How to Get Rid of Ants in the Garden
Ants are one of the most common insects to exist on this planet. There are more than a thousand species of ants that can be found all over the globe. Like most garden pests, ants live peacefully in the garden without disrupting their natural environment. But, if their population experiences a boom, such as during the summer months, you begin to notice a new nest every few meters in your garden. Then, it is time to take matters into your own hands and carry out ant population control. But before you embark on your ant-killing spree, you should know more about these intelligent creatures that seem to have invaded your flower beds out of nowhere. After all, nature creates a delicate balance that must be maintained for your garden to flourish, including accepting some of these garden pests in acceptable numbers as permanent yard members.
Understanding Ant Nests In Your Garden
Ants are one of the most organised species on the planet, with complex hierarchical systems that can beat even the most disciplined and well-organised human army. Ant colonies contain a Queen, worker ants, soldiers, drones and even larvae. Believe it or not, ants are a standard and healthy part of your garden’s ecosystem. So no matter how hard you try, you will likely not be successful in removing all the ants from your garden forever. Nor is it suggested that you do so as it may disrupt the delicate balance of your garden’s biota.
On the contrary, ants encourage biodiversity in your garden so that the plants, critters and small animals form a healthy internal ecosystem. Ants create balance by killing certain predatory insects such as ladybirds, caterpillars and termites and eating their eggs and larvae while encouraging the growth of other small creatures such as aphids and whiteflies. In addition, they are natural pollinators and can fertilise and aerate your soil by encouraging movement between the different layers of soil so that your garden grows lush and green.
However, with all the positive attributes we have associated with ants, you may wonder why removing them is necessary? Although ants help your garden grow, hordes of ants may also cause significant damage.
Ants are a sucker for sweet things. So much so that they protect and farm insects that produce sweet secretions such as honeydew. Additionally, ants protect smaller insects such as aphids, mealybugs and whiteflies from attacks by larger insects, such as ladybirds and lacewings. These tiny insects, when left unchecked, can eat plant leaves and harm them.
Besides this, if an ant population is flourishing near shrubs or plants with delicate roots, they may infect the plants and harm the shrubs. So if you see an ant nest near your favourite flower, you must think of ant nest extermination tactics.
Additionally, having numerous ants nest in the middle of your newly landscaped garden can quickly destroy its beauty. What’s more, once the ant infestation in your garden becomes large enough, they will slowly start moving toward your house and kitchen in search of sweet foods.
You must remember that ants often collect in areas where they find plenty of food. So if you have a particularly gruesome ant infestation, then there may be a more severe underlying problem, such as infestation by smaller insects, that you might be missing out on. So before you go on an extermination spree, it is best to address the root cause of the ant infestation.
However, if you have decided to earn the nickname ant killer, you might as well be good at your new job. Following are some fool-proof ways to eliminate an ant infestation in your garden.
Ways To Get Rid Of Ants In The Garden
There are numerous ways to rid your garden of ants, but you must be precise and conservative in your approach. Simply spraying a potent pesticide all over your garden may do more harm than good, so it is best to plan your strategy of exterminating ants before carrying it out. Planning crucial in ant extermination is that the success of your method relies on several factors, including the type of ants you want to get rid of. About 30 types of ants are commonly found in the United Kingdom. These include black ants, fire ants, carpenter ants and wood ants.
Therefore, methods that work well on a specific species may not be effective on others. For example, practices commonly used to exterminate fire ants, such as the sugar/boric acid or borax mixture method, will be less effective on carpenter ants as they are not as keen on sugar as fire ants. However, instead of trying numerous methods together to achieve quick results, it is advisable to test one method thoroughly and only move on when it fails.
Since ants live in colonies in an ant nest, it is best to target the nest instead of killing individual ants on the surface. This way, you will effectively wipe out the entire colony and lay rest to your ant infestation issue.
There are two common methods of exterminating ants: natural methods and a chemical methods, and the techniques in each method have been listed below.
Natural Ant Extermination Methods
As the name suggests, the natural method relies on organic matter and natural substances compared to chemicals. But, it is less potent than the chemical method and may require re-application of the substances. Though more effective, the chemical method can be dangerous to your garden and your household.
One of the easiest ways to exterminate ants from your garden is by pouring boiling water down the ant’s nest. If there is more than one nest, you must repeat this process individually with all of them. Ants in the colony will instantly be killed when they come in contact with the high-temperature water. To ensure that the water reaches deep into the ant nest, you can slightly excavate the nest. Or you can locate the entrance and pour water in through that. You may have to repeat this method to wipe out all the ants over a few days.
Oil and Dishwashing Soap Solution
A mixture of dishwashing soap, oil and water can be lethal when sprayed upon ants. This DIY mixture soaks into the exoskeleton of the ants and causes them to suffocate. Put the mixture in a spray bottle, so it is easy to dispense when killing ants on the surface. But, for this method to work on ant nests, you must use copious amounts of the solution and pour the liquid into the ant nest through their entry and exit holes. Here’s a video that demonstrates this.
