Wondering how to get rid of sugar ants? Well, hold onto your hats, we’re diving into another anthill, full of bloodlust and homeowner anger – this time, we’re delving into the seedy underworld of the sugar ant.
And by ‘sugar ants’, we hope you’re not here for information about those weird sugary bug-shaped sweets we used to get handed out at Halloween.
Unfortunately, we’re instead looking at the army of little beasties that want to mug you and make off with that sugary sweet…Maybe leave you with enough cash for a taxi home. Sugar ants aren’t heartless.
Sugar Ants 101
Let’s get clued up with some sugar ant facts and information before we head off to war; it’s important to differentiate the many different subspecies and types of ant not only for a clear conscience (unless you think you can get a good night’s sleep, knowing full well you’re racially stereotyping ants) but so we can better tool up against them.
Many ant killers and repellents work across the entire board, but some will affect different ants in different ways. More importantly, if you want to effectively get rid of a certain species of ant, it’s smart to know their behaviors so you can choose the best sorts of bait to set.
First and foremost: much smarter and more ant-focused people than me have done the research and found out that what we often refer to as ‘sugar ants’ are actually much more likely to be pavement or Pharaoh ants – the real McCoy sugar ant is usually found in Australia.
That being said, nobody else seems to mind calling all three types ‘sugar ants’, so nor do I, but it’s maybe worth noting.
Sugar ants are, obviously, given their title due to their eating habits: anchored around sugary sweet foodstuffs, greasy leftovers and generally any rotten scraps of food that we don’t want. But, the sweeter, the better.
Male sugar ants are very difficult to differentiate from your garden variety ant, due to their dark color, but female sugar ants are an orangey-amber color, kind of like syrup or honey, fittingly enough.
As you might have guessed from the Australian part – sugar ants love the heat. They’re most active in those long summer months and tend to favor the dark spaces between rocks, in soil or in logs and spare planks of wood.
Bonus identification tip: a sugar ant nest can be told apart from some of the other types by large dirt mounds around the many entrances used by the colony.
Phew. Okay. Got all that? No? Well, don’t worry, there won’t be a test. You probably only came here for the next part, right?
How to Get Rid of Sugar Ants
Here’s a list of the best things you can do to win the battle against sugar ants!
Keep the place clean
Right, you’re not going to like this step. Nobody does, unfortunately but as a silver lining, keep in mind that sugar ants will hate it too: keep your house, especially your kitchen area, clean!
We’ve covered the average sugar ant diet: basically anything that’s going for free and the higher the sugar count the higher the ant count, so there’s no excuse for leaving scraps of unwanted food, or dirty containers lying around in your home.
The one thing that domestic pests of all shapes and sizes have in common is a lust for filth – make sure you’re disposing of your trash appropriately and regularly. Don’t let bins get too full or leave them too long before dragging to the street-side.
This isn’t enough, though. You need to properly, genuinely, clean your kitchen area. The smallest crumb of some snack you hastily devoured at midnight can be all it takes to bring some curious sugar ants into the vicinity.
Wipe counters down thoroughly, vacuum your floors, dust your shelves – get into all the nooks and crannies to make sure there’s nothing fermenting behind the scenes.
Whilst you have that mop in your hand, why not save some of the soapy water for later? Dishwashing soap and other liquid detergents can double up as a pest killer in many circumstances.
After you’ve cleaned up a surface, you’ll likely notice that ants take a while to reappear. This is likely due to the soapy scent leftover which can deter them, but only for a short while. If you really want to use it as a killer, you’ll need to catch the ants with their pants down.
So don’t pour that water away just yet!
Store your food correctly
And while we’re in the kitchen, cleaning things up: make sure you’re storing your food appropriately. This goes for both perishable items and longer lasting dry stuff like cereals, rice, cous cous, flour and so on – most ants aren’t that picky when it comes to foraging for grub and anything you leave exposed is going to warrant a little nosey-look at the very least.
Airtight containers are your biggest ally in the sugar ant prevention stakes. Store as much stuff as you can in containers and locations that won’t let the scent permeate the house.
As an addendum to that: take a second to think about one of the most sugary things in your diet. Something that you probably don’t think twice about and will happily leave to sit out in the open, exposed to air, sunlight and ants…That’s right. Fruit.
If you really want to make sure you’re not inviting sugar ants into play with your food, then keep fruit locked away in the refrigerator as much as you can. The second that pile of oranges starts to get a little overripe – it’s a bank holiday for the sugar ants in the neighborhood.
Plug the gaps
Think of your home like a worthy sea-vessel, floating along in an ocean of pests and insects that want nothing more than to do find a way on board. That might seem a bit sinister, but it’s more or less true.
