What Are Sugar Ants?

What Are Sugar Ants?

Are you tired of seeing tiny black ants marching across your kitchen counter, claiming ownership over every single morsel of food accidentally left behind? Well, you’re not alone. These tiny pests are commonly referred to as “sugar ants” and are a common problem for many people. But what are sugar ants exactly, and where do they come from?


Sugar ants (Tapinoma sessile), also known as odorous house ants, are small, dark-colored ants that commonly find their way indoors. They get their name from their love of sweet foods, but they will also eat protein-rich foods as well. When crushed, they emit an odor similar to rotten coconut, which is why they’re also known as odorous house ants. 

Sugar ants are known to forage for food in large numbers, making them a nuisance in kitchens and pantries. It’s not uncommon for a few sugar ants to quickly turn into a long line of infiltrating ants within a few hours.

These ants usually build their nests in the soil—often near the foundation of buildings—and are known for their ability to create multiple colonies. They are small insects, measuring around 2.5–3 mm in length, and are dark brown or black in color. 


Ants and Food Sharing: Some ants have a special stomach that’s used to store food for other members of the colony. This specialized organ is often called the “social stomach” and is located in the abdomen, working like a storage chamber for food. If you ever see what looks like two ants kissing, they’re most likely passing food from one ant to the other.



Both sugar ants and regular ants are members of the same family, but there are a few key differences that set them apart.

For one, sugar ants are specifically attracted to sweet foods, hence the name. They’ll raid your kitchen and pantry in search of anything sugary (though keep in mind that once there, as with any opportunistic pest, they’ll eat much more than just what initially attracted them). Regular ants, on the other hand, aren’t as picky and will eat a wider variety of foods.

In terms of appearance, sugar ants are usually smaller than regular ants, measuring around 2.5–3 mm in length. They’re also typically dark brown or black in color. Regular ants, on the other hand, can come in a variety of sizes and colors.

Another key difference is their nesting habits. Sugar ants tend to build their nests in the soil near the foundation of buildings, while regular ants can nest in a wide variety of places such as wood, walls, and even in plants.

Common non-sugar ants you might encounter in the United States include:

  • Pavement Ants: As the name suggests, these ants are often found in and around the pavement, such as on sidewalks and driveways. They’re known for their small size and dark color.
  • Pharaoh Ants: These ants are known for their yellow or light-colored bodies, and they’re also quite small, measuring around 2 mm in length. They’re known to be a pest in places with commercial food handling.
  • Acrobat Ants: These ants are known for their ability to raise their abdomens over their heads, hence the name “acrobat.” They are known for their small size and yellowish or reddish color.
  • Fire Ants: These ants are known for their reddish-brown color and painful stings. They typically build large mounds and are found in warm climates.
  • Carpenter Ants: These ants are larger than many other species, with some reaching up to 1 inch in length. They are known for burrowing into wood and can cause damage to homes and other structures.


If you’re looking for a DIY approach to preventing sugar ants from invading your home, here are some easy and effective methods you can try:


Check your home for any unintended points of entrance. Be sure to seal any cracks or crevices in your home, especially near windows, doors, and baseboards as sugar ants have a way of sneaking in through the smallest of openings.


To store sweets properly and prevent sugar ants from getting to them, you should:

  • Store sweets in airtight containers: This will prevent the sweet scent from escaping and attracting sugar ants.
  • Keep sweets in the refrigerator: This is especially important for chocolates and other sweets that can melt at room temperature. The cold temperature of the refrigerator will also deter sugar ants from coming near.
  • Clean up spills and crumbs: Sugar ants are attracted to any food remnants left out in the open, so be sure to clean up any spills or crumbs right away.


Lastly, it’s important to keep your home clean and tidy, especially in the kitchen and pantry areas, to make it less appealing to ants. This means cleaning up any food crumbs, keeping surfaces clean and sanitized, and keeping food stored in air-tight containers so bugs can’t get in.


It’s important to remember that getting rid of sugar ants is a process, and it may take some time and effort. Thankfully, you don’t have to do this alone. Our trained field experts have access to the latest and most effective methods for getting rid of sugar ants so you can be one step closer to bidding these unwanted visitors a sweet farewell. 


Author Bio

Courtney Enzor has worked in the pest control industry for about a decade. From helping you build a fly trap to giving you the best tips for identifying various bugs, she loves answering all your pest-related questions and sharing her pest-related expertise through writing. At the end of the day, she hopes her content will help people avoid mishaps and keep families happy and healthy!