WHAT ATTRACTS ANTS?
On a hot summer day, it may seem like ants are attracted to just about anything. A melted ice cream cone, a spilt soda or the remains of a discarded cheeseburger all seem to provide the same allure. What are ants attracted to, then? Here is a list of things to which ants have a different reaction than you might think.
Q: ARE ANTS ATTRACTED TO ARTIFICIAL SWEETENERS?
A: Like humans, ants require a mixture of proteins, carbohydrates and fats in their diets. Because sugar contains high amounts of carbohydrates, a number of different ant species are attracted to food items that contain sugar. Artificial sweeteners, however, do not contain these carbohydrates and as a result, do little to attract ants.
Some people believe that artificial sweeteners, such as aspartame, are effective ant poisons. This is not the case. Since ants are not attracted to artificial sweeteners, they make poor baits. And according to Sociobiology, an academic journal published by California State University, consuming aspartame has no effect on the mortality rate of ants.
Q: ARE ANTS ATTRACTED TO URINE?
A: While this may seem like an odd question, its origins is strongly rooted in the history of diabetes. Indian physicians first observed that ants were attracted to urine when studying patients who had frequent urination problems. At the same time, around 2500 B.C., Egyptians made note of a condition they called “too great emptying of the urine.” Both of these conditions were later diagnosed as type 1 diabetes.
When a person has type 1 diabetes, glucose – or sugar – is unable to travel to the cells in the body that need it. Instead, this sugar gets trapped in the blood. When blood-sugar levels remain high for too long, many body parts become damaged, including the kidneys. Kidneys regulate glucose in the urine. When they are not working properly, urine may contain large amounts of glucose, which can be attractive to ants.
Q: ARE ANTS ATTRACTED TO SALT?
A: Ants are often attracted to sugar, but can they be attracted to salt too? According to a study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, ants that have low access to salt in their daily diet are actually more attracted to salt than sugar. Salt helps all animals maintain proper bodily functions. The study concludes that ants living more than 60 miles from an ocean, or surviving on a diet that does not consist of other insects, are more prone to needing salt and thus, seek it out.
Q: ARE ANTS ATTRACTED TO WATER?
A: Like all animals, ants need water to live, but they are not dependent on larger puddles of water like other insects may be. Many ants get water from the food that they consume. Food and water is also shared with others through a process of regurgitation. While most ants won’t invade homes for water alone, they are more prone to entering homes for water in very dry climates. Carpenter ants are also attracted to damp wood that is often the result of a water leak.
Q: ARE ANTS ATTRACTED TO LIGHT?
A: There is no scientific evidence to suggest that ants are particularly attracted to light. In fact certain species, like army ants, are completely blind. But many people have reported swarms of flying ants that appear drawn to light sources. Flying ants, also called alates, appear during mating season. They form swarms with the goal of reproducing and establishing new ant colonies. Light is not required for either of these objectives.
Learning what attracts ants may leave you with some unexpected answers. If unexpected ant problems are not for you, call a pest management professional and find a solution that will make your home the least attractive one on the block – to pests that is.