Bugs of all shapes, sizes, species and political persuasion will go to all kinds of lengths to find the smallest, most imperceptible gap in your home’s foundations or walls. All they need is that one tiny entry point and they can eat like kings.
It’s down to you to patrol your home like a prison warden and keep an eye out for any gaps, holes, fissures, or any other synonyms for spaces in your window sills, door sills, pipework, vents, skirting boards and so on. This is especially important in rooms with food sources and moisture deposits (think bathrooms, basements, kitchens, garages and even attics).
Something as simple as bathroom sealant or caulk can do the trick: you’re really just trying to create a physical barrier to keep any persistent sugar ants on the other side of your walls. If you want to make absolutely sure that nothing’s going to find its way in: fill these gaps with deterrents or ant-killers first and then seal them up.
Speaking of which…
Salt is widely disputed to be something of an ant myth but vinegar is known to work very well against ants when used creatively.
For a general, quick and messy deterrent all you need to do is combine equal parts vinegar (most types will do the trick) and water into a spray bottle or some similar dispenser, then simply blitz the places you’ve either spotted sugar ant activity before or want to damn well make sure no sugar ants ever cross. Kitchen countertops or sinks for example.
The drawback is that while this vinegary repellent will be great for keeping the ants at bay, it’s only effective as a repellent for as long as the scent of the vinegar remains…Which isn’t all that long, especially if you’re wiping down tables after dinner and so forth.
Where vinegar really comes into its own, though, is as a cheap DIY killer. If ants are directly exposed to the vinegar itself – it’ll kill ‘em right off. So it’s up to you. You can use it as a cheap and cheerful quick-fix or create your own vinegar poison for direct action.
Boric acid and baking soda
If you have the temperament to get a little dirtier in your sugar-ant warfare tactics, then boric acid could be the answer for you.
Boric acid is a naturally occurring mineral that basically kicks the bejesus out of all sorts of pests: sugar ants are at the top of the list today. It’s generally safe to use around people, but I’d still exercise a little caution if there are pets or young kids in your home.
The trick with poisons like boric acid is to make it attractive for the pesky ant, which is pretty easily done with liberal amounts of sugary syrup, grease, actual sugar or anything else that’s VERY BAD FOR YOUR DIET.
As an added bonus, a lot of angry homeowners like to punish their own domestic sugar ants with some added baking soda mixed in with the boric acid. Baking soda is fatal to ants that ingest it – so it can make for a pretty cheap killing agent when you’re caught off guard or if you just want to add a little kick to your boric deposits.
Tip: Create your own DIY ant traps by smearing this sugar cocktail of destruction on some cardboard strips and leaving them out in choice locations for the ants to stumble across. They’re smart critters but they, like us, get pretty stupid when it comes to eating sugar-laced snacks.
To be honest, if you sat a honey-coated boric acid cardboard strip down in front of me right now, I’d still probably weigh it up.
Ant bait traps
If you don’t much feel like spending your evenings creating DIY ant traps, though, you can always buy ready-made ant bait traps. There are many different variations, most of which function in roughly the same manner as the guerrilla trap I’ve just described, but for sugar ants, you want to make sure you’re opting for a product that is specifically designed for them or at least features a highly sweetened bait.
Additionally, you’ll have your pick of the litter when it comes to different chemicals and insecticides used on these traps – some of which may be hit or miss for your problem. Once you’ve found the right one, though…Sayonara sugar ant colony.
Ant killer sprays
If you really want a handy, immediate killing tool then you can do no better than purchasing some ant killing sprays. Obviously this isn’t a particularly useful method for coating whole areas or trying to repel any potential ant intrusions, but for scenarios where you’ve spotted a line of sugar ants marching toward your food – spray at will.
As ever, though, make sure you’re opting for something that’s appropriate for indoor use and make sure the space is well-ventilated before doing so. Orange Guard is a great, natural ant killer spray – non toxic and formulated with d-Limonene (orange peel extract), which both kills ants on contact and helps repel them.
For the truly thrifty ant-hater out there (I salute you); something as simple as a little bit of duct tape can be a great starting point or hold-over technique until you get a chance to hit the stores and invest in some more brutal torture methods.
Duct tape, black tape or even double-sided tape can be great for catching ants on their regular commuting routes, but be aware…They will begin to clock on to the trap and avoid it of their own accord.
If only there were some extra sticky, sweet, syrupy, golden bait you could use too?
I was lying earlier. There will be a test. Please have your work ready for marking by tomorrow morning. Late hand-ins or dog-eating-homework excuses will result in some sort of sugar ant torture. I haven’t thought of it yet… but it’ll be a mix of sweet and sour, I promise you that.