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What Attracts Ants?

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Homeowners and gardeners alike have a lot of questions about what attracts ants. 

Ants are attracted to many different things, but what they’re looking for changes depending on where they live and where they’re going. 

In your home and garden, ants can be drawn to:

  • Food crumbs in your kitchen.
  • Moisture from leaks or spills under sinks.
  • Warmth from appliances like hot water heaters or furnaces.
  • Plants because they produce sugar through photosynthesis which is one of ant’s favorite foods.

In your garden, ants may also be trying to find a habitat with moist soil where there is enough space for them to nest.

In this article, we’ll go more into detail about these different things that attract ants.

Some ants are attracted to other things as well. Carpenter ants are attracted to wood they can nest in, as an example. Learn more here.

What Attracts Ants in Your Home?

Sugar/Sweets

Sugar and sweets are one of the ants’ favorite foods, and will most definitely lure them into your home. Most of the time, they like these goodies because it is a sweet treat to eat.

This includes foods like:

  • Granulated sugar
  • Syrup
  • Honey

And others similar to these. This also includes fruit, as these are full of natural sugars. Make sure any fruit you have isn’t infected by ants.

Also read: Why are ants attracted to sugar?

ants eating foods together

Proteins

Ants also feed off proteins, whether it’s from what we’ve dropped on the floor or what’s left in our garbage disposal. The only way to get rid of ants is to make sure they don’t have anything good to feed off of, and that means cleaning up any food particles you come across immediately.

Ants also get protein from other dead insects, so make sure you clean these up, if you find any in your home.

Also read: What do ants eat?

ants eating food on the ground

Grease

Grease is one of the most important things to watch out for. Ants will eat anything, but grease is one of the things they’re looking for above all else. 

If you have food lying around that might attract ants (and bugs in general), make sure it’s sealed up or put away correctly.

Moisture

One of the most common things that attract ants (that you might not think of) is moisture. 

Ants will typically find moisture from leaks. This can be from your kitchen sink or the shower in your bathroom.

If you find ants in your bathroom, make sure to check for any plumbing issues as well.

ant on the dust

Pet Food

Pet food is very attractive to ants. Pet food is full of nutrition for animals, which makes it perfect for ants as well. Don’t let your pet food sit out for too long, as the little bugs will quickly pick up its scent.

Trash Cans

While most people don’t like eating out of the trash, ants have no problem doing this. It’s one of the places where people frequently experience ant infestations.

Trash cans should be cleaned weekly. If you use a trash can liner, then the container should also be emptied regularly and the bag replaced if it is ripped or torn.

trash can

Warmth

As with most insects, warmth is what ants are looking for. They try to find areas that have a higher temperature if it’s cold outside. When winter comes around in colder areas of the world, ants will try to seek shelter inside.

If ants can find a warm and wet area in your home, they’ve found the perfect place for a nest, so watch out for this.

Other Insects/Animals

Ants won’t hesitate to feast on dead animals, which is why dead insects attract ants. This can be animals such as:

  • Bees and Wasps
  • Spiders
  • Termites
  • Cockroaches
  • Other ants

Also read: Do ants eat dead ants?

ants eating a dead insect

What Attracts Ants in Your Garden?

Some of the other most common things that attract ants in a garden are:

  • Moist soil
  • Sweet-scented nectar or sap
  • Protein-rich aphids or other insects on a plant
  • Honeydew excreted by sucking insects like mealybugs
  • Soft-bodied prey such as slugs

If ants find something they like in your garden, they will quickly swarm around it. Ants have what is called a “trail pheromone” that they lay down to mark where other ants have been, what food sources are nearby, and what trails lead back to the nest.

Looking to get rid of ants in your garden? Read this article on the topic.

Plants and Flowers

Ants are primarily attracted to nectar from plants and flowers [1] in your garden. 

If you want to stop ants from invading your garden, it is best if you can find what plants attract them and what food source is drawing them in so that you can take care of it.

many ant workers in a flower

Rich Soil

Ants love moist, dark soil that is rich in organic material. 

Ants that are attracted usually don’t invade homes but instead, live outside and can do a lot of damage to your garden by digging up plants and scavenging on the roots. 

You can prevent these types of ants from entering your garden by making sure they don’t have what they need to survive and thrive in the soil.

Especially potted plants will contain rich soil – watch out for ants invading your pots.

Read more: How to get rid of ants in potted plants

ant hill

Frequently Asked Questions

Are Ants Attracted to Artificial Sweeteners?

The answer to this question is a resounding yes. A study does show that ants actually prefer white sugar to artificial sweeteners [2].

Ants are attracted to artificial sweeteners for several reasons: firstly, ants can smell the sweetness from far away. Once they reach the food source a taste modifier in ants kicks in and tricks them into thinking the artificial sweetener is nectar or honey, because it tastes like it.

Are Ants Attracted to Urine?

Yes, ants are attracted to urine. More specifically, they are attracted to the glucose found in urine [3]. It’s been proved that ants actually prefer urine over sugar water, because of the urea it contains. Urea contains nitrogen, which helps all animals build proteins and other biological molecules 

Are Ants Attracted to Wood?

Ants can be attracted to wood for several reasons. First of all, moist or rotten wood is easy for ants to nest in. If ants find an unhealthy tree (or rotten wood in your home), they’ll infest it.

Most species of ants are what are called gardeners. This means they tend plants, take care of aphids or other insects that feed on vegetation in order to get the sugar-rich secretions from what they eat. 

Are Ants Attracted to Salt?

Yes and no. Ants do eat salt as part of their diet, but too much of it can kill them. That’s why salt can also be used to keep ants away from your home. If you pour out a lot of salt in the entrance to your home, you won’t be bothered by ants again.

Are Ants Attracted to Sugar?

Yes, sugar is one of the things that attract ants the best. Ants love to eat sugar as it contains a lot of carbohydrates. Sugar can be found in a number of different foods, including fruits, candy, soda pop, ice cream, and syrup.

Are Ants Attracted to Paper?

No, normally ants aren’t attracted to paper. Some papers, especially toilet paper, will have binding glue in/on it, which is what can attract ants.

Are Ants Attracted to Pets?

Ants like warm and moist conditions, so this makes them what is called an “ectothermic animal.” This means that their body temperature depends on the environment around them instead of regulating it themselves. Because of this, what attracts ants is often the warmth from a pet’s body which makes them feel.

Are Ants Attracted to Humans?

No, ants aren’t attracted to humans. If you have ants in your home, it’s a result of the ants finding something else they like, such as food, moisture or warmth. Now, if you have something on you that ants like, they will pick up the scent and can begin to crawl all over you.

Are Ants Attracted to Light?

No, ants are not attracted to light. There is no scientific evidence to suggest that ants are attracted to light, which makes sense since they spend a lot of their lifetime in dark tunnels underground.

About Teodoro Pittman

Teodoro is a nature and animal lover. He specifically focuses on insects, such as ants, bees, and the like. In his free time, he takes care of his own ant farm, where he analyzes their behavior. Teodoro has spent the last 7 years studying the intricate behavior of these small creatures.

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