Sweet Solutions: How to Kill Sugar Ants and Eradicate Them From Your Home

Learning how to kill sugar ants begins with knowing why they're in your home to begin with. There are plenty of measures, including DIY, store-bought, and professional services, to rid yourself of these persistent pests.

By Pest Advisor Editors (Updated on Aug 18, 2023)

Fact Checked by Jason Chapman

Sweet Solutions: How to Kill Sugar Ants and Eradicate Them From Your Home photo

Sugar ants: Nobody wants to see them making their trails across the floor, counter, dining room table, and in the pantry, but they’re a common occurrence. The good news is that there are ways to prevent these tiny creatures from entering, and if they’re already there, you can use a variety of methods to get rid of them. In this guide to killing sugar ants, you’ll learn about:

  • The signs of infestation
  • How to keep sugar ants out of the home
  • Natural remedies for sugar ants
  • Store-bought solutions for sugar ants
  • Professional extermination for sugar ants
  • Maintaining a pest-free home

Let’s get down to business as we discover how to get these annoying critters out of the home once and for all.

Trail of Trouble: Recognizing Sugar Ant Infestations

Sugar ants may be tiny, but they’re relentless, and a few little wanderers can quickly spiral into a full infestation in no time at all. Identifying the signs of a sugar ant infestation allows you to get to the root of the problem quickly so you can hopefully eliminate them for good.

Here are some signs you might have a sugar ant problem:

  • Seeing sugar ants. Sugar ants are small, up to 3 mm in length but often even smaller. They’re brown to black in color, and their middles are often (but not always) lighter. If you’re seeing larger ants in your home, they’re likely not sugar ants.
  • Seeing ant trails. The ants go marching two by two, or three by three, or four by four… The main thing is that sugar ants make trails winding along the edges of your rooms, across the walls, and maybe along your countertops. These are the worker ants that leave scent trails for each other to follow. The trails will lead to food sources and also back to their nest.
  • Seeing small mounds or nests. Sugar ant nests look like a small mound of dirt with a hole in the middle. The hole is their front door and the way they access the nest. The nests will usually be outside, but sometimes they’ll be inside your walls.
  • Smelling a fermented odor. Only some people can smell ants, and they often describe it as similar to rotting fruit or old cheese. The smell comes from ants that have been crushed, and smelling it in your house can mean you have an ant problem.

Ant-Proofing 101: Keeping Sugar Ants at Bay

Sugar ants are attracted to sugar and other foods. They aren’t super picky; they’ll pick up any crumbs they can find, particularly those from breads, cakes, and other carbs. The best way to keep ants out of your home is to not have food laying around where they can get to it. If there’s no food supply, these opportunistic creatures will wander out the way they came in, and they won’t alert their colony members of the all-you-can-eat buffet, so there will be no infestation.

Keeping out the explorers in the first place can begin with sealing potential entry points. Check for gaps and cracks around windows and doors, and make sure the bottom of your doors are sealed so they don’t walk in underneath. Of course, ants are extremely tiny, so if they really want to find a way in, they’ll likely find spaces you never even saw. You can also try some natural remedies.

Ant Anarchy: Natural Ways to Repel Sugar Ants

There are lots of ways to repel ants from coming in. Many of them are completely harmless to humans, so they’re a good place to start.

First is vinegar. It can act as an all-purpose cleaner, and it can also disrupt ants by taking away their scent trails. If they can’t detect their trails, they generally won’t come inside. You can spray entry points with vinegar, and you should also use it to wipe down any surfaces where you’ve found ants and trails.

A heavy line of chalk drawn across your windowsills and door thresholds (on the outside) can deter ants from entering. They don’t like to walk through chalk, so this will often cause them to turn around and go in the opposite direction.

Some essential oils will also deter ants. These include peppermint oil, cinnamon oil, and citrus oil. You can also sprinkle cinnamon across entryways and in windowsills to prevent ants from entering. Be aware that essential oils should be diluted and can pose a danger to children or pets.

Finally, diatomaceous earth is a powder that can dehydrate ants by damaging their exoskeletons. Sprinkling that around will kill sugar ants before they get very far into your home.

Ant Assault: Choosing and Using Store-Bought Ant Control

If you get to the point where you see a lot of ants or you’re getting them in your food packages, it’s time to take the offense rather than the defense. At this point, you might need to rely on store-bought ant control products. There are a variety of them available, including sprays, traps, and baits.

When it comes to sugar ants, baits are very effective. Set them up on your counters and in corners where you’ve seen trails. The ants will go into them, gather the poison, and bring it back to the nest. In this way, they’ll end up participating in their own demise by bringing what they think is food back to the soldier ants and queen. Just be sure to read the directions and repeat as instructed for the best results.

Calling in the Calvary: When to Bring in Professional Pest Control

Many times, DIY methods will work pretty well, but sometimes, they won’t be enough to eliminate ants. Or, the ants might be eradicated but manage to come back. This is often because the treatment method was enough to repel or kill a good portion of the colony but not the whole thing. At this point, it might be time to call in the pros.

A professional pest control company has more tools, more knowledge, and more experience, so they’ll be able to identify the source of the infestation and know exactly how to get it out of there. You might need follow-up visits; some companies will ask you to have them come back monthly or quarterly for some period of time.

As long as you’re keeping up your end of the contract, many of these services have guarantees that you won’t see live ants for a set time period. If you do, they may come back to treat the home again at no charge. Get the details from the specific company you’re considering.

Ant-Free Zone: Keeping Your Home Free From Sugar Ants

Once you’ve tackled the sugar ant infestation, it’s not over: You still need to maintain your ant-free status quo. You’ll need to regularly inspect areas where you’ve seen ants before to make sure they’re not coming back in for a curtain call. You should also follow preventative measures such as keeping food sealed, eliminating any standing water, and regularly wiping off counters, sweeping, and vacuuming.

Sugar ants are persistent, but you can reclaim your home. Be willing to stay proactive, keep your house as clean as possible, seal off entry points, store food properly, and use some DIY natural repellents to keep ants at bay. If you do see tiny insects coming back into the home, you can jump quickly to your store-bought methods or call the exterminator back. You’ve got this!

Citations and Credits

Featured image by Amit Talwar / Unsplash

Article image by 4717562 / Pixabay

Article image by hybridnightwawk / Unsplash

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