What Are Ants Attracted To? Sugar | Plants | Heat | Damp

Ants are both fascinating and annoyingly destructive insects. They have extraordinary strength, two stomachs, no lungs, a particular acumen for farming, and they’ve walked the earth since the time of the dinosaurs. 

In this article I’ll share with you what Ants Are and Aren’t attracted too. Dispelling the myths once and for all!

  • Ants will defend aphids to exploit their peculiar affinity for sap.
  • When human food is in short supply, ants will turn to dead insects for sustenance.
  • Sugary foods are magnets for every kind of ant. 
  • Individual ants have no memory capacity but the hive mind is very different.
  • When one ant is electrocuted, others are attracted to the body and follow the same fate.
  • Like all living creatures, ants require water to survive but often get it in peculiar ways.
  • Ants are averse to anything with a potent odor or taste

Are Ants Attracted To Sugar?

Sugar is one of the most potent attractants for an ant invasion. Bodybuilders need a healthy amount of calories, proteins, and carbohydrates to compensate for the wear and tear on their bodies. Ants are no different.

On some level, ants understand that sugar is calorie-rich, and since they expend so much energy in their day-to-day activities, sugar logically tops the list of valuable resources for an ant colony. 

If you leave an empty can of soda lying around, it will be covered in ants within minutes. They’ll seek it out and exploit every last morsel. Sugar is also a lightweight food resource. Ants may have some of the tiniest brains on the planet, but they aren’t stupid, especially at the hive level.

Ants understand that carrying large particles of sugar is far more lightweight than other foods, therefore it’s a more attractive option. It’s one of the little ironies that one of nature’s hardest workers will sometimes choose the easy path.

The worst part about sugar is that it can be found in so many different foods and drinks, especially in America, where high-fructose corn syrup is as common as water or oxygen. Just about anything left lying around has some level of sugar in it.

Are Ants Attracted To Water?

Water is another resource high on the list of ant hive priorities. Ants need water to sustain themselves and the hive. They will often set up shop near water or build their ant colonies near a moist environment, such as a saturated, half-rotten tree branch.

The largest ants consume a single drop of water per day, while the smallest may consume 1/1000 of a drop. If water resources disappear then they will spread out to seek more, often finding their way into homes with leaky faucets or damp cellars.

Ants get a lot of their moisture content from eating food, so even in an environment where water is scarce, doesn’t mean they’ll prioritize locating water over readily available food sources. 

Often called “moisture ants,” ants who build beds in water-rich environments are ants who prioritize wet environments to build their home. Any ant colony—regardless of subspecies—is attracted to sources of water and will seek it out like food. 

Fortunately, if an ant colony is built on a source that’s already rich in H2O, they’re less likely to seek it out in homes

Are Ants Attracted To Light?

There’s nothing in the scientific literature to suggest that ants have any particular affinity to light or otherwise. Some ants, like army ants, are completely blind and have no use for it. 

There is some evidence that flying ants are attracted to light, but the light itself has no potential benefits or positive side effects on their lives, ability to mate, eating habits, or behavior.

The only potential resource that lights can offer is heat and some lights don’t give off much yet are just as much of a bug magnet as warmer lights. 

Flying ants prefer the warmth that light gives off but an outside light isn’t much use to ground ants unless it’s sitting on the ground.

Are Ants Attracted To Heat?

Ants are certainly attracted to heat sources and—like the above section under lights—will navigate to a heat source if able.

Lights that are difficult to get to are not much use to most ants, but the warmth emanating from home during the winter season would make for a tempting alternative to an environment under 40 degrees

Ants are cold-blooded insects so their preference for warmth is not about comfort but for survival. If they invade a home during the winter, however, heat still rides low on the totem pole in favor of food and water. 

Heat is simply a welcome add-on to the benefits of a food cabinet, trash cans, greasy dishes, or pet food. If ants are invading during the winter months food and water were likely the initial attractions, with warmth being an additional luxury.

Are Ants Attracted To Damp?

Ants are always searching for food and water sources. Damp areas are highly attractive to ants as a place to build a colony. Water and food top the list for a healthy colony so moist and damp areas are perfect for ant hives.

Damp wood is especially attractive to carpenter ants. Sometimes, for those who don’t know what a carpenter ant looks like, carpenter ants are confused with termites. 

Carpenter ants don’t consume the wood, however, they just burrow down deep into the moisture-rich timber and take advantage of their watery environment. 

Like carpenter ants, moisture ants will also choose waterlogged wood to build their homes. They also prefer mud or soil that’s heavy with moisture, especially under rocks or other debris. 

