You accidentally spilled some sugar on your counter, and now you have little black ants foraging in your kitchen. In the United States, many people will call these sugar ants. While these ants are certainly nuisances, you might be wondering more important questions, such as if they bite humans. Keep reading to learn more about sugar ants and to discover whether or not they bite.
What Are Sugar Ants?
Image via Flickr by Ryan Wick
Sugar ant is a common name for any type of ant attracted to sweets. Pavement ants, pharaoh ants, and odorous house ants are all typically referred to as sugar ants. The actual sugar ant is native to Australia. The most common type of sugar ant there is is called the banded sugar ant. It’s a black ant with a distinct orange and brown band that wraps around its body, and it’s around 0.6 inches in length.
Australia is also home to the household sugar ant. It’s about 0.3 inches in length and has a dark brown or black body with some parts that are almost clear in color. Even though these ants are omnivores, they love to eat sweet foods. They’re nocturnal, so they forage for food at night.
Finally, you can also find the golden-tailed sugar ant in Australia. These ants are also around 0.3 inches in size. They have black bodies with gold-colored hairs coming out from their tail end. Their most common nesting spot is in the soil under rocks and logs.
Where Do Sugar Ants Live?
In the wild, sugar ants will usually live in forests and woodlands. They’ll build their colonies between rocks, in the soil, around twigs of shrubs or bushes, and in hollow spaces in trees. If they build their nest in the soil, they’re very easy to recognize because they create a large dirt hill to surround the entrance to the colony. While they can live in the forest, they prefer to live in a suburban setting. They’re the most common culprits to nest in Australian homes, and they’ll build their colonies in ceilings and walls.
What Do Sugar Ants Eat?
As their name suggests, sugar ants like to eat sugary foods. They’re omnivores, so they’ll eat plants and animals, including nectar, sugary foods dropped by humans, secretions from various plants, other insects, and small animals. That being said, their favorite food is the honeydew left behind by aphids. In fact, sugar ants love this honeydew so much, they’ll actually protect aphids from predators to make sure their food source is kept safe. While they’re certainly nuisances in the home, they also play an important role in nature because they consume dead animals and plants.
Do Sugar Ants Bite Humans?
If you find you have an infestation of sugar ants in your home, you’re likely worried about whether they’ll bite you or your pets. The good news is the sugar ant is a mild-mannered ant that doesn’t sting. However, it’s important to keep in mind that if the ant feels threatened or disturbed, it will raise up its abdomen to show its large mandibles as a warning. If it continues to feel threatened, it will then try to defend itself by biting.
Unlike a fire ant sting, these bites aren’t painful, and they’re unlikely to produce any type of reaction or symptoms unless you’re allergic. Sugar ants can spray formic acid, but this usually just causes a slight burning sensation. If you’re bitten, you can apply ice and an antibiotic cream to the area. You can also relieve any itchiness by using an over-the-counter cream with hydrocortisone in it. Monitor your symptoms for a few hours, and if you start to feel lightheaded or have trouble breathing, call a medical professional.
Sugar ant bites tend to look like small red bumps or pimples on the skin. However, if these bites become infected or are made worse by an allergy, the bite marks can turn into huge welts or blisters.
How Do They Reproduce?
Sugar ants have a very interesting reproduction process. Queen sugar ants will produce eggs from late spring to early fall. The males that will mate with the queens are known as alates, and they have long, black bodies and wings. During the autumn season, the queen will leave the nest to fly into the air to mate with the thousands of alates that also swarm in the air. While this happens, sugar ant workers stay on the ground to keep guard.
How Can You Get Rid of Sugar Ants in Your Home?
If you assumed sugar ants like warm weather because they’re from Australia, you’re correct. They’re more likely to invade homes in the early spring and fall because they’re looking for food, and it’s rare to see them in the winter months. When they locate a steady food source in your home, they’ll keep coming back every night for more. Sugar ants are nocturnal, so workers will come out at dusk to move along the marked trails looking for food. Then they return to their nests at dawn.
Since they’re more active at night, it’s sometimes difficult to know you have sugar ants in your home. However, if you spot a line of them, you’ll want to immediately wash away their trail with warm, soapy water. Next, you need to eliminate their food and water source to keep them from coming back.
You want to make sure you clean the countertops and floors in your kitchen after every meal. You’ll also want to check your pantry and cabinets for any spills from food containers, and clean them up if you find any. Finally, you’ll want to regularly empty your trash, and use a strong trash bag that will help stop food and liquid from leaking out.
If you find a line of sugar ants in your home, you now know that they’re mostly harmless and won’t go out of their way to bite you. Additionally, you also know what you need to do to make sure they go away and stay out of your home.