What do sugar ants look like?
There are many different kinds of sugar ants, each a slightly different shape and size. They are normally very tiny, between 2.5 to 18mm long. They have large black heads, a small waist and a rusty, orange-brown middle.
Where are sugar ants found?
Sugar ants are some of the most common types of ants in Australia. They are common across Australia. You can spot these ants in your kitchen, under rocks and logs, within open forests and woodlands.
- There are special types of sugar ants, called ‘alates’ who can fly in the air! They are going to start new colonies.
- Sugar ants can squirt a smelly substance called formic acid as a form of protection from predators.
Sugar Ants – the full story
Sugar ants are some of the most common types of ants in Australia. There are over 100 different species of ants in Australia in the Camponotus family. They are common across Australia. You can spot these ants in your kitchen, under rocks and logs, within open forests and woodlands.
There are many different kinds of sugar ants, each a slightly different shape and size. They are normally very tiny, between 2.5 to 18mm long. They have large black heads, a small waist and a rusty, orange-brown middle. Sugar ant soldiers have some impressive looking pincers on their face. Up close they can look a little menacing but it is all for show.
The ants can bite but they can’t sting so you may feel them pricking you with their pincers but it won’t hurt much and they are completely harmless.
The soldier ants need to look threatening to protect their friends and family. The worker ants need their pincers to move sand to make their nests and to carry food back to their homes.
The sugar ant has a very unusual talent that you may be completely oblivious to. Under the cover of darkness, the Banded Sugar Ant and many other species of sugar ant will take their ‘livestock’ out to pasture. Their livestock is usually in the form of caterpillars or aphids. This has given them the name Night ant in Western Australia. Sugar ants tend these unusual flocks because the sap-eating bugs produce a sweet, sticky substance called ‘honeydew’ which sugar ants adore.
But the caterpillars, aphids and other bugs aren’t harmed in the process and are actually very well looked after. The whole arrangement is mutually beneficial because the little bugs are protected from predators by an entire colony of ants and the sugar ants will get unlimited access to their favourite sweet nectar.
A nice garden with a variety of plants and leaf litter is a great way to keep these little troublemakers out of your house. Encouraging them into your garden will help bring other buddies too like the echidna. Having ants around is just a fact of life so embrace these little workers and enjoy watching what they get up to.
Looking after your local sugar ants will benefit not just the ants and you, but your whole neighbourhood.
Sugar ants love:
Sugar – which is where they get their name from but they also eat a wide range of food.
Pavers – that help protect their nests.
Honeydew – which is a sweet nectar that they harvest from sap-eating insects.
Following others – along chemical trails. This is the best way they can get all their jobs done quickly and efficiently.
But they don’t like:
Ant bait – which poisons them and can kill their whole family.
Summer rain – because the water floods their nests and means they have to move their eggs to higher ground.
Interruptions – along their trails or near their nests.
Be a sugar ant buddy
- keep a paved area in your garden for these ants to nest under.
- remember these ants are great at tidying up after you by eating any stray crumbs.
- leaving sweet, sticky, or crummy bits of food lying around in your house or you might get a few hundred unwanted ant visitors!
- using ant killer or baits as these buddies are just a part of the natural world and don’t cause any harm. If you take away their access to food and water in your house, they’ll soon move away.
- getting these buddies confused with nasty Fire Ants. They can look similar so make sure to check. Report Fire Ant sightings to your state environment department.
Don’t be surprised if:
- you get too close to a sugar ant and it squirts a smelly substance at you. This formic acid is just a type of protection for them and won’t hurt you at all.
- you see more of them in summer as this is when they are more active.
- you see what looks like ants flying in the air! These are special types of sugar ants, called ‘alates’ who are going to start new colonies.