The title characters, while journeying through a human home, decide to exploit a sugar bowl on their own rather than delivering the crystals to the colony's queen. They experience misadventures: they land in a cup of coffee, fall into a sink and are threatened by its garbage disposal unit, are ejected from a toaster, and are nearly electrocuted when they enter an electric outlet. Chastened, they rejoin a line of ants carrying sugar back to the colony.
In Philip Nel's analysis, a conflict between the book's plot and its illustrations leads to artistic tension. While the ants' return to the colony suggests "a victory for the bosses" and the narrative could be considered a "capitalistparable", the comparatively huge appliances in the kitchen, which terrify the ants, imply conspicuous consumption. Nel likens the book's resulting ambiguity to the works of Magritte.