Ants in Car: Causes + How to Get Rid of Them

Ants will only stay in your car if they can find food. Their constant presence is a clear indication that they have something to eat. Find out why they are attracted to your car by following their tails to find what they are eating.

Sugar ants are attracted to a car when you eat sweet stuff like cake and chocolates in it. Get rid of them by cleaning sugary particles on seats and carpets. Remove any sweet wraps or food containers left behind. Then vacuum the whole interior and stop eating in the car.

Note that sugar ants can stay without eating for 14 days. This means that they can hang in there and wait for their next meal for some time. If you have a habit of eating in the car, 14 days will not pass before you feed them again.

How to get rid of sugar ants in car
Sugar ants in car

How to get rid of ants in car

You can also use ant traps and recommended pesticides to get rid of ants in your car. However, those should only be used after thoroughly washing and cleaning the car. Check for any food particles in hidden spots like seat corners and joints.

1. Sugar and honey ant bait

Borax and sugar ant bait will get rid of ants in cars by trapping them. These contain elements with a low toxicity level and thus will not affect human beings and pets.

The most common ingredient in these is boric acid or borax. This tends to work really well as most sugar ants are prone to its poisoning. This product is toxic to ants; when they take it, they will be wiped out.  

Since only the worker ants tend to forage for food, they are in a position to take the bait back to the nest where the rest of the colony is hiding. With time, the whole and colony in your car will be eliminated.

To get rid of sugar ants in your car, use the following steps:

  1. Put 2 tablespoons of sugar in a container
  2. Add 1/2 tablespoon of honey
  3. Then add 4 tablespoons of borax powder and mix them
  4. Place the mixture in the car and leave it overnight for the ants to eat
  5. This will wipe them out completely

2. Food-grade diatomaceous earth

There are a few substances that are known to be poisonous to ants. This plays a great role when getting rid of sugar ants in a car. Food-grade diatomaceous earth can poison the ants to death because it contains silica in microscopic amounts.

This tends to cut through the ants’ exoskeleton, causing dehydration in the ants. This way, they end up dying.

Advice: For maximum effect, Food grade diatomaceous earth can be spread on car seats, especially at the joints and around infested areas in the car, so that the ants can carry it back to the nest to eliminate the whole colonies.

The advantage of using food-grade diatomaceous earth to get rid of sugar ants in a car is that it will also get rid of several other insects that may be hiding in there.

3. Homemade sugar ant trap

This can be made using peanut butter, mint jelly, maple syrup, and honey to get rid of ants in your car. One will also need boric acid, a cracker, and a cardboard box. The procedure is as follows:

  1. Make some pinholes on the small cardboard box.
  2. Mix the foods and the boric acid till they all blend together
  3. On the cracker, spread the above mixture and place it inside the box
  4. Since ants tend to be mostly nocturnal, it is best to set up the trap at night. The ants will be attracted to the trap by the food, and the boric acid will kill them.

Since there are different sugar ants, not all can be controlled using the same baits. Some will work on all, while others may work best on specific species.

4. Mint jelly and masking tape

Sugar ants in the car are the easiest type of ants to control. Identify the areas you have seen the ants and make use of jelly to increase their foraging behavior. This can be applied to some masking tape to make the cleaning up process easier later.

  1. Mint and mint apple jelly are known to work best as they are the most attractive for the sugar ants. Make use of an applicator with a pointed tip for convenience.
  2. After the application, the sugar ants will start feeding on the jelly after a short while. These will provide a clear guideline for where the bait should be placed.
  3. By setting up the jelly for setting up survey stations, it helps save time and money when using the bait. This will make for effective and efficient baiting.
  4. The bait should be placed at the most active site. This can be identified by counting the number of ants feeding on each station after ten minutes.

The bait should contain poison to ensure that it is fed on by the worker ants and carried back to the nest for the other ants to feed on. These will mostly contain hydramethylnon or boric acid as the active ingredient.

Bait for ants in a car

The use of borax is an effective way of killing ants in the car, especially if you have a serious infestation. Using borax ants killer is effective because the product is slow acting and thus can be carried back to the colony.

This will allow the young ones and the queen to feed on it, and eliminating the whole colony from the car will be effective.   

One can purchase baits containing borax or make some at home. There are many tutorial videos on these and recipes for the same. Below we look at some of the ways through which one can make use of borax o kill ants.

Other than that, borax also is a slow-acting poison. It is also slow acting, which enables it to get carried back to the nest where it is fed on other ants. It will only take a few days before the whole colony is eliminated. Borax is normally used with some sweet attractant to woe the ants into consuming it.

