire colony eats the poisoned bait, and after a while, they die off.

Using ant bait ensures that you kill many more ants in the ant nest than with other methods. The ant bait, which could either be in liquid ant bait or solid form, is best applied to the areas that you have noticed the ants’ activities.

One of the more popular bait is one with Borax which is a cleaning chemical. Just mix some Borax with any sweet substance and leave the mixture around areas the ants frequent.

10. Ant aerosol sprays

These products are used to kill ants because they are fast-acting. All you need to do is to spray along the ant trails and any entry points you detect. The downside is that they are toxic, and you would need to leave the area for a few hours after using them to kill ants.

11. Electric traps

Electric traps which is one of the best ant control methods. They have something like a bait that attracts the ants. Once the ant crawls into the trap, it gets electrocuted.

They might be expensive, but they are guaranteed to work for an extended period. You also want to place these ant traps in dry places to avoid any complications.

12. Block their points of entry

Once you have detected the points of entry of the invading ants, the next step to protect your home would be to block them. You could plug the voids and crevices with some silicone caulk.

Another option would be to keep some Boric acid, coffee grounds, garlic, or bay leaves around the entry points that can’t be repaired. These substances serve to repel the ants.

13. Set up a barrier

 You could set up a barrier around your premises. Strategically dispersing coffee grounds and diatomaceous earth around the house is a great idea. You could also plant mint, cayenne pepper, or chili pepper plants around your house or in your garden. These substances will keep the ants away from your home.

What Is The Fastest Way To Get Rid Of Sugar Ants?

So you found out that you have a sugar ant infestation that you need to get rid of ASAP, but somehow you don’t know how to get rid of sugar ants.

Well, here are some of the fastest ways to get rid of sugar ants.

However, you should note that the quickest way for you depends on your peculiar situation.

1. Use white vinegar

White vinegar can be used to kill sugar ants quickly. This is because white vinegar has an acidic active ingredient, making it toxic to black ants.

You could make a white vinegar solution with equal parts of white vinegar and water. You then spray this solution directly on the ants, their trails, their nesting sites, or just about anywhere you have noticed their activity.

2. Borax bait station

To create a Borax bait station, mix a little borax powder with a large brown sugar in a bowl. Add some warm water to the bowl and stir well for a while. You then make some equally-spaced holes in a lidded disposable plastic container at a height that prevents the solution from spilling.

Add some crumbs of sweet foods like cookies in the container before pouring the solution into the container.

Next, close the lid and place the container around the areas that the ants frequent. You can make as many of these containers as possible, and the more you have, the faster you eliminate the ants.

3. Pour boiling water on the colony

Some nature enthusiasts might not subscribe to this idea, but pouring boiled salty water over an ant colony would help eliminate many ants ASAP.

Will Sugar Ants Go away on Their Own?

No, they won’t.

Sugar ants are drawn to an environment because it is either conducive for them to set up a colony or some food they can take to their colonies. As long as there is something that draws them to that house, they will stay.

However, you could get them to leave by removing either the food source or any other thing that might have attracted them to the house in the first place. So you must know what attracts scout ants to understand how to get rid of them.

How Do I Get Rid of Tiny Ants in My Kitchen

Even the cleanest kitchen will still attract tiny ants because they have incredible odor receptors and are diligent enough to seek out even the most remote food source.

That is not to say that you should leave your kitchen in a mess because of this. To learn how to get rid of sugar ants in your kitchen, you must first understand what brings them there in the first place.

What Attracts Ants To Your Kitchen?

It is simple; the food and water that they need to survive. They have many odor receptors that enable them to detect food sources from a long-distance away. The kitchen is designed for making food, so it is only natural that there would be enough to attract them to your kitchen.

There is often enough water in your kitchen, so it follows that this is one of the points in the house where the ants would be attracted to. Having a leaky faucet or any pool of water makes your kitchen susceptible to a small ant infestation.

