Sugar Ants Habitat

Many people use the term “sugar ants” to describe the tiny ants they find on the kitchen counter. The ants are usually in the sink or clustered around something that was spilled. The homeowners often ask, “Where did these sugar ants come from?”

Identifying the ants can help answer the question of where they came from. To most scientists, the name “sugar ants” could really describe any one of several different species of ants. They live in different habitats and they have to be controlled in different ways.

Many homeowners say, “sugar ants” when they see tiny, dark-colored ants in their homes. They are probably the ants that scientists call Monomorium minimum. Because of their color and size, their common name is little black ants. Outdoors colonies nest under landscape timbers and woodpiles. The workers march in line along established trails when they look for food. When they come indoors, they nest behind baseboards and under cabinets. The lines of workers can very often lead to the nest.

Tiny yellowish ants that many people call “sugar ants” are often pharaoh ants. If you look at one of the workers through a magnifying glass, their abdomen is usually darker than the head and mid-section. Pharaoh ants need a lot of moisture, so they often go to kitchens and bathrooms. Outdoors they live under mulch or piles of dead leaves. Inside, pharaoh ants nest in narrow cracks and crevices. They have been found inside electric boxes, curtain rods, and even between folded sheets in a closet.

A colony of pharaoh ants has thousands of ants and many queens. When there is danger, the ants scatter. Queens run in every direction and some workers go with each queen. This process is called budding. The ants do this to start new colonies. They also do it when someone sprays insecticide or uses harsh-smelling cleaning products. After the budding happens, there are many colonies of pharaoh ants instead of just one.

The thief ants are also tiny yellowish ants that many people refer to as “sugar ants”. Outdoors they often live in trees. The workers care for aphids, which produce honeydew. Thief ants often move inside in the heat of summer. They nest behind baseboards or under cabinets. The workers wander about until they find food. They form lines to carry the food back to the nest.

Identifying the ants correctly and locating their nest are keys to getting rid of “sugar ants”. Preventing future problems begins with an outside inspection. Replace missing weather-stripping on exterior doors. Rake mulch away from the foundation. Store firewood on a rack and move it away from the house. Trim tree limbs and shrubs that touch the house.