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How to Get Rid of Sugar Ants: A Complete Guide

How to Get Rid of Sugar Ants: A Complete Guide

Wondering how to get rid of sugar ants? If so, you came to the right place. Our complete guide covers DIY methods to try and when to call a pro. Read on to learn all you need to know.


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When you see ants hanging around the outside or inside of your home, it’s time to take action right away. If you don’t know how to get rid of sugar ants fast, you’ll see their numbers multiply quickly.

That makes it even harder to target the infestation. If you notice that the ants are attracted to things like syrup, sugar, or hummingbird feeders, you’re dealing with sugar ants.

How to Get Rid of Sugar Ants

As an image for a piece on how to get rid of sugar ants, Closeup view of ants on a cupcake. There are several ants. Cupcake is on a checkered tablecloth.

Doug McLean/Shutterstock

Pest control companies know that the most effective methods to get rid of ants exploit their one weakness: Sugar.

They’ll happily eat and carry food laced with potent pesticides back to the colony if it’s disguised with sugar.

Consumers can’t purchase or use the potent insecticides that pest control companies use. So store-bought baits and traps aren’t always effective.

Natural vs Chemical Treatments

Natural methods to get rid of sugar ants have some supporters, but numerous studies have shown that their effectiveness is shaky at best. 

You may need to call a pest control company to take care of your ant problem if you can’t find a natural method that works for you. 

We’ll explain a little about identifying sugar ants, when it’s time to call a pest control company, and explain some of the more effective natural methods you can try.

We’ve also included some tips to keep them away once you’ve had your home effectively treated. Want to get back to having a clean, ant-free home? Keep reading.

What Are Sugar Ants?

Sugar ants in the United States aren’t actually a species of ant (unlike the banded sugar ant in Australia). Sugar ants include several species of ants that all have one thing in common: They love to eat sugary treats.

What are sugar ants graphic featuring ants crawling over a sugar cube

Most ants are either sugar ants or “grease ants.” Grease ants prefer greasy, fat- or protein-based foods, like grease, meat, cheese, dairy, and other insects.

If you see ants going after sugar-based foods in or around your home, you’ll know they are sugar ants. You’ll most likely find your sugar ant problem inside your home, but they can also be outdoors.

Types of Sugar Ants

If you have a sugar ant problem, it’s likely one of these ant species commonly found in homes:

  • Argentine ants (indoors)
  • Carpenter ants (indoors)
  • Odorous house ants (indoors)
  • Pavement ants (indoors)
  • Pharaoh ants (indoors)
  • Acrobat ants (outdoors)
  • Cornfield ants (outdoors)
  • False honey ants (outdoors)
  • Little black ants (outdoors)
  • Rover ants (outdoors)

One of the coolest things about sugar ants is the way they communicate. Ever notice that you rarely see just one ant? How do they all seem to know where the food is?

How Sugar Ants Find Food

Toy black sugar ants carrying a cereal treat ice cream cone and a fork, concept, isolated on white background, horizontal with copy space

Cheryl E. Davis/Shutterstock

The answer is pheromones. When a worker ant goes out and finds food that is suitable for the colony and queen, they mark the food with pheromones.

As they carry it back to the colony, they leave a chemical trail that the other ants can easily pick up on. The chemical pheromone trail acts as a beacon, saying “The good stuff is over here!” 

This incredible ant communication would be great to watch on the Discovery Channel, but seeing it take place in your home is another story.

Once one worker ant finds a way to access sugar in your home, they will bring back all the workers from the ant colony. Before you know it, you have a full-blown sugar ant infestation. 

The Best Way to Get Rid of Sugar Ants

The only surefire way to get rid of sugar ants fast is to call a pest control company. They have access to professional-grade pesticides that are more effective, potent, and long-lasting than any ant bait or trap you can find in a store.

