How To Get Rid Of Sugar Ants (Quick & Effective)

Sugar ants inside a house

Getting rid of sugar ants in your house can seem like a never-ending battle. These relentless little insects aren’t easily discouraged, so it’s important to know what you’re doing.

This guide will teach you how to get rid of sugar ants, and stop them from returning.

Why They’re In Your Home

Sugar ants come into your home in search of food, water, or both. If the colony is outside, scout ants will be sent inside in search of a food or water source.

When food is found, they take the food back to the nest. More and more scouts and workers are then sent into the area, and soon you have an extensive infestation in your house.

How To Get Rid Of Sugar Ants

These insects have been plaguing the living spaces of people for quite a while, so lots of remedies for getting rid of sugar ants have developed over the years.

Talk to most people, and they’ll probably have a method that they feel does the trick. Some of these methods are do-it-yourself, some are based on commercial bait traps, and some involve using chemical sprays or gels. Search the web, and you’ll also find a slew of all-natural remedies that are said to work wonders. 

The thing with sugar ants is that there isn’t a “one size fits all” method to get rid of them. What works will kind of depend on the level of infestation, where the nests are, the climate and many other important factors. A method will work in one particular situation, and then it won’t work for a different infestation. That means it will sometimes be necessary to combine several of the methods.

1. Set Up Ant Bait

If done properly, ant baits can be an excellent way to get rid of sugar ants. However, if you’re in a hurry to see results, then this method may not be for you. 

Getting rid of sugar ants with bait

This method involves setting out bait (usually in the form of a gel) and waiting for the sugar ants to eat it and take it back to the colony. Once they share the poison with other ants in the colony, there’s a change that the colony will eventually die out. You can also make your own DIY bait mixture to kill ants with borax if you want.

It can take a couple of months for the whole colony to die, and this is only if the queen takes the poison and dies. One snag with using this ant bait technique is that if the queen senses that something is wrong in the nest, she may decide to move to another location along with a group of her workers. This is called budding, and it is typical survival behavior for this kind of ant.

Quick Tip: If the colony that you are targeting decides to bud, then you’re just going to have the same problem, or the issue may even be worse than before. To help prevent budding, make sure that you are using a non-repellent ant bait gel.

This method of removal is pretty easy to manage. You can pick up various kinds of bait for sugar ants at most hardware stores, or a pest control professional can place it for you. The ant bait should be placed wherever you most frequently see sugar ants. All you do is place a small drop of the gel in the area, and then you just wait for the ants to find it. 

Once the sugar ants find the gel and begin to swarm, don’t be surprised if you see more ants than you ever thought possible. It can really be quite alarming, but this swarming is actually a good sign. After several days, the swarming will begin to dramatically decrease as the workers bring the poison back to the nest. Soon you may not see more than one or two around. As we said earlier, complete eradication may take up to a few months.

2. Use A Contact Killing Spray

Like many people, your first reaction upon finding sugar ants in your house is to grab a can of ant spray. This is the method that most people know about, and it’s the way that our parents and grandparents usually handled their ant problems.

But it’s worth noting that there are some issues with using this method to get rid of sugar ants. First of all, these sprays are highly toxic. Sure, it will kill the sugar ants, but the fumes are very dangerous to you, your family, and your pets. The entire area plus any ant trails that you find have to be thoroughly sprayed, so you may have to leave the house for a few hours.

The other reason why using a contact killing spray is not the best idea is that it’s only getting rid of the sugar ants that you spray. It’s a quick fix, and it may make you feel better in the short term, but it’s basically just a band aid (they have the advantage of numbers).

3. Place Traps

Ant traps are a pretty popular method because they usually don’t involve toxic chemicals. This is great for anyone with small children or pets in the house.

One popular type of trap is the glue trap. Basically, the sugar ants are attracted to the sweet smell of the trap. Once they step on the glue to get at the treat, they get stuck on the glue and can’t get off. However, like the contact spray mentioned above, this method doesn’t have the potential to eliminate the whole colony. 

