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ants on granola bar

Do Ants Actually Have a Sweet Tooth?

Have you ever noticed that invading ants often head straight for unprotected sweets in your kitchen? Don’t be fooled: it’s not really the flavor that the ants find enticing. In truth, those ants enjoy the nutrients and “sugar rush” they get from carbohydrates found in sugar and many sweet foods.

Are All Ants Attracted to Sugar and Sweet Foods?

Short answer: no.

Lumping the over-ten-thousand species together, ants as a whole tend to be omnivorous, capable of eating a wide variety of animal and vegetable food sources. In areas of Africa, Central America, and South America, you can find carnivorous ant species.

In North America, you’ll typically encounter two types (not species*) of ants: sugar ants and grease ants.

  • Sugar ants are drawn to things like sugar, honey, carb-heavy foods, nectar, and plant secretions (honeydew) caused by pests like aphids.
  • Grease ants are attracted to foods that are greasy, oily, or fatty, such as peanut butter, meat, and dairy products.

That being said, these ants are omnivorous and can be drawn to food outside of their “type.” High-carb and fatty food sources offer calorie-dense nutrients that ants can easily convert into energy—and when you’re a busy worker ant, you need all the energy you can get!

*Note: there is an actual Australian ant species called the “sugar ant.”

Will Any Type of Sweet Attract a “Sugar Ant?”

Short answer: Again, no.

While sugar ants are up for exploring new, potential food sources, they can learn to differentiate between substances like sugar versus artificial sweeteners. Ants show a clear preference for sugar over lower-carb alternatives like stevia and aspartame-based and saccharin-based sweeteners.

Why? Sugar has carbohydrates that the ants can use for nutrients. Stevia has significantly fewer carbs, and aspartame and saccharin have no carbs at all. While sugar ants may initially check out these low- and zero-carb sweeteners, they’ll go back to the food source that can give them the most energy. You can recreate this experiment yourself out in an open space, away from homes. (You don’t want to cause an ant infestation!)

Do ants keep marching into your home? Call our experienced ant control experts at Hoffman's Exterminating Co., Inc. at (800) 615-3920 or contact us online.