How to get rid of sugar ants for good graphic against orange background listing two common ways to treat a home

Pest control companies also know about the habits and life cycles of sugar ants. This means they can:

  • Identify the exact ant species in your infestation
  • Discover hard-to-find locations of colonies
  • Estimate how many eggs the queen may be laying each day and how fast the colony is growing
  • Know which types of pesticides and baits are most effective for your ant species
  • Treat for additional pests in and around your home safely
  • Uncover any “satellite colonies” nearby – if there are satellite ant colonies close to your home, getting rid of one colony won’t solve the problem for long
  • Return to your home for additional treatments or preventative maintenance to ensure the ants don’t come back

Pest control companies also know how to safely apply and use pesticides. If you use pesticides yourself, you could risk harming yourself, your children, or your pets.

Even beneficial outdoor insects, like bees and butterflies, can be harmed with improper application of pesticides. This is why we always recommend calling a professional pest control company near you.

They’ll have extensive experience with treating the most common ant species in your area. They will be able to get rid of your sugar ant infestation fast.

10 Natural Sugar Ant Treatment Methods to Try 

If you can’t call a pest control company right away or are willing to experiment a bit, you can try a few natural methods. Most natural methods aren’t powerful enough to get rid of an infestation.

But if you only see a few ants or have eliminated them and want to continue repelling them, these methods could do the trick. Here’s how to get rid of sugar ants naturally. 

Borax and Sugar

Boxes of 20 Mule Team Borax detergent boost cleaning supplies on sale at a retail store shelf

Melissamn/Shutterstock

Effectiveness: Kills individual ants, can kill the colony

Borax, or boric acid, is a well known way to naturally get rid of ants. The problem with borax is that ants recognize that it isn’t food. They won’t eat it without a little encouragement in the form of white sugar.

Try mixing the borax with sugar and water as follows:

  • 1/2 cup white granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon borax
  • 1 1/2 cups warm water
  • Cotton balls

Soak up the mixture with several cotton balls, then place them in areas where you’re seeing lots of ant activity. The hope is that the ants will be attracted to the sugar mixture in the cotton balls and bring the borax-contaminated “food” back to the colony. 

Diatomaceous Earth

Food Grade Diatomaceous Earth in Bowl Ready for Use as an image for a piece on how to get rid of sugar ants

Anna Hoychuk/Shutterstock

Effectiveness: Kills individual ants, but not the colony

Diatomaceous earth (also called DE) is a unique, powdery substance made from the skeletons of tiny marine animals called diatoms. The powder looks and feels like powdered sugar, but it has a powerful drying effect.

DE works because each of the tiny diatom skeletons have razor-sharp edges that actually cut the hard exoskeletons of insects (including ants) and slowly dry the body from the outside in. 

Food-grade diatomaceous earth is regarded as safe for humans and pets – it can even be added into food for a source of silica. To use it to kill ants, just sprinkle it:

  • On windowsills
  • Around garbage cans
  • Inside door openings
  • Anywhere you notice ants traveling

You’ll need to reapply it daily for the most effectiveness. Be careful not to inhale the powder as you sprinkle it. The fine powder can cause lung irritation. 

Vinegar and Water

As a way to get rid of sugar ants, Chemical free home cleaner products concept. Using natural destilled white vinegar in spray bottle to remove stains. Tools on wooden table, green bokeh background, copy space.

FotoHelin/Shutterstock

Effectiveness: Destroys pheromone trails, repels ants

A solution of vinegar and water doesn’t work to offer ants poisoned food as bait like borax and sugar. It works by repelling the ants with its strong scent. This can be effective because ants’ sense of smell is very strong.

They rely on recognizing each other’s pheromones to locate food sources. When a strong scent like vinegar is in the way, it overpowers their ability to detect pheromones.

Using a solution of vinegar and water might repel sugar ants temporarily – as long as the scent lasts – but it’s not a permanent solution.

If you’d like to give it a try, mix 1 part vinegar with 1 part water and add it to a spray bottle. Spray it anywhere you see ants traveling. 

Cinnamon

Powder cinnamon and sticks also known as Dalchini or Dalcheenee masala from India, selective focus

Indian Food Images/Shutterstock

Effectiveness: Repels ants

Using the strong odor of cinnamon in the form of essential oil can be effective to repel sugar ants in your home. Ground cinnamon is often recommended.

