Sugar ants are helpful creatures
LIKE their name suggests, sugar ants do indeed like to eat sugar and all things sweet, but they aren’t fussy and will go for a wide range of foods from insects to seeds.
So you can thank these ants for helping to keep your backyard clean and tidy.
During the summer months, sugar ants become much more active as the heat and wet weather drives them out of their nests to explore their surroundings.
As they wander around enjoying the summer weather, the sugar ants will be growing their complex, invisible chemical trails all over your garden.
Because of the large size of their colonies, pheromone trails are used by sugar ants to communicate to each other.
It’s a good thing these trails are invisible to humans or you might be a little shocked at how many hundreds of ant highways there are in your garden and house!
Sugar ants are great little weather predictors.
If you see hundreds of ants running around the place in a frenzy, chances are they are trying to find somewhere dry before a storm, so it might be a good time to get your washing off the line.
It’s a shame that when you look up sugar ants on the internet, most of the websites that appear are for pest control and tips on how to kill them.
These ants are harmless, native animals that play an important role in our natural food web.
It is better to find safe, non-toxic ways to deal with any troublesome sugar ants.
Ants are the great vacuum cleaners of our natural world.
Without them we would have plenty of old food and dead insects lying around. Plus ants help aerate our soils and bring seeds into their underground nests that help grow our forests.
Much like farmers tending their livestock, the sugar ants often tend aphids, caterpillars and other sap-feeding insects. They move these insects to better ‘pastures’ and protect them from predators.
Some of our common nocturnal sugar ants have even gone as far as bringing caterpillars and other bugs into their nests during the day and then escorting them back outside under the cover of darkness.
This is a mutually beneficial arrangement as the ants eat the ‘honeydew’ secreted by the insects and, in turn, the insect gets the protection of the whole ant colony.
Some of Australia’s rare butterflies actually rely on this help from the sugar ants to complete their life cycle.
CEO Foundation for National Parks & Wildlife