How to Get Rid of Sugar Ants

Getting rid of sugar ants is far from impossible. The species in it's own right is unique to Australia, but many use the term freely to distinguish tiny black ants infesting the kitchen. Identification holds a special role in do it yourself pest control, as the dietary needs of each species may vary, but nearly every ant species is attracted to sweets. Foraging sugar ants represent the tip of the iceberg - if you can follow the trail back to the source, you're one step closer to getting rid of ants. Now if only we had something in our cupboards we could use as bait...

Important Sugar Ant Tips

Food is the major motivational factor in any infestation. In most cases, trails delineate a path towards food or another resource like water or moisture. A general rule of thumb, when there's one, there's a ton.

Whatever you do, don't go spraying the trail down with Windex or Raid. This may cause the colony to divide and you risk having them spread to other rooms in the house.

Sugar ants will gather food that is taken back to the ant nest, which can usually be found on the outside of the home around landscaping and flowerbeds. The path won't always be short, but tracing it is crucial to control. Sugar ants can be baited with many household items, including honey, granola, and sugar. Who would have thought?

Getting Rid of Sugar Ants in the House

Baiting alone will rarely solve the problem at hand. Before prepping the bait, conduct an inspection of the property. This can be done by following the trail. Use a flashlight in areas with dark flooring or marble countertops to improve visibility - ants prefer to stick to the outer edges of rooms and baseboards. You may even find them vanishing behind the dishwasher or an electrical plate.

If you find tiny black sugar ants on the countertops, but are unable to distinguish a trail, look beneath the counters lip. There is usually a tiny gap at the corners large enough for ants to enter in and out as they please.

On the outside of the home, check around pavement, doors, windows, accent lights, fence lines, and bedding. If there is thick ground cover, use a rake to gently rustle the surface. Ants are most active at sunrise and prefer to forage in direct sunlight. Use this tip to your advantage when searching out the source.

  • Look for ant trails. Ants prefer to colonize moist areas beneath soil. Pick up rain catchers at the base of gutters, check alongside the driveway, fence lines, deck posts, and directly around the foundation of your home.
  • The bait must have zero competition. The ants will only go after the bait if there is nothing better. Make sure the kitchen is clear of any food debris (crumbs, garbage, dishes) and the counters wiped.
  • Don't apply bait in areas that have already been sprayed. This will ruin the effectiveness of the bait and the ants will seek an alternative source of energy.
  • Don't actively kill or crush the ants. The goal here is to have them take the bait back to the nest. Inform your family members to leave the ants alone and they will destroy themselves. Crushing ants will release an alarm pheromone that signals danger to other scouts. If you have to kill them, use warm water and gently wipe them up.

The best location to bait is at the end of a pre-existing trail. The path has already been set for you - just be sure to eliminate other sources of food and that they are actually consuming the homemade bait. Ants aren't the pickiest eaters, you just have to make sure your bait is the best available option. Trails can extend relatively long distances, in some cases the length of a football field. Don't let this discourage you, they are probably closer than you think.

Any and all ant mounds outdoors should be destroyed using boiling water or the product of your choice (and no, drowning them with a hose will not work, they will just pop back up in another place).

Boil a pot of water and gently remove the loose soil roofing the mound with your foot. Hundreds of ants will emerge and you can knock out the majority in a single blow. This is a less preferred option to insecticides and ant baits because there is no guarantee it will destroy the queen, the only sure-fire way to get rid of sugar ants.

Natural Sugar Ant Control

There are hundreds of products in your pantry that can be used for controlling sugar ants, including basil, garlic, and pepper. Most will vary in their effectiveness. One product that is often used in natural sugar ant control is boric acid. It is derived from a natural mineral and often combined with baits as an the active agent. It looks like a powder more than anything else and is often misused.

  • Cleaning helps, but avoid using bleach. Cleaning agents are chock full of deterrents that will only cause the ants to spread. Use warm water instead. The goal here is to remove any crumbs or bits of food.
  • Test different baits. A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down - using a paper towel or small plate, compile an assortment of sandwich meat, jelly, honey, and anything else you think they may fancy. Place near the trail, so we can determine their preference. Do the same outside.
  • Check the bait plates after 15 minutes. Activity will increase and your odds of tracing the sugar ants back to the queen increase 10 fold. If you are lucky, they'll stop at the plate outside and you can trace it back to the source from there.

Best case scenario is that you are able to locate the source of the sugar ant colony and eliminate it with boiling water. If you can't find the colony, you only have a couple of options - make your own ant bait using a combination of borax and the sugar ants preferred food item, OR make a trip to the appliance store, where you can compare bait ingredients for efficacy (borax is derived from natural minerals). Replace the test bait with the newly laced bait.

In some rare cases, it is possible to cut off ants at the point of entry, by using cloves, garlic, pepper, or other household items - but this should only be done outdoors and if you do not have the other materials at hand.

Should you be using straight boric acid powder for sugar ants? Far too often, homeowners will sprinkle boric acid along doors and baseboards in hopes of creating a powdery force field impenetrable by insects. This can be harmful to pets and children, as boric acid has been known to irritate the skin. If you choose to use boric acid, make sure you carefully follow the instructions on the label. It should only be used in inaccessible areas like cabinet voids, behind ovens, dishwashers, and electrical outlets. It should be mixed with a household bait like honey or sugar.

Professional Sugar Ant Control

Termidor (active ingredient Fipronil) is the number one product for commercial ant control. In fact, it was originally created for the elimination of termites. Any reputable pest control company will use Termidor because of how well it works. Basically, a gallon of Termidor can be mixed and sprayed around the foundation of the home and points of entry where ants are trailing. The ants aren't able to smell the product, so they walk across it and spread it to the other ants. This product is swift - as ants make their way back to the nest, the queen will ultimately perish. It's sold by the pint and you don't need much, so any bottle should far outlive its use for any homeowner.

Get Rid of Sugar Ants in the Lawn & Garden

Carbaryl is a natural insecticide derived from tree sap, the same reason you'll never find termites eating a live tree. An organic insecticide, known as Sevin, is labeled for use against crawling insects in sensitive areas like gardens and around edibles. It comes with a nozzle attachment and applied using a water hose. As mentioned above, boiling water can also be used so long as the soil is penetrated deep enough (1 foot minimum). This will allow you to get rid of ants without having to use harsh chemicals.

Broadcast baiting, a technique involving the spreading of granular baits, is useful for larger areas and effective for large quantities of mounds.

Be careful to check the weather, however, as some baits become useless in the rain. Implement ant control into your everyday yard maintenance and the problem will decrease exponentially with time.

Additional Information

Exterminators are often asked if there is a way to keep ants out of the yard for good. The answer to this question is yes. Top Choice is a granular product that effectively control ants in the yard for up to as long as 1 year. However, due to its cost, it is primarily used in commercial applications such as golf yards and agricultural lots. It's especially useful for the elimination of fire ants.