But experts state that the odor compounds in it just aren’t potent enough. Locate some cinnamon essential oil and spray or apply it with a Q-tip around the openings where you notice ants coming into your home.

In fact, for the best effectiveness, you should spray or apply it to every window, door, crack, and cranny near the exits of your home. Ants won’t give up easily.

So it’s likely that your cinnamon oil experiment could just drive them to find more creative ways to enter your home. 

Peppermint

Peppermint essential oil and fresh twig on wooden background.Tag with text peppermint as a way to get rid of sugar ants

Rawf8/Shutterstock

Effectiveness: Repels ants

Another strong-smelling natural option is peppermint. Ants seem to hate the smell. Peppermint essential oil is the best way to get the repellant benefits of mint.

Apply the oil using a Q-tip or cotton ball to the outside of your home and anywhere ants could find entry. For a longer-lasting option, soak a cotton ball in the peppermint essential oil.

Then, leave it in areas ants are likely to come in. If you’re really committed to repelling and deterring ants long-term, you could try planting mint around the perimeter of your home.

However, be aware that mint is a notorious spreader and could end up taking over your garden in a short time! 

Preventing Sugar Ants After Treatment

Hand wiping wooden surface with yellow rag

Africa Studio/Shutterstock

After your pest control company has wiped out your sugar ant problem, it’s up to you to maintain the right conditions to keep them from coming back.

Here’s what you can do to prevent sugar ants from coming back after your home has been professionally treated:

  • Don’t bring food into rooms outside of the kitchen. Dispose of any uneaten food, crumbs, or spills right away. 
  • Wash dirty dishes as soon as possible. Dishes left sitting in the sink will attract ants. 
  • Use bleach or vinegar in your garbage disposal every few days to keep it clean and free from food debris. 
  • Keep all foods stored securely with sealed, closed containers. 
  • After each use, wipe the mouth or spout of bottles and jars that contain sweet foods, like syrups, jams, and honey. 
  • Ensure any cracks or openings around your windows and doors are sealed.

Deciding How to Get Rid of Sugar Ants

You’ve read about the different methods to get rid of sugar ants. Basically, you’ll need to decide between an always-effective method (hiring a pest control company) or experimenting with natural methods of varying effectiveness. 

Semi-Effective DIY Solutions

The natural methods to get rid of sugar ants, like borax and sugar, diatomaceous earth, vinegar, cinnamon, and peppermint, could be helpful in a pinch.

These methods can be messy and may encourage ants to seek another route into your home. We recommend using these methods short-term and only if you’re unable to have your pest control company come out right away. 

The Best Way

Portrait of smiling worker with pesticide sprayer while standing by van

Wavebreakmedia/Shutterstock

The only method that is proven to kill individual sugar ants as well as destroying the entire colony (or multiple colonies) is hiring a pest control company.

They can bait the sugar ants with highly effective pesticides in sweet solutions that look like a tasty meal. The sugar ants then bring the tainted “food” back to the colony.

This kills the other worker ants, the queen, and larvae. For particularly stubborn infestations, a good pest control company will come back out to your home to monitor progress.

They’ll often even apply more baits and traps at no cost. Overall, when you’re dealing with an infestation and wonder how to get rid of sugar ants, the simple answer is calling a professional.

They’ll deal with the problem and help you keep your home pest-free with regular maintenance and tips to prevent sugar ants and other pests in-between visits.

Connect With a Pest Control Pro

Think you’re better off leaving the tough work to the pros? That’s probably best. After all, they know what they’re looking for and have access to chemicals you can’t buy in stores.

To connect with a local pest control expert for a free quote, simply click the button below. You’ll be taken to another screen, and the system will automatically pair you with the best match.

Still Wondering How to Get Rid of Sugar Ants?

If you’re still wondering how to get rid of sugar ants, we’ve done something wrong. After all, we’ve laid out DIY methods and when to call a pro. Heck, we even gave you an easy way to connect with a pro!

Either way, we sure appreciate you stopping by. Before you leave, be sure to check out some of our other guides to help you keep your home in tip-top shape.

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