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How to Get Rid of Sugar Ants [Fast + Safe!]

When it comes to insects, many popular names become stuck in the public imagination despite not being an official title. “Sugar ants” is one of those cases.

A “sugar ant” isn’t a specific type of ant, it’s actually just a name given to whatever ants are invading your home in search of sugary foods. In the United States, there are a few different species of ants that fit this bill, and I’ll show you how to get them all under control.

Getting rid of sugar ants can be annoying, but rest assured this is not one of the more complex pest infestations. Using some pretty simple methods, we can knock out the colony living around your home and keep them away for good.

In this guide, we will explore 4 of the easiest and most effective ways for how to get rid of sugar ants and reclaim your home. 

Step 1: Identifying Your “Sugar Ants”

In the field of entomology, there are no commonly recognized species of sugar ant; many people simply call any ant that is attracted to sugar this name. In Australia, there are branded sugar ants, but these don’t exist anywhere else in the world.

In North America, there are four common species of ant that are often attracted to sugar and dubbed “sugar ants”: odorous house ants, carpenter ants, fire ants, and Pharoah ants. Let’s take a closer look at each species. 

Odorous House Ants

Also known as “house ants” for short, this species of ant is plentiful in North America where their colonies can be found outdoors near nectarous plants and flowers. This species is likely the culprit of most indoor infestations since the ants are highly attracted to sugary aromas. 

This ant is usually black with a brown tint around the legs and abdomen. Workers, soldiers, and even the queen are typically 3.3 mm in size. This species seeks out the smell of sugar, and even spilled sugary soda or crumbs from sweets can send workers on the prowl for entry points to find the food source. 

This species can and will build nests for colonies indoors if there is adequate warmth, moisture, and food to support the colony. (See how to get rid of house ants).

Carpenter Ants

Like termites, carpenter ants usually spell bad news for wooden structures inside and outside the home. Although this species does not eat wood, they tunnel through wood to make hollow shelters to build their colonies. 

Carpenter ants typically grow upward of ½ inch in size and will appear black or red.  Carpenter ant queens and males can sometimes be confused with termites when they are flying in the air, as well as their affinity for wood. 

The reality is that carpenter ants only live in wood; they prefer to eat organic matter with sweet foods and liquids being a powerful lure. This ant species must be addressed immediately due to the dangers they pose to the structure of your home. (See how to get rid of carpenter ants).

Fire Ants

If you live in or grew up in the American South, you are quite familiar with fire ants; however, fire ants are slowly but surely turning into an invasive species across North America. This species of ant is known for its piercing bite that turns into annoying itching and swelling. 

Fire ants only bite when they are provoked; like the other two species, they live off the organic matter around them with sweet foods and drink being their main attractant. 

Fire ants are red to brown and will typically be about 6 mm in size. This species of ant will usually stay outdoors inside of distinctive red to brown-colored beds that house the colony. The ants will migrate indoors if no available food sources are outdoors.  (See how to get rid of fire ants).

Pharaoh Ants

Pharaoh ants are not as easily recognizable as the other ants mentioned here, but these yellow-colored ants are known for their intrusiveness inside of the home. This species prefers making their colonies inside of homes, usually in drainage pipes or in dark corners around the baseboards of the walls. 

The Pharaoh ant is yellow with red marks on the thorax and at around 1.5 to 2 mm in length, they are very small. Sugary smells are the main culprit for attracting this ant species, therefore, it is crucial to avoid spills and always clean up sugary spills immediately. 

Now that you have seen the common types of ants identified as sugar ants, let’s explore all of the beneficial DIY methods you can use to keep them away. 

Step 2: Poison the Colony

Ants are only as strong as the colony they live in. All of the damage these insects cause is based on strength in numbers. Therefore, getting rid of sugar ants takes two direct approaches: destroying the colony and preventing infestations. 

ants eating bait

Each ant colony has a queen ant, and this female ant is responsible for the entire reproduction cycle of the ant colony. In essence, if you kill the queen ant, the entire colony will die off

The queen ant is usually kept buried at the bottom of a nest in a special chamber, so trying to find this queen directly to kill her isn’t feasible. Instead, we use the biology of the ant colony to help us. We know ants take food back to feed to the queen, and this is where effective ant baits come in.

Although baits take some time to infect the colony and reach the queen ant, these products are the most effective method that can kill ants on a wide and systematic scale. 

Baiting

Baits work by mixing slow-acting poison with ingredients that ants think are a great source of food. The ants pick up the bait and carry it back to the colony where it is shared by all ants inside the nest, including the queen. They even leave a pheromone trail to lead their friends back for more!

Placing the bait around where you see the most ant activity is the smartest way to distribute it. This could be either indoors or outdoors.

Baits also come in different forms such as liquid, gel, or granules. I find that ants are most likely to accept the gel baits, and that’s what I go to first with most ant species.