Another type of trap is an electric trap. Like the glue trap, it is designed to kill scout and worker ants, but it has no effect on the colony. It’s kind of like one of those electric mosquito zappers, but it’s just for ants. The ants are attracted to the sugary smell inside the trap, and once they explore inside the trap, they receive a deadly electric shock.

4. Keep Your Food Sealed

This next method is a common sense, practical way to help keep invading sugar ants at bay. It may seem like a no-brainer, but if you want to cut down on the chance of these insects invading your kitchen, then keeping your food sealed and protected in plastic is a must. 

By plastic we mean items like plastic containers, small bins, or plastic zip-lock bags. You’ll want to keep anything that you think will attract ants tightly protected in some sort of plastic. Also, if you open flour, sugar, pasta, rice, or really anything, make sure that it is sealed away tightly.

5. Clean Up Your Home

A clean home tends to be one that is less attractive to sugar ants. This “clean up your home” method takes a little more vigilance and work on your part, but it’s an extremely powerful way to get rid of sugar ants in the long run.

Even if your house is already pretty clean (and we’re sure that it is), there are still some extra things that you can do to deter any sugar ants that may be scouting out your living space.

Sugar ants in a dirty kitchen

Crumbs left on your kitchen counter, sink, floor, or any other place in your house are like sugar ant magnets. This is why it’s really important to make sure that all crumbs are cleaned up on a daily basis. All it takes is a few ants to discover a stash of crumbs, and you’ll soon have a constant stream of ants invading your home.

It’s also never a good idea to leave dirty dishes in the sink, especially overnight. Taking the time to wash, dry and put away your dishes is going to really help in the long run. Ants are attracted to water, so make sure to thoroughly dry your sink as well.

Trash cans are notorious for attracting ants, so we suggest emptying the trash cans every day. 

Quick Tip: If you have pets, keep an eye on their food and water bowls. Sugar ants are really attracted to pet food, so it’s a good idea to clean their bowls and feeding area as soon as they are done eating.

The last thing that really helps is to mop your floors on a daily basis. If this is too much, then try to mop at least every other day. Mopping with a water and vinegar solution works really well as it helps to repel sugar ants.

We know that this sounds like a lot of extra work, but we think that you will find that your effort is worth it. As they say, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” If you stay consistent and follow the recommendations above, you won’t need to spend so much time getting rid of sugar ants in the future.

Areas Of Your Home To Focus On

When sugar ants decide to invade your home, the kitchen is not the only room in danger of infestation. While it’s true that sugar ants are attracted to food items in your kitchen (and even your dishwasher), you’ll also find them wherever there is dampness or even just a few crumbs left around. Let’s take a quick look at some of the areas in your home to investigate when you’re trying to get rid of sugar ants.

The first and most obvious area is the kitchen. With cooking and snacking taking place almost constantly, it’s easy to leave crumbs and food residue around without even knowing it. Sugar ants are master food detectors, and the advance search party sent out by the queen will very quickly discover a treasure trove of food in your kitchen.

Quick Tip: Once a few worker ants start bringing home items from your house, you’ll soon have a whole colony stealing from your kitchen.

Ants also love it where they can have a steady water supply, so bathrooms are often places where sugar ants like to hang out. Dampness in your bathroom may be enticing sugar ants into your home, so keep your bathroom as dry as possible.

If you don’t contain eating to one area of your home (like the dining room) then there’s a good chance you’re dropping bits of food wherever you’re munching. This means that the living room, the bedrooms and any other place where you eat are fair game for a sugar ant invasion. In other words, if you’re eating in a room, there’s always the possibility of finding ants there.

How To Get Rid Of Sugar Ants Naturally

It’s totally understandable if you feel unsure about using harsh chemicals to solve your sugar ant problems. Even if you don’t have kids or pets to worry about, it’s certainly not pleasant to use smelly chemicals in your living space.

Fortunately, there are several methods you can use to get rid of sugar ants naturally. One thing to point out with all natural solutions is that they are temporary fixes that are meant to work for a brief period of time. In most cases, these methods will rarely bring permanent relief.

