How to Get Rid of Sugar Ants

By Amanda Lutz Updated June 11, 2024

Sugar ants, also known as odorous house ants, flock to homes offering easy access to food and water and tend to grow large colonies if not treated. These small, nocturnal ants have small orange-brown bodies, are approximately 15 millimeters (mm) long, and can be found in your pantries, around open sources of food, or on your countertops.

While sugar ants aren’t directly dangerous or aggressive, they can cause minor damage, contaminate your food, and encourage other pests to infest your home. In this guide, we’ll review some effective sugar ant removal methods and provide tips on how to keep your home safe from these pests.

How to Identify Sugar Ants

Sugar ants are one of the most common types of house ants, but you may also find carpenter ants or fire ants in and around your home. Carpenter ants are large, black ants that tend to build nests inside wood, while fire ants are brownish-reddish, aggressive, and typically live in dome-shaped mounds outdoors.

Here’s how you can distinguish sugar ants from other types of ants:

Locating Sugar Ant Nests

While you can kill individual ants, identifying the nest site is crucial for effective ant removal. Common indoor and outdoor nesting sites for sugar ants include wall voids, potted plants, and under rocks. A very easy way to spot a sugar ant nest is to follow an ant trail, and see where they lead you. The end of the trail will likely be around a small crevice or gap in the wall.

Nest sites can be difficult to locate and hard to find on your own. Consider hiring a professional pest control company to help you locate and treat the sugar ant nests in your home.

Indoor Nesting Sites

Sugar ants that find an established food source in your home will tend to move their nest indoors. Common nest sites include wall voids, inside cabinets, behind appliances, and around potted plants.

You can uncover these ant colonies by tracking sugar ant trails. Start your search at night when sugar ants are more active. If you spot ants crawling in and out of a crevice or crack in the wall, that may be the location of their nest. If you have sugar ants and can’t find a trail, check near water sources or heat sources, such as pipes, electrical boxes, and the underside of appliances, for a possible nesting location.

Outdoor Nesting Sites

Sugar ants with a nest outdoors can get inside your home through cracks in doors and windows. Vigilantly monitor the exterior walls nearest your kitchen, and follow any trails you spot to the outside.

The most common outdoor sugar ant nest sites are in potted plants, garden beds, and concrete cracks or under outdoor kitchen appliances. They can also look like small mounds of dirt with a small hole on top, similar to a mini volcano, or appear as sand mounds on patios.

Natural Sugar Ant Repellents

When you spot sugar ants in your home, start with natural repellent and prevention methods to get rid of them. Since sugar ants typically infest kitchens, organic and natural methods are safer around food prep areas, pets, and children. They’re also less costly than pesticides, and most homeowners tend to have the ingredients for natural repellents in their cabinets.

Here are a few common natural sugar ant repellents:

Sugar Ant Baits

For a more aggressive sugar ant problem, consider using bait from big-box stores or exterminators to get rid of ants. Sugar ants are social insects and bring food sources back to their nest. When a sugar ant picks up the bait and takes it back to the nest, the bait will poison any ants that eat it. This solution is ideal for when you can’t track down the nest and want to get rid of the ants as soon as possible.

There are three different types of bait you can use to get rid of sugar ants: gels, granules, or bait stations.

Note: You can’t simultaneously use spray repellents and baits in the same area because they’ll work against each other.

Bait Placement

Place the baits in areas where you’ve seen ants so that they can encounter the bait. You can also use bait near a suspected nest site if you can’t directly access or verify it. Keep the ant bait out of reach from children and pets, as it can cause nausea and vomiting if ingested.

Bait Safety

Thoroughly read the instructions before using any ant bait, and keep the active bait and any stored products out of reach of children and pets. If you suspect a child or pet has consumed some of the bait, contact your poison control hotline immediately, and check the label for directions on first aid for the specific product.

Preventing Sugar Ant Infestations

Prevention is the best long-term pest management strategy for keeping sugar ants away. Here are a few preventive tips to keep ant infestations at bay:

Our Recommendation

If you spot sugar ants in your home, you can get rid of them using a combination of location, removal, and prevention strategies. Consider natural remedies as a safer alternative around children and pets, and use chemical options and pesticides for larger areas and more stubborn issues. For severe or recurring infestations, contact a professional pest control service to treat the issue and prevent these ants from coming back for good.

Sugar Ant FAQ

What scent keeps sugar ants away?

Popular scents that keep sugar ants away include peppermint oil, lemon juice, cinnamon, garlic, black pepper, and cayenne pepper.

How does Dawn dish soap get rid of sugar ants?

You can use Dawn dish soap to get rid of sugar ants by creating a spray solution of one part water and one part Dawn dish soap. Apply this spray across countertops and around your sink for maximum effectiveness.

Where do sugar ants nest?

Sugar ants nest both indoors and outdoors, and they prefer warm spaces near food and water. You can find indoor nests in walls, cabinets, and appliances and outdoor nests in garden beds, outdoor furniture, and wood piles.

How do I get rid of sugar ants naturally?

You can get rid of sugar ants naturally by using do-it-yourself (DIY) repellents that include peppermint oil, cinnamon, coffee grounds, white vinegar, and lemon juice.

What do sugar ants hate the most?

Sugar ants hate sharp, astringent, or herbal smells. Vinegar, lemon juice, and peppermint oil are effective deterrents with these scents.