What Do Ants Eat?
In the lowland tropical forests of Brazil, Peru, and Mexico, millions of army ants move together in synchronized raids eating almost everything in their path including rodents, birds, pigs, goats, chickens, and the occasional unlucky human. Fortunately, the ants in your kitchen are a little less horrendous. While kitchen ants don’t mind a little bacon or chicken fat, they won’t chew your leg off to get to it.
There are two types of common ants that will invade your home in search of food—sugar ants and grease ants. Sugar ants are the orange-brown critters forming a chow line across your kitchen floor, cabinets, or counter. They make up the largest group of ants in the United States. In addition to sugar, molasses, jelly, cakes, candies, and cookies, sugar ants eat nectar and other insects including caterpillars. While sugar ants have a sweet name, you don’t want them infesting your kitchen; they can build colonies in your yard and even your walls. And when they tromp around your kitchen, sugar ants spread feces which might contaminate your food with salmonella.
Grease ants are smaller than the sugar variety, only about 1/20th of an inch long. But the shiny yellow to dark-brown ants can eat an astounding amount of fatty-protein laden food every day. Grease ants eat meat, nuts, cheese, nut butters, and pastries, among other things. Like sweet ants, grease ants will cause you grief if they find a reliable source of food. Their nests are usually in the soil outdoors but they can build colonies in walls, cabinets, under baseboards, and elsewhere indoors.
If you see sweet or grease ants in your home, you already have a problem. You need to place open bags and boxes of food in airtight containers. Clean up the crumbs and grease splatters from every surface including stovetops, along baseboards, under couch cushions, and behind appliances. Buy some ant killing bait stations and place them wherever ants are found. Once the ants are gone, use silicone caulk to patch cracks around utility lines and pipes where they enter your home.
Ants are resilient and persistent and thrive because they eat what we eat. Unless you want to share your home with an army of unwanted intruders, clean, caulk, and bait before it’s too late.