Getting Car-jacked By Sugar Ants? Do This Quick!

  • Written By: Phil Hawes
  • Time to read: 8 min.

So you’ve just jumped into your ride to, well, take a ride and you’ve noticed a whole heap of ants crawling around. As you probably don’t work for Uber and don’t want to give these pesky insects a free ride, how are you going to get rid of these sugar ants in your car?

Well, this is the question I am going to answer over the course of the following article.

What is a sugar ant exactly?

A sugar ant can be one of a number of species depending on who you are talking to. Australia has an endemic species of ant known as the banded sugar ant (or Camponotus Consobrinus). In North America, there are also several sugar-hunting ants that receive the same moniker.

The odorous house ant (Tapinoma Sessile) which is a common pest in American homes is also identified as a sugar ant as is the pavement ant (tetramorium caespitum).

It’s not essential that you know every species of ant that enters your car or home, but at times it can help you take the correct course of action (especially when dealing with destructive species such as carpenter ants)

Why do I have sugar ants in my car?

There are several reasons why ants would want to sneak inside your car, chief among them a ready source of food or water and where the car was parked.

If your car has somehow become the ideal environment for these pests, you are very likely going to see one or two ants explode into hundreds or thousands.

On any other day, you’d find the construction of ant society fascinating, but probably right now you just need to know that ants come in different casts. If you’ve seen an ant out and about (or treading on your fine leather interiors) it’s more than likely a forager or worker ant.

This class of ants is sent out in search of food, and for sugar ants, that means a sweet snack. Once they have found a source of food they will lay down a pheromone-infused chemical trail from it to their nest. This is why an ant problem can soon snowball.

So ultimately the reason you have ants in your car is that they have either been carried into it (if you’ve been transporting items around) or they have discovered it themselves. If it’s the former then you may not have as big an issue as the latter scenario.

Sugar ants are found all over, but we most often encounter them in our urban environment. Places with a lot of humidity and a warm climate appeal to them. Woods, hills, and forests with or near gaps in the wood are the most common sites to find these insects.

So if you tend to leave your car unused for weeks on end or have a usual parking spot, make sure it’s not near the ideal place for a wandering sugar ant to find it. More on this later in the article.

What is the fastest way to get rid of sugar ants?

So, if you’ve just found out that sugar ants have been living in your car and now you need to get rid of them as soon as possible, and don’t know how.

No worries! Here are a few methods you can use to get rid of sugar ants as quickly as possible.

Make your car a hostile ant-environment

Whatever method you use for your ant control, the most important step is to make your car a place ants don’t want to go.

As I mentioned earlier, ants (and other pests such as cockroaches or fleas) only seek out your car for food, water or shelter. If you remove food sources and make it hard to set up camp in your vehicle, you will soon see ants move on.

The first step is to give your car a thorough cleaning inside and out. Make sure that you vacuum all of your seats and floors. If you don’t have the right equipment, it might be worth getting the car professionally detailed and even replacing old floor mats.

This is also the time to start enforcing a “no food and drink” policy in the car. If you had ants once, then you can have them again.

After you’ve effectively removed any food source and hopefully sucked up any hitchhiking ants currently in your car, you really want to explore natural deterrents before getting out any harsh chemicals.

Move your car to a new spot

While your car might be infested with ants, it’s very rare that they are actually living in there full time. In the case that you use your car every single day, you probably just got unlucky one day and picked up several hitchhiking ants. In this case, a good clean-out will get rid of them.

However, when you have ants in the muscle car that you only drive once in a while, they may be day trippers that return to their ant nests at night. In this case, you might find that parking the car somewhere else is the best way to get rid of the problem.

Whenever possible, it’s best to avoid parking your car under trees or in long grass for extended periods of time. These are prime locations for ant colonies and it just makes it easier for them to find your car.

White vinegar as an ant deterrent

A quick and effective way to deter sugar ants is to use vinegar in its purest form. Although not strictly a pesticide (unless drowning counts?) white vinegar is quite effective at preventing ants from re-finding your car.

This is because white vinegar has an acidic active ingredient that makes it an effective weapon against ant trails. If you can destroy these, then you can stop forager ants from swarming towards your car each day.

If you want to read more about how to use white vinegar against ants, then please read my full article on the topic.

