Can Ants Smell Food Through Plastic? Here’s an Explanation

Do you ever wonder how ants know where to find food? It seems like they can smell it even if it’s hidden behind a barrier, leaving us wondering, can ants smell food through plastic?

No, ants cannot smell food through the plastic. Plastic is an insulator, meaning that it doesn’t allow molecules to pass through it.

Ants use their antennae to smell, and since molecules can’t pass through plastic, the ant’s antennae can’t pick up the scent of food.

close up of ant on a leaf

Unlike other animals, ants smell food differently. They don’t have noses, so they can’t sniff like we do. Instead, they have an antenna, a long, thin appendage that sticks out from their head.

The antenna is covered in tiny hairs called sensilla, which pick up smells and relay them to the ant’s brain.

How Ants Hunt for Food

So how do ants know where to find food if they can’t smell it through plastic? It’s actually quite simple. When an ant finds food, it leaves a scent trail behind it as it walks back to the nest.

This scent is called a pheromone, and other ants can pick up on it with their antennae. The pheromone trail leads them straight to the food source, even if it’s hidden behind a barrier like plastic.

Ant colonies are amazing creatures, and they have a lot to teach us about working together. While the queen bee gets all the credit, it’s the worker bees that do most of the work. They’re in charge of collecting food, building the hive, and raising the young.

The worker ants are the ones responsible for looking for food. As mentioned earlier, they leave pheromones – which are basically like a map – as they explore their surroundings.

If they come across a food source, they’ll leave an especially strong pheromone trail so that other ants can find it more easily.

This is one of the reasons why ants seem to be marching in a single line. They’re actually following the pheromone trail, one ant after another. Once that trail has been disturbed, ants will move in a scattering motion, as they seem to feel lost.

Because that’s what they really are – without the pheromone trail to guide them, they have no idea where they’re going or what to do.

Do Ants Eat Through Plastic?

Have you ever found your plastic containers mysteriously full of holes? Or discovered a line of ants trekking across your kitchen counter? If so, you may have wondered: do ants eat through plastic?

The answer is both yes and no. Some species of ants are attracted to the plastic for its sweet smell, and they will try to gnaw through it to get to the food inside.

However, most ants don’t actually eat the plastic; they simply use their powerful jaws to create a hole that they can then crawl through. Sugar ants, carpenter ants, and Pharaoh ants are some of the most common culprits. They’re often drawn to the sweetness of fruit or honey, which can be challenging to find in the wild.

close up of ant teeth

Despite their small size, ants can do a lot of damage to your plastic containers. If you find yourself with a colony of hungry sugar ants, the best solution is to get rid of the food that’s attracting them in the first place.

Once they have nothing to eat, they’ll move on and leave your kitchen counters and tables alone. Sugar ants mostly don’t pose any threat to humans, but carpenter ants can be dangerous.

Carpenter ants are one of the few species that actually eat through plastic. They’re attracted to the sweetness of honey, but they’ll also eat just about anything else they can find – including your plastic containers.

Carpenter ants are a serious problem because they can cause structural damage to your home.

Their powerful jaws can chew through wood, insulation, and even wiring. If you have carpenter ants in your home, it’s essential to call a pest control professional right away.

Why Are Ants Attracted to Plastic, If They Can’t Smell Though It?

It’s not plastics that they are attracted to. Most plastic containers have lingering smells from the food, which is what ants are after.

An unopened bag of chips may have had remnants of cheese or other flavorings that are still detectable to ants, often looking for something sweet.

When you open a container, the smell is even more potent. That’s why you often see ants near your trash can or recycling bin. They’re attracted to the strong smells of food that have been thrown away. The rubbish and recycling are also full of food residue, which is like a buffet for ants.

Their antennae are so sensitive that they can pick up on these smells from far away. It only takes one ant to detect a food source for an entire colony to be alerted.

Once they’ve found the source, they’ll leave a pheromone trail so that other ants can follow.

If you have an ant problem in your home, it’s important to figure out what they’re after. Leaving out crumbs, uncovered food, or dirty dishes attracts ants.

If you can, try to keep your food sealed up tightly and clean your counters regularly. This way, you can avoid an infestation – and the damage they can possibly cause.

Related Articles: Do Ants Have Eyes? 

Homemade Ant Killer Solutions

There are a few different ways to get rid of ants without resorting to harsh chemicals.

One popular solution is to mix equal parts sugar and baking soda. The sugar attracts the ants, and the baking soda kills them. Another solution is to mix one part vinegar with three parts water. This will create a repellent that will keep ants away.

Like any other insect, essential oils effectively repel ants. Peppermint and eucalyptus essential oils are particularly effective.

You can put a few drops on a cotton ball and place it near entry points, or you can add the oils to a spray bottle of water and use it to mist your counters and floors.

a diffuser and an essential oil on a bedside table

To make a peppermint oil ant repellent, mix ten drops of peppermint oil with two cups of water. For eucalyptus oil, mix ten drops with one cup of water. Spray the solution around your home, or diffuse it in your essential oil diffuser.

Final Thoughts

Ants can’t smell through plastic but instead are attracted to the lingering smells of food. They use their antennae to detect these smells from far away, leave a pheromone trail, and an entire colony can be alerted.

In general, ants are attracted to crumbs, uncovered food, or dirty dishes. If you have an ant problem in your home, try one of the homemade solutions above.