Advion Ant Bait Gel
Active Ingredient: Indoxacarb 0.05%

Advionant bait gel is specifically formulated to be attractive to all major species of ants, including little black ants, carpenter ants, odorous house ants, pavement ants, and more. Advion ant gel contains the new active ingredient, Indoxacarb, a powerful, nonrepellent insecticide

Why DoMyOwn?DoMyOwn.com offers professional-grade insecticides to DIYers while ensuring proper storage of chemicals. Couple that with their impressive customer service and knowledgeable staff, it’s the #1 choice.

Of all the ant gel baits on the market, Advion Ant Bait Gel has both a potent insecticide with indoxacarb and an innovative bait delivery system to encourage worker ants to carry the gel back to the colony with ease. 

Indoxacarb works by blocking sodium absorption in ants that eventually leads to paralysis and death within 24 to 48 hours. An entire colony could feasibly be wiped out in as little as one to two weeks. 

The gel contains a sugary substance that will lure in ants that are foraging around your home. To apply the bait, you can just squirt out a few lines onto something like an index card or into a plastic tray (for easy disposal afterwards), place it near ant activity, and let the ants come and get it.

As long as the ants keep coming, keep laying down more bait! You should check the bait stations once or twice a day and refill it as needed. If the bait isn’t getting taken, try moving it elsewhere.

This product works wonders and is easy to use. 

Pros:

  • Kills an entire ant colony within 1-3 weeks
  • Contains a potent ant pesticide that gets spread amongst the colony
  • Works on all ants that are attracted to sugar foods
  • Low toxicity to humans and pets

Cons:

  • Not a protein attractant; only works for “sugar ants”

Are There Any Natural Ant Baits?

Most natural products for sugar ants will only repel the ants temporarily, but there is the possibility of achieving eradication with a substance like borax

Borax is a mineral that affects the digestive system of ants once ingested and causes them to die eventually. Borax is a slow-acting agent which is why it is so effective for ant control.

Much like with insecticide baits, the worker ants carry the poison back to the nest where it is ingested by other members of the colony including the queen. This method effectively eliminates the entire ant colony rather than only the ants that come into contact with the poison. 

It is worth pointing out that the ants aren’t attracted to borax on their own. The compound has to be mixed with bait which is what attracts the ant in the first place, and it would be much easier to just use a low toxicity bait or gel. 

Step 3: Spraying for Sugar Ants

Spraying pesticides for sugar ants isn’t an ideal solution because ants live in colonies living in numbers of tens or hundreds of thousands. Spray pesticides can also repel ants from more beneficial methods like baiting.

I always recommend starting with a bait for those that have an active infestation in the home and letting that process run its course. However, if you’re only finding a few ants a day, then spraying the exterior of your home may be all you need to keep them out of your house for good.

I recommend using a pesticide spray for ants with a strong residual component on your foundation and across doorways and window seals. This can take care of any stragglers that may have survived bait poisoning of their colony or foraging ants looking for something inside the home. 

Here are two spray pesticides for ants worth considering. 

Suspend SC
Active Ingredient: Deltamethrin 4.75%

Suspend SC leaves a clear residual on surfaces that keeps on killing pests for up to 3 months. Suspend SC Insecticide is an excellent general purpose perimeter pesticide for use both indoors and outdoors.

Why DoMyOwn?DoMyOwn.com offers professional-grade insecticides to DIYers while ensuring proper storage of chemicals. Couple that with their impressive customer service and knowledgeable staff, it’s the #1 choice.

Suspend SC by Bayer is one of the great all-purpose pesticides with strong residual properties. Among this product’s large killing arsenal is ants, and the main chemical used in this product is the relatively safe deltamethrin

Deltamethrin works by attacking the central nervous system of sugar ants leading to paralysis and eventually death. Apart from being toxic to fish and aquatic animals, this chemical is used in a wide array of over-the-counter insecticides thanks to its very low toxicity to people and pets. 

Unlike common over-the-counter sprays, Suspend SC formulates the chemical to produce a powerful 3-month long residual effect on any surface it is applied to. This means that the application will kill ants and up to 50 other insects for 12 weeks if left undisturbed. 

To use Suspend SC for stray sugar ants, mix 0.25 to 1.50 ounces of product inside a gallon of water (preferably a one-gallon pesticide sprayer), and apply the spray to all entry points of the home where insects crawl to reach the interior. 

Pros:

  • Residual effect for up to 3 months
  • Kills sugar ants within minutes of exposure
  • Kills over 50 other problem insects as well
  • Great to use as a perimeter spray
  • Low toxicity to people and pets

Cons:

  • Toxic to fish, marine life, and bees

Looking for a more “natural” option? Check out Essentria IC3.