Essential oils as ant deterrents

As with most pests, ants don’t do well with certain scents and they will avoid areas with these unpleasant odors. Luckily for us most of the smells they hate are really quite nice to our noses.

So, after you’ve cleaned out your car try using the following essential oils in your car

  • Peppermint
  • Citrus
  • Lemongrass
  • Eucalyptus
  • Rosewood

If you make one of these scents your new car smell, then you are very likely going to be driving around town completely ant free.

Killing sugar ants with Boric Acid

Boric acid is a chemical that can be used for a lot of different things, many of which can be done at home. It is also well-known for how well it works to get rid of insects and other pests naturally. It’s a refined version of organic minerals present in rocks, water, and soil which when combined form a potent pesticide.

That being said, Boric acid and its unprocessed cousin Borax carry their risks to humans and pets. It shouldn’t be put on the skin or taken orally as this could lead to irritation and even death in high doses.

So, this is why I’d suggest you only use boric acid outside your car to deter and kill ants. If you use this chemical inside your car, even in small amounts, you are exposing yourself to it for the foreseeable future.

Nevertheless, boric acid is an effective method for getting rid of sugar ants. When insects eat this poison, it causes the food in their stomachs to expand, which kills them. If you want to make the product more appealing to ants, you can add powdered sugar to it. This addition helps attract and kills ants (and other pests such as roaches) as Boric acid isn’t that appealing on its own.

A cautious note on using ant killers in cars

You really want to avoid using any sort of chemical-based ant killer in your car, especially if you are a regular commuter. While most of these products are safe to use they become much more dangerous in confined spaces such as cars.

What’s More some products can leave nasty stains or damage your car’s upholstery when used directly on it. So, try the natural deterrents first and only turn to chemicals when you plan to leave your car idle for at least a week or two.

How do I get rid of ants under my car hood?

Generally, I find that getting rid of ants in most places in your car is quite easy, but that’s not always the case when it comes to the hood compartment.

More than likely any ants that you see there are just transitioning through from their nest (somewhere underground) and the food source inside your car. In rare cases when a car has been parked up for several months, it may actually have nested inside the engine compartment.

If you need to get rid of the ants from this area of your car, then the first step would be to switch on a dormant engine and crank up the heat under the hood. The heat generated will be more than enough to kill off any ants.

However, if you aren’t dealing with a car that has been sitting idle for a long time, then I would recommend you attack the ant trails running across and under the hood of the car. By placing borax or boric acid bait traps you will soon see the ant population diminish.

You can also use any popular commercial anti-ant spray outside the car (make sure you avoid applying it to any air conditioning vents).

It is recommended that you use only pesticides that have a high water content in their production process. After you have sprayed your car, you should also wait a full day before getting behind the wheel again.

Can I ant bomb my car?

If you have ants or other pests in your car, you can get rid of them with a bug bomb made for cars. This will kill not only the ants but also any other pests that might be there. The bug bomb you buy must, however, be intended for use in a vehicle or expressly for use in a confined space. You shouldn’t use a bug bomb that is meant to treat your whole house.

They may, however, pose a risk because they contain both flammable and toxic chemicals. Even if these chemicals are used correctly, there is always a chance that some of them will be breathed in. This is bad for your health.

If the chemicals in bug bombs make you feel sick and you want to find another way to get rid of the infestation, you might want to try remedies made from natural substances like the ones I mentioned earlier in this article.

Can ants survive in a hot car?

Ants cannot survive in a hot automobile, especially during the summer despite ants being very versatile creatures. While the temperature inside a warmed-up automobile is no barrier for certain species, if the temperature rises too high, it may be fatal for ants.

Parking your car in the full sun on a hot day is actually one of the best natural ways to get rid of ants. While it may not kill them off completely, it will drive them out of your car by the end of the day.

By this point, you can move your car to a new parking space and/or make sure that there is no way an ant can find its way back into your car tomorrow.

Recommended ant control products

Use this as your first line of defense to bait and kill off ant colonies.

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Liquid insecticides are excellent for building a perimeter around your property and keeping ant colonies in check.

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Stop ants from hiding in walls or cracks by squeezing them out with this insecticide foam.

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Use this gel bait to attract and poison an entire ant colony.

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Use this to flush out ants hiding in walls or cracks.

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