Despite their name, sugar ants eat not just sugar and sweets, but other scraps of food as well. In fact, the term sugar ant is but a misnomer. The real sugar ant is a native of the Australian continent, and exclusive to that part of the world. Pavement ants and Pharaoh ants are most often mistakenly referred to as sugar ants, and they happen to be the most abundant ants on the North American continent.
For the purposes of maintaining simplicity in this article, both Pharaoh and Pavement ants will be referred to as sugar ants.
II. Sugar Ants as Pests
During early spring, colonies attempt to conquer new areas and often attack nearby enemy colonies. These result in huge sidewalk battles, sometimes leaving thousands of ants dead. Because of the sugar ants’ aggressive nature, they often invade and colonize seemingly impenetrable areas. In summertime, the ants dig out the sand in between pavement to vent the nests.
Sugar ants will eat almost anything, including insects, seeds, honeydew, honey, bread, meats, nuts and cheese. The species does not pose a public health risk, but can contaminate food and should be avoided.
Nests can be very small; for example, they can be located between sheets of paper, in clothing or laundry, inside furniture, within food, and so on. Nests usually occur in wall voids, under floors, behind baseboards, in trash containers, under stones, in cement or stone wall voids, in linens, in light fixtures, and so on.
They prefer dark, warm areas near hot water pipes and heating tapes, in bathrooms, kitchens, intensive care units, operating rooms, and so on. They are “trail-making" ants and often are found foraging in drains, toilets, washbasins, bedpans and other unsanitary sites, as well as in sealed packs of sterile dressing, intravenous drip systems, surgical wounds, and medical equipment.
III. Basic Sugar Ant Control
Sugar ant control is very much a matter of daily routine during the months when sugar ants are a problem (March through September), particularly in the kitchen. Below is a list of things you can do to control sugar ants and prevent a sugar ant infestation in your home.
* Clean and Dry Kitchen Sink: If you want to control sugar ants, you need to keep your kitchen sink clean and dry. Sugar ants love dirty sinks and the water you leave them to help wash down the leftovers.
Make sure to rinse out any dishes you're going to leave in the sink over night. When you do clean the dishes, make sure you rinse and wipe down the entire sink to make sure you haven't left residual sweets, food, or moisture behind.
If you're really picky about cleaning, you might even want to try pouring a little bleach down the drain to make sure the smell of rotting food doesn't attract more ants to your kitchen. Dish drains also need to be emptied and wiped down before the end of the day.
* “Bleached" Counter Tops: Wipe down kitchen counter tops with bleach each night to get rid of sugar ants. They love a dirty countertop almost as much as they love a dirty sink. Wiping your countertops with bleach not only helps sanitize your kitchen, but also breaks down the pheromones that ants use to follow each other to sources of food.
* Mop Your Floor: Sweep and mop your kitchen floor with bleach every night during the summer to control sugar ants. It is in your best interest to sweep and mop your kitchen floor after every meal, or at least once in the evening to make sure any pheromone trails a scout sugar ant has made aren't left for other sugar ants to follow. Scraps of food and residual sugars are easily swept away with a bucket of warm water and bleach.
* Vacuum Floors: Vacuum the floors of spaces where food is regularly consumed to avoid inviting sugar ants into your home. Sugar ants also eat bread crumbs, certain types of vegetables and meat, and even the remains of other pests that could be hiding in your carpet. Make sure that you get all of these things off your carpet if you want to get rid of sugar ants.
* Taking out the Trash: Use strong garbage bags and take the trash out regularly to avoid sugar ant infestations. It's often the case that a garbage bag gets punctured, dripping fruit juice or some other kind of liquid onto the floor while you're taking out the trash.
Make sure to use durable garbage bags, even garbage bags that use Arm & Hammer baking soda to deodorize themselves. It goes without saying that taking out the trash on regular basis will reduce the chances of sugar ants finding their way into your kitchen.
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