Ants offer many benefits to a garden but they can also be destructive. From protecting aphids to causing stunted plant growth, there are good reasons why you would want to get rid of ants in your garden.
However, eradicating these tiny critters is not as easy as just spraying pesticides; you need to use methods that will cause the least harm to the flora and fauna in your garden. Read on for tips on how to deal with an ant problem in your lawn.
Tools for getting rid of ants in the garden
The tools and supplies you will need to get rid of ants in a garden include:
- Ant repelling essential oils such as citrus, peppermint, cloves
- Borax powder
- Diatomaceous earth
- Garden spray bottles
How to Get Rid of Ants In Garden
If ants are doing more harm than good in your garden, try these ideas to get rid of them.
1. Use an essential oil pesticide
Essential oils, in particular, citrus, peppermint, and clove contain natural ingredients that are toxic to ants.
Citrus oil contains an ingredient known as d-limonene, which kills ants and eradicates pheromones, the chemical scent trail produced by ants to communicate with their colony members.
Cloves contain the chemical compound eugenol, which gets rid of ants and repels them from building nests in your garden.
Lastly, there is the minty ingredient in peppermint, which works as an insecticide and gets rid of the ants’ scent trail, forcing the ants to immigrate to another location.
To make the essential oils pesticide, you will need:
- Garden spray bottle
- 10 tablespoons of water
- 10 tablespoons of liquid soap
- 10 tablespoons of witch hazel
- 2 teaspoons of liquid soap
- 40 drops of peppermint essential oil
- 40 drop of citrus essential oil
- 40 drops of clove essential oils
Follow these steps to prepare the pesticide:
- Mix all ingredients in the spray bottle
- Locate the ant nest and spray the pesticide in this location. You should also spray along ant trails in the garden
Pro tip: Be careful when using essential oils around cats. These are mostly safe for humans and domestic animals but cats do not react well to the oils. To be on the safe side, after spraying the pesticide, keep cats away from the garden for a few hours.
2. Lay a Borax trap
Borax is a naturally occurring mineral salt that is highly toxic for ants. When they ingest the chemical compound, the ants’ digestive system collapses and they eventually die.
To lay a borax trap, you will first have to entice the insects with their favourite food. Mix the borax powder with the food and lay out the trap along the ant trails in your garden. A better option is to locate the source of the ants and place the borax trap there.
Once the worker ants locate the food and bring it back to the nest, the queen will consume the poison and die. By eliminating the queen, it is only a matter of time before you can get rid of the rest of the ant population.
Borax is effective in killing any type of ants that may be in your garden whether you are dealing with fire ants or carpenter ants or any of the thousands of species of ants. To get the most from the trap, use a combination of liquid and solid borax baits.
By using liquid and solid traps, you can target both adult ants, which can only digest liquids and larvae, which digest solid food and convert it into liquid form for the queen of the colony to eat. Liquid and solid traps will enable you to get rid of the entire population.
Pro tip: Try not to kill the native ants in your garden, as these are an important part of the ecosystem. Killing them will create an imbalance and attract more ants into your garden. To target the destructive ants, place the trap as close to the nest as possible and allow the worker ants to transport the poisonous food back on their own.
3. Apply Diatomaceous earth
Diatomaceous earth is a powder made of fossil remains of a category of algae known as diatoms. The contents of the powder are sharp enough to cut the outer layer of ants. Once the particles pierce it, the insect becomes dehydrated and eventually dies.
Here are a few tips to help you get rid of ants using Diatomaceous earth:
- Locate ant trails and follow their path to identify the source of the ants or their nest
- Apply a thin line of Diatomaceous earth powder along the trails and around the areas where the insects are gathered in large numbers.
- After a day or two, inspect the treated areas to check if the ants have gone. If they haven’t, you can reapply the treatment but if they have gone, clean up the area to remove any traces of pheromones to avoid attracting another group of ants.
- If the treatment is washed away buy garden sprinklers or rain, you will need to reapply to fully get rid of the insects.
4. Introduce beneficial nematodes
Another natural way to eliminate stubborn ants from the garden is to introduce beneficial nematodes to eat up the ants. Nematodes are tiny, thin worms that live in plant roots and leaves where they attack and kill pests.
- Nematodes offer several advantages. They are safe to both humans and pets, they are gentle on the soil and they can be used selectively to eradicate specific pests without harming beneficial flora and fauna.
- These microscopic worms are also cost-effective and they will come in handy if you are treating a large portion of land. They are also easy to apply and will kill pests within a few days.
- Once introduced into the garden, the nematodes will locate the ants, penetrate their body and release bacteria that are toxic to the insect, instantly poisoning the ant’s blood. The ants will then die soon after and become food for the worms.
- The best time to apply this treatment is in late summer heading into early fall. During this time of the year, ants are typically small and the nematodes can easily pierce the ants’ skin and release toxic bacteria into the insect’s body.
- It is also best to apply the worms in cool, rainy weather, early in the morning or later in the day when the sun is setting. This is because nematodes can easily die if exposed to direct sunlight.
Pro tip: Apply nematodes as soon as you get them to keep them from drying and dying too early.
5. Pour hot water
Ants die instantly once they get in contact with hot water. Locate the anthill in your garden and carefully pour boiling water inside.
This technique might not work immediately given than anthills can be quite deep and reaching the queen might require several attempts of pouring hot water.
Also, keep in mind that ants build their nests to withstand rain so you will need to pour boiling water on the anthill a couple of times to wipe out the colony.
When ants infest your garden, they can be quite difficult to get rid of. Here is a fun fact: There are more than 10,000 types of ants and each responds to pest control treatment differently. These insects also know how to adapt to survive, which makes eliminating them quite difficult.
Your best bet is to prevent ants from getting into your garden or returning once you apply the treatment. Here are a few steps you can take to deter ants:
6. Plant ant deterring plants
Herbs are a pleasant addition to any garden. While most are safe for humans and animals, some such as fire ants are toxic to pets. To prevent the insects from taking over your garden, plant herbs such as peppermint, cloves, tansy, lavender, rosemary, and catnip too.
7. Use deterring smells
If for some reason planting herbs is not an option, consider sprinkling dried herbs whose smell will put off the ants. Cinnamon, cayenne, and black pepper can be particularly unpleasant to ants. Sprinkle the dried herbs along ant trails and all around the garden’s perimeter.
8. Keep plants in check
Ants commonly enter the garden from the house. Prevent ants from climbing up from the house down to the garden by trimming tree and plant branches leaning against the walls of your house. These insects can also bore into the wood structure of the house and cause costly damage.
9. Check for leaks
Another way to prevent ants from moving from the house to the garden is to block or repair any openings in the plumbing or damaged weather-stripping.
If you are like most gardeners, you want to avoid using chemical pest killers. Try a combination of any of these methods we have recommended to get rid of ants in your garden. Just be sure to apply treatment discriminately to avoid killing beneficial plants and animals.
Have you dealt with an ant problem before? What has worked and what hasn’t? Let us know in the comments below—we’d love to hear from you!