How to make an ant car bait

This method of usage has three main steps in setting up the trap. These include mixing up the ingredients, creating and filling the traps, and placement. Done as it should, this should help you remove the ants.

What you need:

  • 20 mule team Borax
  • Granulated sugar
  • Syrup
  • Water

What to do:

  1. Measure borax and the sugar in a ratio of 1 part borax for every three parts of sugar and add them to a mixing bowl.
  2. Determine the amount you need depending on the severity of infestation but ensure that the ratio is maintained.
  3. Using a whisk or fork, stir up the mixture until ingredients are evenly distributed. If there are any large clumps, crush or get rid of them so that the end product is a fine powder.
  4. To the mixture, add water and stir. This should be done in bits until a thick paste is formed. Warm water helps in dissolving the mixture better than cold water does.
  5. Add syrup in an equal amount as the borax into the mixing bowl and continue to mix.
  6. A perfect borax sugar ants killer mixture should have a consistent color. Stir up the ingredients until this is achieved.
  7. Place this into the trap, which could be a plastic container or a box with perforations.
  8. Place this in your car, especially where you always see the ants crawl
  9. Leave it overnight and repeat the process until the entire colony of sugar ants is wiped out of the car.

How to prevent an ant infestation in your car

The best way to prevent an ant infestation in your car is to give it a detailed car wash. Add some peppermint oil to the final rinse and use it to wipe the car seats, mats, and the places where you always see them crawl.

Once this has been done, ensure you trap or bait any existing ants. This should be done both inside and outside. Make use of slow-acting poison to increase the chances of eliminating the whole colony.

Avoid spraying aerosol pesticides as these could make the ants aggressive. Continue treating the ants until none are seen roaming around after which you maintain the preventive measures.

Several readily available kitchen items can act as sugar ants’ repellents. White vinegar and peppermint essential oil for ants is known to be an effective way of keeping ants away from your car. However, use them after doing a serious car wash.

You can add peppermint oil to your cleaning bucket and use it as a cleaning agent. White vinegar can also be added to the bucket because it contains acetic acid that repels and kills any ant in your car.

Placing some bay leaves or clove leaves around areas that are vulnerable to attack can also help. Using natural ways to get rid of ants in a car is important because you may be spending hours in traffic and not want to inhale pesticides containing chemicals.

This could be on the car dashboard, seats, or door frames. Using the above steps in your car is a sure way of getting rid of ants in there. Above all, stop eating in the car because it is one of the major reasons why sugar ants are attracted to your car.

Causes of ants in a car

Several reasons can bring ants to a car. However, the basic ones like food, moisture, and warmth will determine whether they will stay or leave on their own. Here are some of the things that will attract ants into your ride:

1. Shelter

Ants prefer living in warm and moist environments, which is why they are attracted to your car even if there is no food. However, people tend to eat in the car, which is also an added advantage.

The favorite hiding place for ants in a car are the seats, vents, dashboard,  door frame, and seals. After they feed on food particles dropped in the car, they return to their hiding places and wait for their next meal.

2. Food

Ants have tiny bristles in their body that can smell food from a distance. This is why they will only come out in large numbers when there is food.

In some cases, you may see them crawling in your dashboard. Ants hide in your car dashboard because it is warm and moist, and that is warm they need for survival.

Ants hide at the joints of a car’s seat because that is the first place food particles are dropped. Their major attraction is food, and those joints always trap little pieces that fall off as you bite.

3. Warmth

You may find ants in a brand-new car because they will look for warmth when it is cold outside. The car seats will always remain warm and humid because it is made of soft spongy material for comfort.

This will attract the ants and keep them hiding in the car even if there is no food. They are good at hunting, so they will find food and return. Ants will not eat any fabric in a car but that does not mean that they cannot destroy them.

4. Aerosol insecticides

If you parked your car for a long time and you find that ants have built a nest in it, do not rush for aerosol insecticides. Unfortunately, most sugar ant species will only become more aggressive.

When these are used on them, the ants tend to send danger signals to the rest of the colony. This may result in them budding to form more colonies.

The queens then increase their rate of laying eggs. All this compounds the problem making it larger than it initially was.

To avoid the above situation, it is best to rely on tactics that best manage the entire colony. This tends to provide a longer-lasting solution.

When ants are crawling on your car, some birds, like the woodpeckers and sparrows, will eat them. Those birds may poop on your car and those can be very stubborn stains to remove.

References: Part of the research was done from publications from the University of Minnesota Extension: How to control ants by Jeffrey Hahn & Patrick Liesch, University of Wisconsin-Extension. University of California Agriculture & Natural Resources: How to manage pests-ants – UCIPM also had helpful publications that helped in delivering this content.