Ants are amazing little creatures. They don’t have lungs, but they have two stomachs. They’re the only non-human species to farm other animals. And they can carry more than fifty times their own body weight.
But if they make a home in your lawn, they quickly change from fascinating to a nuisance! You can say goodbye to lazing on your grass. And anyone venturing near the nest will find themselves covered in bites.
So how do you get rid of them?
How to Get Rid of Ants in the Lawn
1. Prevention is better than cure
There are plenty of things you can do to lessen the chances of finding ants in your lawn in the first place.
Good lawn maintenance is an excellent start. Keeping your lawn thick, healthy and free of debris will make it a less attractive spot for a nest.
Mowing regularly will of course keep your grass short, but it will also encourage thicker growth. That means less chance of a bare patch providing a suitable nesting site.
Rake up fallen leaves promptly too. You’ll make the environment less hospitable to ants. And you’ll benefit from a greener, healthier lawn by ensuring that air and light can reach the grass.
Keep compost heaps, rubbish bins and other sources of organic matter as far from your lawn as possible. And avoid feeding pets outdoors, or certainly anywhere near your lawn.
Rotting tree stumps are a great habitat for ants, as well as other insects. If you have one near your lawn, move it to a corner where the bugs can enjoy it without causing a problem to other garden users.
2. Certain plants can discourage ants
As well as taking things away from your garden, you can add things to discourage ants too. There are a whole range of plants that ants dislike. Including them in your planting scheme can help keep them away.
Mint is particularly effective. That might be because the strong scent disrupts the scent trails ants use to find their way around. Planting some around your lawn can help avoid nests on your grass.
The same goes for lavender. Herbs can work well too. Both marjoram and rosemary have been used to good effect to keep ants at bay. And tomatoes, marigolds, tansy and rue seem to work too.
In many cases, the reason for this deterrent effect isn’t entirely clear. But adding just a few of these plants around your lawn can be a great way of keeping it ant-free. And with such a range to choose from, there’s something to suit every planting scheme.
3. Remove food sources
Ants love a sticky substance called honeydew that’s secreted from smaller insects like aphids and whitefly. They even farm aphids, sheltering them in their nests and protecting them from predators, all to get that precious honeydew.
This means that a garden full of aphids and whitefly is like an all-you-can-eat buffet to an ant! Those insects are also bad news for many plants – so keeping them in check is a win-win for gardeners.
Examine plants like roses regularly for signs of infestation, and take action as soon as you spot anything. You can buy chemical sprays to kill the bugs, but spraying the plant with soapy water usually works just as well. And you won’t risk poisoning bees or other pollinators.
4. What if it’s too late for deterrents?
Take all of these steps and you’re highly unlikely to find yourself with an ant problem on your lawn. But if the little critters have already set up home there, there are plenty of ways to get rid of them.
Removing ants from locations where they cause a nuisance needn’t mean exterminating them.
Ants are part of a healthy ecosystem, eating smaller insects and providing food in turn for birds and other wildlife. So it’s well worth exploring less brutal ways to discourage them from your lawn. As we’ll see, there’s a wide range of options to choose from.
Chemical ant killers are also toxic to human and other wildlife, so they need to be used with caution. If you have pets or children who will be using the lawn, it’s best to stay away from them.
5. Use citrus as a deterrent
Ants don’t like citrus fruit, so this is an easy way to encourage them to move elsewhere. Place either orange or lemon peel around your lawn and you’ll disrupt the nest. Squeezing lemon juice works well too.
You can also buy an organic ant repellent called Orange Guard, which works on the same principle. It contains a substance called d-Limonene – which is basically extract of orange. Spray it around your lawn and the citrus fragrance will drive away the ants.
If d-Limonene comes into contact with the ants themselves, however, it will cause them to suffocate. There’s no need to do that – spraying around the nest will encourage them to relocate.
6. Use paprika
If you’ve got any paprika in your spice cupboard, this is another good option to deter ants. Sprinkle it around the lawn and it will disrupt the scent trails they use to navigate.
If they’re unable to find their way back home, the nest will fail. That will give the ants no alternative but to pack up and move on.
7. Try cucumber peelings
Yes, we know we said to remove any sources of organic waste near your lawn – but this is an exception. Cucumber peelings seem to act as a deterrent to ants in much the same way as orange or lemon peel. There’s not such a strong aroma here, but nevertheless, ants don’t like it.
That’s because cucumber contains a compound called trans-2-nonenal, and it’s particularly concentrated in the skin. Trans-2-nonenal deters both ants and a range of other insects. Indeed, chefs are often encouraged to leave cucumber peel in kitchens to discourage cockroaches.
8. Sprinkle coffee grounds
Another kitchen waste product that can help with ant control is coffee grounds. These are a natural fertiliser too, so you can give your lawn a feed as you drive away the ants!
After you’ve sprinkled them over your grass, you can freshen them up every day with a quick squirt of water. That will revitalise the aroma, and keep the ants off your lawn.
Using your coffee grounds in this way will also solve the headache of what to do with them. Make sure you never wash them down the sink – they’ll block your pipes and drains.
When you’ve solved your ant problem, add them to your composter, or apply directly to the soil to give your plants a boost.
9. Raid your kitchen cupboards
There are plenty of other common cooking ingredients that deter ants. In most cases this is because of their strong smells, which mask the ants’ scent trails. Garlic, cloves, chilli, black pepper, peppermint leaves or oil, and cinnamon have all been recommended as ant deterrents.
We’ve heard of varying degrees of success with these remedies. But if you want to avoid harsh pesticides, they’re well worth a shot. Make it more pleasant for ants to relocate than to stay on your lawn, and you’re onto a winner.
10. But not all remedies work…
People have tried all manner of things to get rid of ants. Unfortunately, some of the remedies you may hear suggested aren’t effective for long.
One of those is copper. It’s possible that the idea of copper as an ant-deterrent comes from its use in controlling slugs and snails. If you’ve ever stuck copper tape to the bottom of a flower pot, you’ll know that this can be very effective.
The reason it works is that slugs and snails secrete slime as they move. When that comes into contact with the copper, it creates an electric charge. The slugs and snails get a shock, and that will usually be enough to get them to back off.
With ants, the process is different. Here, it seems to be the smell of the copper that puts them off. But it doesn’t seem to last for long. In fact, we’ve heard tales of ants climbing along copper wires to get to food!
Ants also secrete a substance called formic acid that actually corrodes copper. So in the long term, the ants may get the better of any piles of copper pennies in your lawn!
It’s a similar story with chalk and talcum powder. Both can disrupt ants’ scent trails – but the effect is fleeting. Choose something with a stronger aroma instead – paprika, chilli powder or cinnamon. You can apply it in exactly the same way, and it will have a bigger impact.
Say adieu to ants!
We hope you’ve enjoyed our guide to how to get rid of ants in your lawn. There’s lots you can do to stop ants ever making a home there in the first place. But if they’ve already set up shop, try natural deterrents before you reach for toxic chemicals.
You may find you already have many of those remedies in your kitchen cupboard. And there are lots of options that can effectively discourage the ants without killing them. Perhaps best of all, you won’t have to worry about harm to children, pets or other wildlife.
Good luck with making your lawn an ant-free zone!