How to Get Rid of Sugar Ants Without Spraying Chemicals

by | May 27, 2021 | Pest, Pollinator

Folks want to know how to eliminate ants without pesticides. Have you tried vinegar sprays, caulking, homemade, or store-bought ant killers to no avail? Some get success with ant baits and “traps”. Others find that ants will come back every year no matter what they do. In this article, we’ll explain how to finally get rid of sugar ants without causing harm to you, your pets or pollinators.

Where Do Sugar Ants Live?

Portland ant pest control is all about odorous house ants, AKA sugar ants.

Importantly, sugar ants (Tapinoma sessile) can have many colonies inside your walls. Our goal is to get rid of the sugar ants nesting INSIDE our homes, and somehow keep the main colony OUTSIDE from sending more workers back inside.

If you notice a trail of ants swarming a dropped crumb in the morning, you probably have one or more interior odorous house ant colonies. If you notice they disappear after you spray with lysol or vinegar and clean, they’re probably just avoiding the stinky sprays and making new trails out of sight. Vinegar, lysol, essential oils and even Raid and other sprays labelled for ants, have strong odors that repel ants.

Repellent products are simply not effective at controlling interior ant colonies. They will only kill the individual ants on contact, but repel the rest of the colony.

Removing the interior ant colonies will always provide the best results. So, non-repellent ant baits are always part of a successful integrated ant pest management strategy for inside the home.

Let’s Talk About Chemical Pesticides.

Pesticides have a bad rap. Careless or illegal pesticide sprays from agriculture can be extremely harmful for pollinators, beneficial insects & wildlife. Industrial agriculture favors large single crops of food where pests thrive and create more cause for pesticide usage. By supporting small, local organic farms, you are reducing the demand for large-volume pesticide applications. Suffering ants for one more year might not reduce pesticide pollution in the way we think, especially if we choose Pest & Pollinator, or follow the steps below:

Ant Pesticide Spray Safety

Residential ant exterminators use a fraction of the pesticides conventional farmers do. That said, the formulations of termite killers commonly used by pest control professionals can be more hazardous to pollinators than sprays farmers are allowed to use. This is particularly true for exposure to honeybees, which live in colonies like ants and termites do.

Integrated Pest Management should always be used for ant extermination to reduce or eliminate any hazard to pollinators or beneficial insects.

If you cannot avoid having your home exterior sprayed for ants, it is paramount your ant exterminator avoids spraying near any flowers in order to protect honeybees and other pollinators.

Fortunately, 21st century advances in pesticide formulations allows Portland ant exterminators to sometimes get rid of sugar ants with baits instead of sprays. Reducing exterior sprays significantly reduces hazard to wildlife, pollinators & beneficial insects.

Ant Control & Pollinator Safety

Professional grade gel baits can control an entire interior odorous house ant with one well-timed application of less than a gram of gel. That 1 gram droplet of bait formulation, usually contains just 0.05% active ingredient — a minuscule amount.

The bait is applied into a crevice behind your baseboard, or into the kitchen sink plumbing void. So kids, pets, honeybees and pollinators will never be exposed. But the ants will happily bring it back to their larvae nested in your wall voids. Then they’ll “baby-bird” it back to the adults, and effectively control the interior colony.

IPM for Ants

  • When nighttime temperatures are below 55, in wintertime, do not attempt to control exterior ants with baits. They will not move it fast enough to kill the entire ant colony. If you are seeing ants inside during the winter, this is a good time to use baits containing boric acid or other professional formulations (avoid Raid bait stations) inside.
  • Once you’ve got rid of sugar ants in the home, now you can try repellents outside along your foundation. Vinegar, peppermint sprays, cinnamon & diatomaceous earth are examples of good all-natural ant repellents.
  • If there are no flowers near your home, a careful & targeted perimeter treatment by a licensed professional, according to instructions on the label should pose minimal risk for pollinators & beneficial insects.

Lastly, if you are able to follow the ant trail on a hot day, and identify their main outside colony you can kill it with boiling water. Other physical ant removal options are of limited effectiveness, due to sugar ants having multiple satellite colonies. If you have any success stories with manually removing an ant colony, let us know and we will post your tip here!

Paul Stamets’ Ant Killer

Impressively, ants are able to avoid and survive just about any natural, chemical-free treatment we can think of. But this could change in the future. Paul Stamets’ amazing discovery of mycopesticides (natural pesticides from fungi) for some ant and termite species have been shown successful in studies at removing certain pest insect colonies. However this technology is in its infancy and has a long way to go before it is available for Portland ant exterminators. And unfortunately, it currently doesn’t work on sugar ants.

How to get rid of ants in the vegetable garden without chemicals

If you’re like me, you have pesky ants stealing seeds and generally causing mischief in your garden beds. To get rid of ants in the garden without nasty chemicals, just make a strong peppermint, clove or cinnamon tea. Spray that anywhere you’d like the ants to disappear from. Reapply weekly. It’s safe for you, your garden critters and may even keep other pests and mildew away.


Basically, removing sugar ants inside your home without a lot of chemicals is all about tracking down their colonies and baiting them effectively. It’s the best way to get rid of sugar ants without spraying pesticides.

If you’d like your own Integrated Pest Management strategy for family, pet & pollinator safe Portland ant control, contact us today!

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