Essentria IC3 Insecticide Concentrate
Active Ingredient: Rosemary Oil – 10.0% Geraniol 600 – 5.0% Peppermint Oil – 2.0%

Essentria IC3 is a flexible, broad-spectrum EPA FIFRA 25(b) exempt all natural product. This means it is a very safe insecticide for use around your family and pets, but still very effective. One of the best features of Essentria IC3 is that it has no aquatic toxicity.

Why DoMyOwn?DoMyOwn.com offers professional-grade insecticides to DIYers while ensuring proper storage of chemicals. Couple that with their impressive customer service and knowledgeable staff, it’s the #1 choice.

If you are seeking something more natural to use as a spray against sugar ants, this product is a safe and effective choice. Essentria IC3 uses a wide array of essential oils and natural repellents to deter stray ants from entering the home. 

Nearly all insects will develop a strong repellent quality to the smell and consistency of essential oils, which is why a product like this one, which uses a large number of different types of oils, is so potent to sugar ants. 

When such a large amount of essential oils are used in a spray formulation, the result can be so disturbing to ants, it can potentially cause shock that leads to death. This product has such a large potency of oil compounds, that it can disrupt the neurotransmitter signals in ants leading to the breakdown of the central nervous system. 

This product can be sprayed virtually anywhere due to its safety around children and pets. The residual effect is substantial at around 30 days if not washed away. 

Pros:

  • 100% natural
  • Safe to spray anywhere
  • Repels sugar ants for up to 30 days

Cons:

  • Needs to be re-applied every month
  • Repellents can deter ants from bait trails

Step 4: Prevention

Baits and sprays work the best for killing sugar ant infestations, but perhaps the best method of all is to prevent sugar ant infestations in the first place. 

Sugar ants or any ants for that matter will only ever invade a home if food, water, and in some circumstances shelter, are within easy reach.

Unlike cockroaches or bed bugs, sugar ants do not solely rely on human beings to meet their needs; however, they will come inside if the conditions are attractive to them. 

Keep these details in mind to prevent ant infestations inside your home:

  • Immediately clean up all food and drink spills. Sugar ants have powerful senses and will detect sugary liquids or foods from far away. Make it a habit to be careful when pouring liquids and serving or cutting sweet foods. If you do spill food or drink, clean it up immediately and always take out your indoor trash daily. 
  • Keep food and drink sealed and stored. Additionally, make sure all dry goods inside cabinets are sealed, and never leave food or drink sitting out. This is also helpful when trying to prevent cockroaches or flies. Do you have a bag of sugar somewhere that’s leaking?
  • Check drainage lines. Ants will also seek out moisture in drier climates. Plumbing lines have moisture for sugar ants to drink and can also provide small cracks and crevices in most situations that allow the ants to enter the home.
  • Spray all entry points to the home every 3 to 6 months. If you do not have quarterly pest control, consider investing in a strong residual pesticide to spray around all entry points to the home. Make sure the residual lasts at least 30 days or longer to ensure continued barrier protection. 
  • Consider sealing all entry points. Sugar ants are very thin and durable insects, therefore, it doesn’t take much room for the insects to slide into the home. Using caulking or weatherstripping is a good way to ensure all cracks and crevices that lead into the home are completely sealed to prevent ants from entering the home.  

Sugar Ant FAQs

How big are sugar ant colonies?

Sugar ant colonies can start very small and expand to upwards of hundreds of thousands of sugar ants inside one complex nest. Each colony will likely only have one queen, and the rest of the colony will include reproductive male sugar ants, soldiers, and workers. 

Do sugar ants bite or sting?

Generally speaking “sugar ants” don’t bite. Given “sugar ants” can be used to describe many different kinds of ants, I can’t say for certain without knowing the exact species. Fire ants have a painful sting and carpenter ants can deliver a painful bite. Tiny black ants don’t bite or sting, though.

How can I find a sugar ant nest?

Finding a sugar ant nest can be achieved by following the trail of the ants as far as you can back to the site of the colony. Once ants take your ant bait they’ll typically return straight to the colony, so following them at that point would work well.

Can sugar ants have wings?

Yes, sugar ants can have wings. This typically happens in the spring. Every spring, hibernating queens will take to the air to attract newly adult flying males known as alates to spawn with them in the air.

Will sugar ants go away on their own?

Sugar ants might go away if the source of what is attracting them is cleaned up or removed. More often than not though this isn’t what happens, and it wouldn’t happen quickly. Most people prefer not to wait to see if they leave on their own accord.

Does vinegar kill sugar ants?

Vinegar does not kill sugar ants on contact the way that pesticides do. Vinegar can be useful to repel ants and remove ant trails, but you can simply spray an ant with vinegar and watch it die.

So, there you have it, 4 easy and effective ways to get rid of sugar ants. Removing sugar ants from the home does not always require professional pest control, and can be achieved with strong products and smart preventative measures. 

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Written by Wesley Wheeler

Wesley has over 10 years of residential and commercial pest control experience dealing with every kind of pest. He ran his own pest control company for 6 years and now shares his knowledge online.

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