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Why Are Ants Attracted to Sugar?

Ants are attracted to sugar for a few different reasons. Ants need energy from carbohydrates, and while they can get energy from other sources, sugars provide ants with the most energy. It’s simply the most efficient food to eat.

Sugar is calorie-dense, so it’s an easy way for ants to get their fix without having to work too hard. 

In this article, we’ll dive deeper into why ants eat sugar, their preferences, and more.

5 Things You Didn't Know About Ants x
5 Things You Didn't Know About Ants

Why Does Sugar Attract Ants?

Sugar is full of carbohydrates which provides ants with a lot of energy. The sugar doesn’t have to be in the form of solid pieces, but can also come from liquids such as nectar or fruit juice. [1]

Ants are very efficient. When they spend energy foraging, they want to collect food that provides them with the most possible energy.

Sugar contains more energy than comparable sources of carbohydrates and proteins – food that could also be consumed by ants – because it is made up entirely of molecules with six carbons bonded together in a ring form.

In addition to being calorie-dense, sugar is also just the right size and shape to stimulate an ant’s gustatory receptors.

Learn more: What attracts ants?

ants eating sugar on the soil

Ants Need Energy

Ants use a lot of energy, which means they need to eat a lot of calories. In fact, they eat up to a third of their own body weight every day. 

Sugary foods that are high in calories provide ants with quick and easy fuel for all the exploring they do throughout the day. 

Are Ants Attracted to Sweeteners?

Ants are not attracted to artificial sweeteners because they’re low in calories. Ants aren’t attracted to the sweet taste but the carbohydrates found in sugar, which is a common misconception. 

When given the choice, ants will almost always go for white sugar, since it contains the most carbohydrates relative to its weight and size.

ants eating foods together

Do Ants Prefer a Specific Type of Sugar?

Ants prefer the sugars that provide the most carbohydrates, which is white sugar. They prefer this to other sources but won’t hesitate to collect nectar, honeydew, or other sources of sugar.

If they find a source for this (perhaps your kitchen), they will collect it.

Also read: What do ants eat?

How Do Ants Sense and Locate Sugar?

One way ants sense and locate sugar is through their antennae and their sense of smell. Ants have a pair of long, thin appendages protruding from the head that are sensitive to touch, pressure, smell, taste, chemicals in the air, or on surfaces they walk across. [2]

Their antennae contain chemoreceptors that can detect chemicals. This will lead ants to food sources nearby.

Also read: Can ants smell?

ant carrying food

Using Ant Trails to Communicate

Ants are an extremely social species. This also translates into communication and improved foraging.

Ants use trails of these chemicals as markers for food sources. By leaving a trail of pheromones, ants can direct other colony members to food sources. 

As more and more ants travel back and forth from their nest to the food source, the strength of the pheromone trail increases.

ants creating a trail

What Types of Ants Eat Sugar?

All ants eat sugar, but some depend on it more than others. Some ants are more predatory of nature, feasting more on meat from other insects, while some ants prefer sugar.

Some ants that rely heavily on sugars are sugar ants, honey ants, and common black ants.

Honey ants, also called honeypot ants, will eat food and store it in their abdomen as honey. They will produce their own source of sugar. Specialized workers are born for this task, and can get as big as grapes.

Some ants will also get their sugars from aphids, another type of insect that secretes a substance called honeydew.

honey-pot-ants-768x547

Using Sweets to Get Rid of Ants With Ant Traps

Ants are attracted to sugar because it provides them with a lot of energy. They aren’t, however, attracted to sweeteners like honey or artificial sweeteners. 

We can use this information to get rid of ants by creating traps using sugar.

Here’s how you can create ant bait stations, or ant traps, using sugar:

  1. Dissolve sugar in water, or find a liquid sugar like honey or syrup.
  2. Mix your sugar solution with borax. Borax is poisonous to ants when ingested. The sugar will lure in the ants, while the borax will make sure they’re killed.
  3. Place your mixture in a small bowl or on a small plastic lid (you should make multiple of these bait stations to maximize efficiency).
  4. Place the container near the ant nest or next to any ant trails you can find.
  5. Simply wait it out. The ants will be attracted to the mixture and die off one by one.

This way of using bait stations works best for smaller amounts of ants that have invaded your home.

If you’re looking to get rid of an entire nest, you should call an exterminator.

For additional info: How to Get Rid of Sugar Ants

exterminator

Conclusion

Ants are attracted to sugar due to the high amount of carbohydrates. Ants aren’t attracted to sweets due to their flavor, but instead due to sugars’ ability to provide ants with a lot of energy.

This is also why ants aren’t attracted to artificial sweeteners: there are no calories or energy in them.

Ants prefer to eat food that provides them with a lot of energy, which is why they prefer to eat white sugar.

You can use this information to create ant bait stations if you’re dealing with an ant infestation.

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.