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Come springtime, sugar ants will begin to invade homes in search of food and water. Though these ants aren’t dangerous to humans, they’re rather annoying pests that can be difficult to control. Here’s everything you need to know about getting rid of sugar ants—from which natural remedies and chemical solutions are best to prevention methods that keep these ants from coming back.
Sugar ants, or banded sugar ants, are small black ants native to Australia and exclusive to that part of the world. When we think of the term sugar ants, we’re probably thinking of pavement ants or 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 attracted to sweets and all varieties of sugary foods and scraps. They also eat fats, proteins (obtained from eating other insects), and plant pollen. Once they find a food source, they’ll haul food back to their nest for the rest of the colony.
There are several types of sugar ants, including those that live outdoors and come indoors to eat, as well as others that prefer to live and feed inside your home. Outdoor sugar ants can include acrobat ants, false honey ants, or rover ants. Some common indoor sugar ants are carpenter ants, pavement ants, and pharaoh ants.
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 follow 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 lays a pheromone trail—a basic scent trail—for other ants to follow.
Sugar ants also come from existing nests inside your home. Their nests are typically in undisturbed spaces, such as inside walls or in basements.
Before getting rid of sugar ants, first locate and then follow their visible trail as far as you can—this will help you determine their entry point into your home and give you a starting point for remediation. After locating the trail and entry point, decide which type of natural or chemical method you want to use. Here are a few different forms of ant control:
If you want to stay away from harsh chemicals when treating a sugar ant infestation, try the following natural home remedies:
For other ant control methods, try the following chemical solutions. Before using these methods, make sure you read the instructions and take necessary safety precautions to protect yourself from harmful chemicals. Additionally, be sure to keep chemical solutions away from pets and children.
If you notice sugar ant nests outside your home, take steps to get rid of them immediately to prevent them from entering your home. A sugar ant nest resembles a mini volcano—a little mound with a small hole on top. To remove one of these nests, follow these tips:
Since these black ants are most prevalent between March and September, take countermeasures throughout the year to prevent them from entering your home.
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Most sugar ants come from outside your home and follow scent trails through openings in your home and foundation. Once a single ant makes it into your house, it lays a scent trail for other ants to follow.
To keep sugar ants out of the kitchen, make sure to wipe up any sugary spills as soon as they happen, take out the trash as soon as it’s full, clean your sink regularly, and lay out cloves or bay leaves.
Some natural methods to get rid of sugar ants including sprinkling diatomaceous earth around your house or using a vinegar solution to get rid of the ant trail. Some chemical solutions include setting out an ant bait or wiping down your countertops with an all-purpose cleaner every night.
Though these black ants aren’t harmful, they can be a nuisance once inside your home. They can chew through paper, cardboard, and thin plastic to get to their food source and attract other pests into your home.
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Kealia is a writer and editor for House Method. Her favorite topics to write about include home improvement, maintenance, and real estate.