What Surfaces Ants Can’t Climb On: Here’s What You Need to Know

When it comes to traversing surfaces, ants are true masters. They can climb on just about any surface imaginable – sheer walls, glass windows, even upside down!

But there are a few surfaces that ants simply can’t climb on, such as Teflon and Fluon surfaces, polished glass, and aluminum surfaces.

Ants have tiny claws on their feet that allow them to grip rough surfaces. But smooth surfaces like Teflon and Fluon are too slippery for ants to get a good grip, so they can’t climb on them. Similarly, polished glass and aluminum also don’t provide enough traction for ants to be able to climb on them.

How Do Ants Climb Walls and Surfaces?

Ants have the ability to climb surfaces that seem impossible to us is a testament to their strength and determination. But how do they do it? The answer lies in their physiology.

close up of brown ant on a black stick

Ants Have Claws

Ants have a pair of sharp claws at the end of each leg. These claws allow them to get a foothold on even the smoothest surfaces.

In addition, ants secrete a sticky substance from their feet that helps them to maintain their grip. This combination of sharp claws and sticky feet enables ants to climb walls, trees, and other obstacles with ease.

When ants are climbing smoother surfaces like plastic, they use the suction on their feet and their claws for rougher surfaces to keep them from slipping.

Ants Have Strong Muscles

Ants have powerful leg muscles that allow them to grip objects with great force. Additionally, they have long feet with multiple small bristles attached to them, which help to give the ants additional traction on soft or slippery surfaces.

Whether scaling walls or running along branches, these adaptable insects make use of their impressive strength and gripping prowess every day.

So although they may look small and fragile at first glance, ants can accomplish feats that seem impossible, all thanks to their unique combination of size and muscle power.

Ants Have Hairs on their Legs

Their uniquely-structured legs are also equipped with thousands of tiny hairs, referred to as setae. These hairs provide the extra traction and grip to be able to crawl up just about any surface, no matter how steep or treacherous it may be.

These hairs found on an ant’s legs are also one of the reasons why it is nearly impossible to brush an ant off of your skin – they grip onto you with such force that it takes quite a bit of effort to remove them.

Surfaces Ants Find Difficulty Climbing

While ants are able to climb on just about any surface, there are a few materials that they can’t get a grip on. Here are some:

sheets of aluminum

Teflon and Fluon Coated Surfaces

Teflon is a synthetic material that is made up of fluorine and carbon atoms. It is best known for its use in non-stick cookware, but it can also be found in many other products such as raincoats, carpeting, and even clothing.

Teflon is a very slippery surface, which makes it nearly impossible for ants to get a grip on it. Fluon is another synthetic material with similar properties to Teflon, and ants also have difficulty climbing on this surface.

Polished Glass

Due to the smooth and sleek nature of this material, ants find it exceedingly difficult to get a firm foothold. And without a solid surface to grasp with their six legs, they quickly slide and fall back down again and again.

It’s not just polished glass; any similar surface such as a laminated countertop, Formica, or even tile can pose the same challenge.

Aluminum

Ants also have difficulty climbing on aluminum surfaces. This metal is often used in food packaging and foil because it is non-reactive, meaning it won’t rust or corrode over time. However, the smoothness of aluminum makes it a tough surface for ants to climb.

Their legs, powerful muscles, and hairs notwithstanding, can’t seem to get a good grip.

Surfaces with Ant Barriers

Surfaces with Vaseline, motor oil, or other slick substances can act as an effective barrier against ants. These substances need to be reapplied regularly, however, as ants are persistent creatures and will find a way around the barrier if given enough time.

It’s also been found out that ants also have trouble climbing surfaces with baby powder. This powdery texture makes it difficult for ants to keep their footing, and they eventually slip and fall.

Surfaces Ants Can Climb

Just about anywhere you look, there’s a surface an ant can climb. Painted walls, wood surfaces, ceilings, plastic — you name it, ants can scale it. In fact, ants are some of the best climbers around.

ant standing on water

Wood

Ants are incredible creatures that are capable of navigating some of the most difficult terrains. Whether they are scaling a patch of rough bark or clinging to cracks and crevices, ants can climb just about any surface.

One of the most common surfaces they target is wood, thanks to its natural texture and stability.

The tiny claws on an ant’s feet provide enough gripping power to attach securely to almost any type of wood, whether it is smooth or rough.

Additionally, when they encounter vertical surfaces, ants position their bodies in such a way as to form living chains that make it easier for them to ascend. In short, ants are remarkably adept climbers and will always find a way up if given a chance!

Plastic

Despite being smooth, ants are also able to climb plastic surfaces with ease. The sticky pads and suction cups on their feet allow them to attach to the surface and pull themselves up. They also use their long, slender legs to grip onto small indentations or raised areas.

Water

In addition to being able to climb plastic surfaces, ants are also able to walk across water without sinking!

Thanks to the hydrophobic (water-repelling) properties of their bodies, ants can quickly move across the surface of water without being pulled down by the liquid. This is an amazing feat, considering that most insects would sink and drown within seconds.

Ceilings

Since ants are such good climbers, it should come as no surprise that they can also scale ceilings with ease.

Their sharp claws and sticky pads allow them to attach to the ceiling and swing their bodies up without slipping. Once they get a good grip, they can quickly climb up to the top of the ceiling and traverse across it without any difficulty.

Almost All Solid Surfaces

Any surface where an ant can place their grip on, as long as it’s not too slippery, they can climb on it. This includes but is not limited to:

  • Furniture
  • Tables
  • Chairs
  • Sinks
  • Toilets
  • Walls
  • Doors
  • Food Containers
  • Cabinets
  • Painted Surfaces

Will Ants Die or Get Hurt if They Fall?

No, ants will not die if they fall. Though they may be injured, ants are able to survive falls from great heights.

This is because their exoskeletons (hard outer shells) protect their internal organs from being crushed. Additionally, ants have a built-in landing system that helps them absorb the impact of a fall and prevent serious injury.

Final Thoughts

Polished glass surfaces, aluminum, Teflon, and other extremely smooth surfaces are next to impossible for ants to climb. It’s also been found out that Vaseline and baby powder can act as an effective barrier against ants. If you consistently find ants trailing into your home, a baby powder surrounding those areas may just do the trick.