Ants are one of the most (if not the most) common pests known by homeowners, lawn care experts, and gardeners. They build their hills, swarm around the yard, and cause trouble when they find their way through cracks in your home’s foundation and into the kitchen. So when you see an anthill forming in your garden, it naturally causes some concern. The strange thing about ants, though, is that they aren’t bad all of the time. Before we go over natural pest control remedies and how to get rid of ants in the garden, here are some things to consider.
Perhaps the biggest reason gardeners seek to have ant populations removed from their gardens is that they attract other pests. How? Well, ants love sugar. Sap-sucking insects, like aphids, naturally produce a sticky substance called “honeydew” that ants love to feed on. So, if ants are present in a garden where aphids or another sap-sucking insect becomes present, the ant colony will work to protect this other little pest so that the population grows and the ants have more of that honeydew substance to feed on.
So, if you aren’t interested in the larger pest population using your garden as a feeding ground, you may want to consider having the ants removed.
Signs of an ant infestation
There are a few different signs of an ant infestation to consider when you’re trying to decide if there’s a problem you need to get under control. These include:
- Ant nests
- Ant pathways
- Live ants
When you see a few live ants around your plants, it may not be a big deal if there are no nest or trailing paths of them leading to and fro. But if a couple of ants lead to a trail of ants that lead to a hill? You’ve got a bit of trouble on your hands.
Large concentrations of ants in your gardens can have adverse effects, other than simply attracting more pests where you don’t want them. Some species of ants are known for causing damage to both your person and your property. Farm ants, for example, sting when they’re disturbed or perceive a threat, which could make working in your garden an unpleasant experience when you’re simply trying to tend to your crops.
Some species like carpenter ants bite for a similar reason. After biting, they spray a type of acid into the wound. When you’re pruning, planting, or just inspecting your plants and start suffering bites and stings, it’s enough of a reason not to want to go back. But we’re here to help make sure that even through the ants, you continue enjoying your gardening lifestyle.
Is it all bad?
Surprisingly, ants in the garden aren’t always a bad thing. As much as they attract sap-sucking insects, they also are a natural form of pest control. They eat the young or the eggs of some pest species and even have a knack for disturbing them while feeding. And because of their tunneling and their nests built underground, ants help aerate the soil in your garden by making it easier for nutrients, oxygen, and water to move through and reach the roots of your plants.
The unfortunate part is that you’ll have to weigh the benefits against the drawbacks. If you don’t have any plants in your garden that are prone to sap-sucking insects and the species of ant that’s made their home will not hurt you, it may be worth it to let a small colony live. (Some gardeners even purposefully introduce ants to their garden environment.) But there’s always the risk of that small colony becoming too large. You may be better off removing them as soon as you see them.
Removing ants from your garden can be done both naturally and with chemical products. In most situations, you should lean toward the natural method first, so you cause the least amount of damage to your plants and the surrounding environment as possible.
Here are a handful of natural solutions you can try:
- Sprinkle ground cinnamon or cayenne pepper in your garden. If you notice only a few ants, you can put some of these ground spices near your plants to help deter them from making a home. This is more a natural method of prevention than removal.
- Spray diluted Epsom salt on the ants. Although there are a few ways Epsom salts can be used, the most consistent method is diluting Epsom salt with water and spraying it directly onto the ants.
- Pour boiling water on the anthill. If you have a larger ant problem and know where the nest is, you can use this method to try and naturally kill the colony. It may take a couple of attempts, and you’ll want to wait until the ants are mostly asleep for the night (same as you would bees before spraying the nest).
- Put artificial sweetener near the ants. Although this method isn’t conclusive, some say this trick works for getting rid of an ant infestation. And, if it’s your last-ditch attempt before switching to a chemical-related solution, it may be worth a try.
If all the natural methods of ant removal fail, you can resort to using an insecticide that’s effective on ants or calling in pest control for extreme measures. We recommend trying the natural methods first, both for prevention and removal, to keep the rest of your garden as safe as possible from any harmful chemicals.
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