Finding ants in the kitchen is super annoying, but not too surprising. It happens so frequently that many people use the term “kitchen ants” or “sugar ants” to refer to these household pests.
Those names may be commonplace, but they are not scientifically accurate. Technically speaking, there are many kinds of ants in the world. When it comes to the ants in your house, there are a few types of ants that make up the ‘usual suspects.’
Since the best way to get rid of ants is to understand why they’ve come inside to begin with, let’s talk about the ant diet and what ants eat.
What do ants eat?
Ant eating habits change based on many factors. The species of the ant, the time of year, and the location can all affect their food choices.
During the spring, when ants are reappearing after winter, they are focused on increasing their numbers. This means that they prefer a high protein diet. Once the next generation of ants has hatched from their eggs (an ant life cycle takes a few weeks), they will pursue a high carb diet.
Ant food for the outdoor ant
When ants stay outside where they belong, they find protein by eating dead insects and animals. For carbohydrates, ants will often eat a substance called honeydew. Honeydew is a liquid produced by aphids and scale insects when they feed on plants. Ants and aphids often live in harmony. The ants can protect their honeydew makers from natural predators like lady beetles and get an unlimited supply of food in return.
Ant food for the indoor ant
When ants trespass indoors, their nutritional needs stay the same, but their favorite foods might be different. It's possible for ants to favor potted plants indoors, still working in harmony with their aphid buddies. Ants may also be attracted to dead insects that are hidden inside your home. However, most ants that make their way inside are attracted to the tasty treats they can’t get outdoors.
Kitchens are one of the most common places to find ants because they are attracted to all the food. Ants are opportunistic pests, and will start with whatever is easy to get. An uncovered trash can, a sticky spot of spilled juice, or some crumbs that were left under the table are all easy pickings for ants.
Since ants are so small, they can get into things you might think are safe. Food packages that aren’t tightly sealed, like boxes of cereal or crackers, are easily accessible and attractive to ants. Ants are also attracted to moisture, making kitchen sinks, bathrooms, and appliances like, water heaters or washers, ant hot spots.
Ant eating habits
Ant colonies are made up of hundreds, or even thousands of ants. Each ant has a job. The queen ant has only one job and never leaves the colony; she just lays eggs. Worker ants are specialized depending on their jobs. Some worker ants tend to the queen’s eggs, caring for and feeding baby ants. Other workers stay inside the colony, digging new tunnels and maintaining the old ones. Other worker ants are tasked with exploring new territory and finding food. The ants that find food leave a scent trail for even more worker ants to follow. Then they carry food back to the colony from the source.
If you find ants in your house, you should observe them for a minute to see where they are coming from and what they are doing. Once you know how they’re getting in, you can block their entrance and wash away the scent trails they’ve made for their friends. If you see where the ants are going, you can get rid of the food source or anything else they may be attracted to. This will stop the ants from coming back.
For more ideas on getting rid of ants, check out our post on removing them from your home safely.