White distilled vinegar has a myriad of practical uses around the house and using it as a sugar ant deterrent is no exception. Grab a spray bottle and mix up a solution of one part vinegar to one part water. Spray this solution wherever you notice ants. If you can locate their entry point, give that a spray as well. Spray your baseboards, counter tops or use it as a floor wash. 

Quick Tip: This works because sugar ants hate the smell of vinegar, so spraying or mopping with a vinegar solution may act as a repellent. This solution will also get rid of the ant trails that they are following to get to their food source. 

Another way to get rid of sugar ants naturally is to sprinkle coffee grounds in the areas where you see them. They can also be spread around the perimeter of your home. For some people, this may not be the best method because coffee grounds can stain surfaces.

Using essential oils (such as peppermint, cinnamon, tea tree, or orange) can also be an effective and pleasant alternative to harsh chemicals. Just remember that using this method is only temporary, and it won’t permanently solve the larger problem.

To use essential oils, place around 20 drops of your favorite oil in a spray bottle filled with water. Some people even add a pinch of cayenne pepper to this essential oil mixture for extra potency. As with the vinegar solution, use this essential oil spray wherever you see ants. 

Other natural remedies include using cucumber peels near ant activity, sprinkling diatomaceous earth near ant trails, and hanging garlic in your food storage areas.

Removal Methods That Don’t Work For Serious Infestations

With so many sugar ant removal methods out there, it can seem impossible to choose the right one. There are definitely some formulas that work better than others, so let’s briefly cover  some of the options that won’t work if you want to get rid of sugar ants.

As we pointed out, most of the natural methods don’t work very well on a long-term basis. Sure, you will probably see results right away, but methods, such as essential oils or a vinegar and water solution, won’t help you in the long run. That means you shouldn’t rely on them if you have a serious infestation.

Other natural methods that many people swear by include sprinkling cinnamon around the kitchen, finding entry points and sealing them off, soaking cotton balls in a boric acid, sugar and baking soda mixture and spraying entry points with citrus essential oils. Again, these methods are temporary and may even cause budding.

Sprays are also another example of a method to get rid of sugar ants that won’t make a big impact. It’s a short term fix, so you should be aware of this before you commit to spraying your way out of an infestation.

Ways To Prevent Them From Entering Your Home In The Future

Getting rid of the sugar ants in your house is only half of the battle. You’ll still need to find ways to prevent them from invading your space again, and they will if given the right conditions.

Don’t worry, there are a few proactive steps you can take to lessen the chances of another infestation.

Sugar ants inside a house

One of the most effective ways to prevent another sugar ant invasion is to keep your home clean. This entails sweeping, vacuuming and mopping as often as possible. Also, wiping down countertops, wiping down the sink and washing dishes in a timely manner are very important tasks to add to your cleaning routine. Make sure to take out the trash at least once a day.

As mentioned earlier, it’s critical to keep food stored in plastic containers. Make sure to wipe away drips from bottles of ketchup, honey, molasses or any other sweet and sticky item.

Quick Tip: Don’t forget to check the outside of your home for entryways such as holes and cracks. These areas can be sprayed and sealed.

A Common Misconception About Sugar Ants

The sugar ants you may see in your home (given this name because they love sweet, sugary foods) are not technically sugar ants. They are usually either pavement ants or pharaoh ants. The only true sugar ants, Camponotus consobrinus, are found exclusively in Australia.

Other types of sugar ants you may see in your home include ghost ants, crazy ants, white-footed ants and acrobat ants. There are many other types of ants that are in this category, but we won’t list them all here. The type or types you may encounter in and around your home kind of depend on where you live. 

Some of these ants will build a colony outside and only come in for food, others will set up nests inside your home. Whichever kind has set up shop in your house, they are highly invasive and very difficult to get rid of once they are established.

Closing Thoughts

Once you know how to get rid of sugar ants these pesky insects won’t seem nearly as frustrating! Like any pest, all it takes is the right strategy and a little persistence to make it happen.

We hope you found this guide helpful and feel prepared to deal with any sugar ant problems in your home. If you have any questions that we didn’t address above, don’t hesitate to send them our way.

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