Sugar ants love to build their colonies in old rotted wood, among plant roots, near organic debris, and under shrubs and rocks. They have also been known to form colonies in the soil, near bushes, and in sidewalk cracks.
Sugar ant nests are easy to spot as they are marked by small mounds of fine dirt or debris that have a tiny hole at the top and have a shape that resembles a miniature volcano. Beneath this mound is a myriad of pathways that make up a whole underground system designed to preserve a queen and the rest of the ant colony.
Sugar ants are sometimes referred to as “odorous house ants” and are typically small black ants more than a few millimeters in length. Their tiny size makes them able to maneuver through incredibly small cracks in doorways, windowsills, and other openings in your home.
Sugar ants leave a pheromone trail when they travel that alerts other ants in their colony to where they found food and how to get there. This message quickly gets passed on and before you know it there will be a trail of tiny ants leading directly to the food source.
At first, when you find these ants, you can use warm soapy water to clean up the trail and hope that they don’t return. However, it is likely you will find others scouting around, and you’ll need to find a way to get rid of their food source or eliminate them from your immediate area.
Knowing your options for how to get rid of sugar ants will help save you money and trips to the store buying expensive and frequently unnecessary ant traps and sprays. Many natural methods exist, and you likely have the supplies in your home already.
Sugar ants like environments that are damp, and dark. They are frequently found in urban areas where there is ample food available to their colonies but can also be found in forests, woodlands, and other habitats.
The easiest way to get rid of sugar ants is by removing their source of food inside of your home. Floors inside the house can harbor small food particles and substances that can attract ants. Mopping can remove any odors or materials that sugar ants might find tempting.
Mopping also removes the trails that previous ants have left behind so that other ants will be unable to follow in their footsteps to find the food sources in your home. Mopping after every meal is recommended until the ants have left entirely, but it’s a good idea to continue to clean periodically to keep the ants from returning.
There’s no special cleaner that you need to use when you mop the floors to deter the ants. Whatever floor cleaner you typically use in your home should do the job as long as it’s not plain water.
Essential oils such as peppermint, clove, and tea tree have long been used as deterrents for different bugs, and ants are also susceptible. You can mix different essential oils in a spray bottle with alcohol or water and spray where you have seen the ants to deter them from returning.
You can also spray different entry points of your home to keep the ants out, and you’ll want to repeat the process every few days until the ants are gone. Avoid spraying surfaces where you prepare food and instead clean these surfaces with warm soapy water every day to remove any ant trails and food remnants.
There are a few ways to make traps for sugar ants, and they both use a minimal amount of supplies. For the first trap you’ll need:
- A small box
- Syrup or peanut butter
Take the box and poke a few small holes in it large enough for the ants to crawl inside. Put a few drops of the syrup or peanut butter in the box and close the lid. Place the box in the area where you’ve seen the sugar ants and wait a few hours. When you check back, you should see several ants have gathered there, and you can then take the box outside.
The second kind of trap involves borax which is a poisonous mineral for sugar ants that kills them in a short amount of time. Mix a small quantity of borax with some sugary substance and place it in the area where you have seen the ants. To protect flooring surfaces, you can put the mixture on a small piece of cardboard, thick paper, or other disposable material.
The ants will eat the sugar mixture and take some back to the colony to share. This trap is a great way to exterminate a whole colony and solve your ant problem for a more extended period. Although all of the ants may not die, they will likely not return for some time.
Figuring out how to get rid of sugar ants in your home may take some experimenting with different methods, and if there are a lot of ants, you’ll probably want them gone sooner rather than later. This DIY ant spray is made from natural ingredients that are safe for use around children and pets but will keep the ants at bay.
For the ant spray you’ll need:
- ¼ cup water
- ¼ cup alcohol (optional, you can substitute with water, or use rubbing alcohol or vodka)
- 15 drops of tea tree oil
- 15 drops peppermint of clove oil
- 7 drops of any citrus oil (orange, grapefruit, lemon, etc.)
To make the ant spray, you’ll mix all of the ingredients in a spray bottle and shake well before applying. You’ll need to shake the bottle before each application, and for best results, you’ll want to spray surfaces, entry points, and other places where you’ve seen ants every other day or so.
Food-grade diatomaceous earth is another unique method when considering how to get rid of sugar ants in your home. The off-white powdery substance is made from the fossils of marine phytoplankton and works by damaging the outer waxy coating of bugs that have an exoskeleton.
Essentially the diatomaceous earth causes the waxy coating on the bugs’ exoskeleton not to hold moisture properly, and the bug ends up drying out and dying. While this might seem a bit extreme, it also works for bed bugs, and fleas, but doesn’t harm mammals. Diatomaceous earth has no scent, doesn’t stain, and is also safe to be used inside.
Castile soap works in much the same way that diatomaceous earth works in the sense that it damages the waxy coating found on the exoskeleton of the ant and allows it to dry out and die. Dr. Bronner’s is an inexpensive castile soap, but any castile soap will work as well.
Mix ¼ cup of peppermint castile soap in a 1-quart spray bottle of water and shake it gently to avoid getting too many soap bubbles. Both the soap itself and the peppermint scent will work to rid your home of ants, and you can also use it for cleanup.
Vinegar works in much the same way as essential oils when it comes to repelling ants and can be a cost-effective ant deterrent that can also be used to clean your floors. You can mix the vinegar with essential oils if you like or you can combine it with a little water and use it to clean hard surfaces.
You can also soak citrus peels in vinegar and use it as an ant spray around your home and entry points where you have seen ants. Apple Cider and regular white vinegar will both work, and you can mix the vinegar in a spray bottle for easy application.
Cornmeal is another inexpensive way to get rid of sugar ants, and when mixed with sugar it can be an attractive mixture. Sugar ants are unable to digest cornmeal, and when they take it back to the colony, it can poison the rest of the ants reasonably quickly.
Cornmeal is readily available at most grocery stores, and whether you choose to mix it with sugar, or sprinkle it around the ant mounds by itself, it doesn’t take more than a few days or so to work. You can also sprinkle it around the perimeter of your home and other locations where you’ve found sugar ants.
Baking soda is an effective remedy when it comes to figuring out how to get rid of sugar ants, and a little bit sprinkled around the ant nest will get rid of the whole colony. Baking soda is lethal to sugar ants and works wonderfully as a staged ant killer.
You can mix the baking soda with a bit of powdered sugar for increased effectiveness and sprinkle it around the perimeter of your home, around any ant mounds that you find, and anywhere else that you see sugar ants appearing.