Sugar and Boric acid/Borax Mixture
Boric acid or Borax contains the same active ingredient, but it is used in different formulations. Although Borax is an effective ingredient in killing ants, it may cause toxicity to pets and children if it is ingested. So you must be careful to use the substance judiciously while exterminating garden pests. To wipe out an ant colony with this method, you must make a paste out of sugar or sweetener mixed with borax and leave it near the ant colony. Ants will be attracted to this sugar and eat some of it while carrying the rest back to their nest to be consumed by the colony members. Since borax is lethal for ants, they will perish and die after a while.
Nematodes are natural enemies of ants. They hunt and kill ants by entering their body and releasing a flood of ant-killing bacteria. Since nematodes are natural predators of ants, they try to run as far from these small worms as possible. So spraying nematodes in and around the ant colony will likely cause them to flee away from their nest in search of a new home. Another advantage of using nematodes is that they act as natural predators for most pests that are harmful to plant life but live symbiotically with plant-friendly organisms and predators. However, before using nematodes, you must keep a few precautions in mind to ensure you get good results. Firstly, you must mix the nematodes with water according to the specified ratio mentioned by the brand, and second, you cannot use them under extreme temperatures or direct sunlight.
Simple White Vinegar
White Vinegar is a potent ant killer. The acid in the vinegar acts instantly to eliminate the ants. To use white vinegar to eliminate ants, you must soak the ant nest in the liquid. You can use a spray bottle to do this, but the most effective way would be to use a jet spray. Unlike boiling water, vinegar does not harm plant life or the earth. But, since this method is not as potent as some of the chemical methods listed in the article, you may have to repeat it a few times to eliminate all the ants.
Food-grade diatomaceous earth is a potent insect killer and can be used to treat a wide variety of critter infestations. The substance is made from sea creatures known as diatoms. It contains sharp edges that abrade the exoskeleton of insects, killing them instantly. Food-grade diatomaceous earth can poison and dehydrate insects and small animals in the garden. So you must be careful with its use as its excessive use may cause harm to the biodiversity of your garden. However, if you plan on using diatomaceous earth, you should ensure that the ground is completely dry. Wet conditions significantly affect the efficacy of diatomaceous earth.
If you want to adopt a more humane approach to getting rid of ants from your garden, you can use natural insect repellants. Spices are one of the most common and potent insect repellant methods. Spices used to repel ants include cayenne, cinnamon, and curry powder. You can simply sprinkle the spices in or around the ants' nest and watch them scurry away in search of a new home.
Certain essential oils can also help to repel ants. This is because ants are averse to smells, including lavender, peppermint, catnip, pennyroyal, garlic and rosemary. You can use essential oils from these plants, plant them or use their dried and crushed leaves as an ant repellant.
Using fresh or dried peels from citrus fruits such as oranges and lemons is another common way of keeping ants at bay. Ants despise the smell of citrus and stay clear of the area that smells of them. So placing these peels strategically around an ant's nest can help eliminate the entire colony.
Chemical Ant Extermination Methods
Chemical methods of exterminating ants are much more efficient and permanent compared to natural methods. In fact, ant-killing chemicals are commonly found in all supermarkets for a relatively low price. But, while using chemicals and pesticides, you must ensure that you use them in modest quantities. Using high concentrations of professional-grade chemical pesticides can poison your plants and groundwater. This is especially dangerous if you are growing edible plants that you will consume later on, as they can absorb the toxins.
Following are some common chemical methods to exterminate ants.
Ant killer gels can effectively wipe out an ant colony without causing much damage to your plants. The ant killer gels work similarly to the borax and sugar mixture. The ants are attracted to the sweet poison-laden gel and carry it back to their colony to be consumed by the rest. Resulting in the extermination of the entire colony.
Ant poison powder, though highly effective, must be used with care. Since it can easily seep into the ground, it is recommended to use poison powder mostly on hard surfaces. Additionally, you must also restrict the area where you use ant-poison powder if you have pets or small children, in case they ingest some of it.
Professional extermination services
If all your efforts have gone in vain, and the ant infestation seems to be going strong, then you can always enlist the help of a professional team. Professional exterminators can carefully wipe out all the ant nests that are bothering your garden. The chemicals they use are concentrated, but a thorough knowledge of their use ensures that the team does their job without adversely affecting your garden.
Love or hate them, you must admit that ants are an interesting species. Although ants, in general, are harmless, when they form large hordes, they can quickly turn into garden pests that are capable of causing significant damage to your yard. Use the methods listed in our guide to controlling your ant population efficiently. Once you are successful in your mission, you can move on to other factors to improve the look of your garden. Such as getting a new garden set so that you can enjoy the evening breeze outdoors.