If you notice a small ant infestation, here are some tips on how to get rid of them:

i) Block all points of entry

Detect and block those points in the house through which the tiny ants can get into your kitchen. So look around places like the gaps in the windows, doors, or the house’s foundation.

ii) Keep the kitchen clean always

Getting rid of sugar-based products is important. So you want to keep the countertops, tables, dirty dishes, floor, and the whole kitchen clean all the time. Make sure that you sweep any crumbs of food and mop any spilled drinks. Avoid dirty dishes at all costs. Also, clean up spills from honey, jam, cake, candy, and fruit. Extend this level of cleanliness to your pet’s food bowl and the space where the bowl is kept. 

iii) Limit damp areas to a minimum

Tiny ants love cool, moist places so that they will be drawn to any damp environments in your kitchen. So keep your kitchen as dry as possible, and be sure to fix plumbing issues as soon as you can. Keeping the sink dry constantly is an excellent way to go about this.

iv) Manage the trash well

You want to take out the trash as regularly as possible. The reason is that overly full garbage bags will attract tiny ants. It is even worse if there are holes in the bags. So you want to empty the garbage bags as often as you can.

You might also want to eliminate the ant trails by using all-purpose cleaners or bleach around the area where you put the garbage bags to throw off the pheromone trails dropped by the ants.

v) Store your food well

You want to store your foods in a functional fridge or airtight containers, especially ripe fruits, vegetables, and sugar-based foods. This eliminates contact with the ants and keeps them away.

vi) Keep some herbs in your kitchen

Herbs like sage and tansy have strong scents that repel ants. You can use them to get rid of tiny ants in your kitchen.

vii) Get professional pest control agencies

Since the kitchen is where you prepare your food, it is not the best to experiment with DIY ant control measures. You want to get rid of the ants ASAP, and professional pest control is your best bet.

A pest control professional understands ant species and is in a better position to determine the best method to get rid of sugar ants in your kitchen. With a professional, you can also find a lasting solution to your ant infestation problems.

How to Prevent Sugar Ants from Invading Your Home

It is better to prevent sugar ants from getting in than get rid of them when it comes to ants. Even after getting rid of them, it still makes a whole lot of sense to avoid them from the back into your home. Here’s how you can go about preventing sugar ants from invading your home. 

1. Use pesticides outdoors

Pesticides can be used to prevent sugar ants from invading your home. The best way to use them is to apply them outdoors around those parts of your premises they frequent. Once you can get rid of them outdoors, you needn’t have to worry about them invading your home.

2. Reduce the available food and water

You could achieve this by managing leftover food remnants around the house. Ants invade homes in search of food and water. If you limit the amount of food and water they have access to, they wouldn’t have anything to draw them to your home. So store your foods well, take care of the garbage and fix any leaks around the house.

3. Minimize Their Access to Your Home

We have already established that sugar ants find their way into your home through any cracks and crevices they can access. So you want to plug these cracks and crevices around your home using caulk. You might want to pay particular attention to the door thresholds where ants can readily travel through.

Replacing broken glasses or any openings in the nets on your doors and windows will also limit their points of entry. Inspect and treat any tree branches(the tea tree in particular) or shrubs close to your home as the ants can access your home through them. Sugar ants love the tea tree and can be found around it.

If you have stacks of firewood or woodpiles around the house, you should treat them as sugar ants. Another great idea is to remove any decaying wood that you may have around your home.

4. Set up a perimeter

You can apply chemicals around the house to set up a barrier that keeps the ants out. These products

are often long-lasting and are effective when used correctly. There are also organic options that are just as effective. Some of these include food-grade diatomaceous earth and coffee grounds.


Some biologists believe that sugar ants are one of Mother Nature’s cleaning agents because they clean up some of the waste that we leave around. But that is neither here nor there. No one wants to have an army of ants milling about the house, getting into their food, and just constituting a nuisance around the house.

That is why you need to know how to get rid of sugar ants.

So if you have been trying to get rid of sugar ants, this article provides some insights on how you could identify sugar ants, get rid of them and prevent them from invading your home. We hope you apply these insights so that you can have ant-free existence.

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