Carpenter ants and moisture ants will invade a home that’s not very disciplined with its water supplies. Pipe leaks, standing water, damp basements or cellars, washing machine drain pipes, or areas around A/C units where the condensation discharges.

They’ll also build their nests under walkway stones, concrete porches, 4×4 columns, or anything else that’s man-made and laying on the ground. They really don’t have a preference, so long as there is a source of moisture and it’s well-covered. 

Are Ants Attracted To Electricity?

Research suggests that ants, particularly fire ants are attracted to electrical fields. Fire ants invade so many electrical outlets and fuse boxes that the state of Texas created a “Fire Ant Awareness Week” to address the problem.

What’s worse, is that electrocuted ants secrete a pheromone substance that is particularly attractive to other ants, bringing in hordes of them at a time in a creepy reenactment of the Pied Piper of Hamelin. 

The problem can be so bad that it completely jams electrical outlets and shorts out fuses or circuits. Though research is ongoing, there doesn’t seem to be an answer as to why ants are so attracted to electricity.

Ants also have an aggravating knack for chewing through the sleeve and insulation around wiring, causing more damage than just jamming up power outlets. 

Electrical appliances also tend to be warm and warmth attracts ants creating a sort of perfect atmosphere with an electrical field and warmth. Add a few pheromones secreting ant corpses and there’s a recipe for invasion.

Are Ants Attracted To Plants?

Ants are attracted to particular types of plants, such as flowering plants that produce nectar and have sweet smells. They’re also attracted to Parsnip, Desert Willow, and Peonies. 

These plants have what is called ”nectaries” which provide sugar and water, two of the absolute must-haves for ant colonies. Ants will fiercely defend and help to conceal aphids, an insect that consumes the nectar from flowers and whose byproduct is beneficial to ants.

Keeping any of these plants or flowers in the home may attract ants inside—especially if there’s a wealth of food and water present as well—and if they go for the plant, more will quickly follow.

Ants enjoy roses as well and generally any sweet-smelling plant. Flowering plants produce the kind of sugar and water combination that ants crave. While flowers aren’t often their primary target, they’re definitely on the list.

Are Ants Attracted To Coffee?

Ants don’t like coffee and while they’re not exactly repulsed by it, coffee creates a flashbang effect on the ant’s ability to follow scent trails. Sprinkling coffee grounds around vulnerable areas will help to repel them.

Coffee grounds don’t kill ants either. There are a lot of home remedy sites that claim coffee drives ant colonies away or outright kills them. Neither is true as the ants simply avoid the coffee grounds. They don’t pack up their entire colony and head for the hills.

Wizzie Brown, a pest management specialist for AgriLife Extension, tested the home remedy on fire ants to determine the efficacy of the grounds. The result was underwhelming at best. 

After sprinkling coffee grounds directly on fire ant mounds, the fire ants then went on about their daily business as if the grounds didn’t exist. 

While fire ants are a bit more resilient than your common variety garden ant, the experiment proved that while ants aren’t repulsed or killed by coffee grounds, they simply have no use for them.

Are Ants Attracted To Vinegar

Organic Black Balsamic Vinegar in a Bottle

Undiluted vinegar, or vinegar not mixed with something else, is repulsive to most people or animals and that includes ants and aphids (their favorite nectar supplier).

Like coffee, vinegar repels ants by destroying their scent trails, leaving them lost and confused, unable to locate sources of food and water. Directly pouring undiluted vinegar on them might kill some, but it isn’t a pesticide.

Vinegar is far more potent than coffee grounds, and diluted vinegar repels ants by simply wiping down surfaces or areas recently trafficked by ants. 

Unfortunately, wiping down with vinegar does have a time constraint. Eventually, the vinegar will dissipate and the ants will return if the source of their attraction isn’t removed.

All Things Considered

There are really a lot of things that attract ants, especially considering the volume of sugar in day-to-day diets and how often the trash gets left lying around. Even with a lack of sugar, ants will go after just about anything edible.

That includes grease, dead insects, spoiled meat, garbage cans, and much more. What repels them is the same thing that repels cockroaches or any other household pest and that’s cleanliness. 

Keeping areas clean, well-ventilated, and free of moisture will stop an ant invasion before it ever gets started. Ants often won’t find the allure of electrical wires if they never have a reason to enter a home in the first place. 

If you want to learn more about ants and various other insects, then checkout some of our hand selected articles:

Small Red Ants in Your Kitchen – Exactly What to Do

Is it normal for ants to scream when I use water to get rid of them?

If I snapped my fingers just in front of an ant, would it sound like an Explosion?!


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All the best

Steve Foster

Mad about bugs and wanting to publish as many articles as I can to help educate people about these amazing beautiful creatures! For more info check out my about page https://schoolofbugs.com/about-steve-foster/

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