The insects you might dread come springtime are sugar ants. They invade your kitchen cabinets and crawl all over your sweet treats grabbing bits of sugary goodness to take back to their little hillside borrow that leads deep into their nest. The sugar is then distributed to other ants and the queen ant to feed on so she can be nourished and produce more little sugar ants.
However, when they are not invading homes, sugar ants help the ecosystem by consuming unwanted plants and dead animals.
What Exactly Are Sugar Ants?
Sugar ants are tiny insects also known as banded sugar ants. This is a name that fits since they are always causing trouble in homes. The bugs are relatives of large black ants and have orange brownish bodies with black heads and mandibles. Sometimes though, sugar ants can come in different colors, sizes, and shapes depending on the role they play.
Worker ants are commonly the orange-brownish color while the soldier ants are a bit bigger in size with almost a blackish color.
The largest ants in a colony are usually the queen ants. These tiny insects have 6-legs and they are usually between 5 to 15 millimeters in size, less than an inch.
Some of the neatest facts about sugar ants that you might like to know are:
- Sugar ants can bite you, but their bite does not hurt, unlike fire ants.
- Banded ants are omnivores, which mean they eat nectar, plants, other insects, and dead animals.
- Sugar ants are nocturnal insects, but you can see them during daytime on days that are damp and extremely warm.
- These tiny ants are rarely seen in homes throughout the winter months.
- These insects collect secretions made by plant-eating insects.
- Sugar ants are protectors of aphid, which are tiny plant lice that produce a sap like liquid ants love.
- Queen sugar ants produce eggs during late spring into early autumn.
- Male ants that help reproduce baby ones, have wings, long black bodies and are known as alates.
- Queen and male ants mate in mid-air while hundreds of workers keep guard on the ground just like bodyguards would do to protect you from harm.
What Habitats Do Sugar Ants Love Most?
These small insects love habitats that are moist, damp, and dark. You can commonly find them in urban areas, deep within the forest, in the woodlands, among the heaths (shrubland habitats), and in homes where the conditions are just right.
Their nests are commonly found in old wood, the roots of plants, near twigs of trees, shrubs and bushes, underneath rocks, and deep beneath the soil. You can discover an ant home easily since their homes look like little mounds with a small hole on top, which resembles a mini volcano.
Beneath their home, there are several paths and a system in place to keep the ants working properly so the queen ant gets the nutrients and care she needs to produce more little ants.
How Do Sugar Ants Protect Themselves?
You may believe the way sugar ants protect themselves from predators is by biting, but the truth is they actually fend off attacks by doing something surprising. That is by lifting up their strong abdomens, spraying acid and wiggling their mandibles back and forth. The acid is painful to the attackers and usually gets them to back off from the ants and their home.
However, sugar ants are not dangerous to humans. They can bite and leave a little red mark, but it is not painful or life-threatening like bites from other breeds of ants can be.
Why Do Sugar Ants Invade Homes?
Sugar ants invade homes in the early spring and fall because they are looking for food and a cool, dark, moist, wooded area to make a nest to support their colony. Some older homes tend to attract more of these types of ants because they usually have plenty of cool, dark, moist areas and are much easier to get into.
If sugar ants are invading your home there are several things you can do to help repel them away from the home naturally.
- Watch where the sugar ants enter your home and wash their trail away with a warm soapy wet sponge. Ants use the same trail daily to go back and forth. Without it, they become confused and tend to stay away.
- Placing coffee grinds near the entrances the ants come in through works wonders for repelling them away naturally. Ants hate the smell and acid in coffee because it burns them.
- Wash down the area the ants have been hanging out in with vinegar. Vinegar removes the scent of their trail and acts as a deterrent.
- Baby powder near entrances will keep ants away simply because they do not like powdery substances or strong scents.
- Growing mint plants around the foundation of your home causes the ants to form a colony elsewhere.
- Hanging garlic in the pantry and cabinets is an amazing way to prevent ants from entering the area.
- Cinnamon sticks act as a wonderful natural ant deterrent and you can place them wherever you please to keep the ants away.
- Sprinkling black or cayenne pepper around the foundation of you home can repel the tiny insects away very well.
- Placing dried bay leaves in each cabinet can keep these tiny insects from eating your favorite sweet treats.
- Drawing chalk lines across each ant’s entrance way can help repel them because ants hate walking through it.
What Can Be Done to Kill a Sugar Ant Nest?
- Pouring salty boiling water over a sugar ant nest can destroy one easily.
- It you want to kill the ants, flooding the nest with running water from a garden hose can do the trick.
- Dumping some bleach on the anthills can kill an ant colony no problem.
- Sprinkling baking soda in the anthill can do the trick.
- Pouring hot freshly brewed coffee over a nest can rid the pest away for sure.
Are There Ways to Prevent Sugar Ants from Invading the Home?
Old homes seem to attract sugar ants the most because they have more cracks to sneak through, but they can just as easily find a way into newer homes too. Keeping your home clean is not enough for keeping these tiny insects away.
You must seal up your foundation and any cracks around windows and doors. You will also want to replace decaying wood frames and shingles. If your roof is old and damaged, it is best to replace that too.
You can also spray your foundation with a natural pesticide to help prevent the ants from even thinking about invading your home. If you find a sugar ant outside your home, destroy it right away to prevent future visitors.
What Are Some of the Ways You Can Keep Sugar Ants out of Food Products?
- Place opened boxed and bagged goods such as cereals, cookies, fruit snacks and chips into sealed containers or bags.
- Store flours and sugars in airtight baking storage containers.
- Store honeys, syrups and molasses product in the refrigerator and just gently warm them up when you need to use them.
- Never leave sticky sugar snacks open on the counter because this will attract them to other food products in your home.
- Store breads and baked goods in the refrigerator or bread boxes that seal up.
- Wash dishes immediately instead of letting them sit around.
- Never dump sugary foods down the garbage shoot in the sink because it will leave a sticky residue and attract ants.
- Taking out the trash as soon as its full or right before bedtime can go a long way to preventing ants from crawling into the kitchen.
- Never leave sticky foods outside near entry ways that lead into the kitchen.
- Keep open sodas, juices, coffees and teas in the refrigerator.
- Wiping down kitchen surfaces such as the microwave, stove, refrigerator, counter tops, tables, chairs and floors can keep sticky sweetness away, which helps keep the ants away.
Remember, sugar ants are not all bad even though you may think of them as pests when they are getting into all your foods in the kitchen. Sugar ants play a vital role in the ecosystem and unless they are being a serious nuisance it’s better to leave them be.
Therefore, the next time you want to rid them from your kitchen, try using a natural remedy to start to help repel them away. If they become out of control, using a more powerful solution such as pesticides and insecticides can be an options, but keep in mind products like that are dangerous to you, children, pets and the environment. However, they can be a helpful solution for ridding them from your home for good.