Ants, just like any other insects and garden organisms, are beneficial to mother nature. They help aerate the soil, indicate that your garden has an aphid infestation, and can even help with the pollination of certain plants. Ants help control other pests by eating them and help in the decomposition of organic matter like leaves and grass clippings.
Unlike some other pests, ants do not directly attack your plants. However, they do ‘farm’ aphids so definitely take action if you find the presence of both insects!
Most of the time, ants live in a colony with their queen deep in the soil, and they mostly cause no harm to ornamental plants.
They can even be a mostly harmless addition to a veggie garden, provided you’re not growing something they’re prone to going after like:
- Okra blossoms
- Potato roots
- Watermelon fruit
- Any other sweet fruit, especially in hot weather
Due to their rapid multiplication, these insects might become too many for you to manage, and they might spread close to where you live. Fire ants are especially bad about inflicting pain by biting you, your family members, or even your pets.
The colony might also play a role in increasing other garden pests aside from aphids like scale, whitefly, and mealybug, which also make sweet secretions and are attracted to sweet things just like ants are.
When it gets to this point where the ants are causing more harm than good, it’s best to get rid of them. To effectively remove ants from your garden, use a method that will affect not only the ants but also their queen.
There are many ways to do that without resorting to chemical insecticides or commercial ant killer, including the following:
This is one of the most effective ways to get rid of ants in your garden. Ants can’t smell or taste borax, but research says that almost all ant species are attracted to sweet things.
The best way to get rid of ants with this product is by mixing it with equal parts of water and sugar or using other sweet products like honey, maple syrup, peanut butter, or corn syrup. You can then sprinkle the mixture on the nests or smear it on an index card or cardboard and place it near the nests or around your garden.
The ants will eat it and then take it inside the anthill to the rest of the colony, including the queen. After 2-3 days of the ants ingesting the borax mixture, they will die because it is hard for them to digest borax.
Keep monitoring the ants and if you still see traces of them around, consider using the mixture again. Borax is made from a natural boric compound, and it can be toxic to your pets if they ingest it, so ensure you only sprinkle it in moderate amounts within areas out of reach to pets.
Food Grade Diatomaceous Earth
This is another natural yet effective product that you can use to get rid of ants in your garden and around your home. It’s made from diatoms, which are fossilized hard-shelled algae crushed into a fine powder.
Even in powder form, the fossilized hard-shelled algae have sharp ends that pierce the ants and penetrate their bodies, causing dehydration. Spread the powder over the anthill or around the areas they visit most, and after about two weeks, the ants will die from dehydration. If it rains at all though, you’ll have to reapply it because it gets washed away quickly.
Since it only kills those ants that come into contact with it, do your best to get it inside the nests where most of the ants and the queen will be because killing only those on the ground will not solve the problem.
For maximum effectiveness with Food grade diatomaceous earth, you have to ensure that it remains completely dry. Also, be careful not to buy a swimming pool diatomaceous earth as it will not be as effective.
Food grade diatomaceous earth is not harmful to you, your family members, or your pets if accidentally ingested in small amounts, so you do not have to worry about sprinkling it around your home.
Using Regular Chalk to Confuse and Repel Ants
This method mostly works by repelling instead of killing the ants. A study done on ants says that they communicate using scents and following the other ants’ trail. You can crush classroom chalk and pour the powder around the area you do not want the ants to cross or simply draw a line.
The chalk’s powdery texture will impact the ant’s sense of touch and cause them to be confused as to which trail was used by the other ants.
Some experts say that chalk is made from the crushed shells of some marine animals, which makes it rich in calcium carbonate, a known ant repellent.
One of the main benefits of using chalk is that it is not harmful either to the ants, you, or your pets, meaning that you can keep the ants in your garden to help with pollination and aerate the soil, and keep them from your home to avoid harm to you, your family and your pets.
It is also readily available and cheap. All you have to do is ensure that it’s not blown away by the wind and if it is, keep adding more of the powder. If you run out of chalk, you can use baby powder too.
If you use this method, it is key that you do not confuse classroom chalk with ant chalk, which is a chemical insecticide and can cause harm to your family members or pets.
Carefully Use Boiling Water
This is one of the most tedious methods, considering that ants make their homes withstand rain and flood, but it has proven to be effective in a pinch. To use this method, you have to know where the ant nests are, and you should use boiling water when the nests are still fresh.
Fresh nests are not built as deep down into the soil as old nests, which makes their destruction easier. You have to use a lot of water to ensure that it gets to the queen and ensure it is hot enough; otherwise, the queen will survive, and the ants will keep reappearing.
Experts say that 1-2 gallons of boiling water has a 60% success rate in killing ants in new mounds. Research done by the University of Florida says that scalding water, which is 190F- 212F, also has a 20-60% success rate in eliminating ants.
Pour your water slowly into the anthills, being careful not to burn yourself or your plants. You have to do this a few times before all the ants are dead, as a small disturbance to the mound causes the ants to move their queen even deeper, making it harder for you to reach her.
Grow Ant Repelling Plants
For more effectiveness, you can add a few drops of liquid dishwashing soap to the water. The soap will suffocate the ants and rapture their cells, reducing their chances of survival.
As we saw earlier, ants mainly communicate using scent. Research says that peppermint is one of the most effective ways to disrupt that communication because of its strong smell. You can try to grow a few peppermint bushes around your home or garden to ensure that ants do not cross over.
If it is too late for you to grow the peppermint, you can consider buying a few leaves from the market, grind them and mix them with water.
You can also boil them or mix ten drops of peppermint essential oil with water and spray the mixture around the areas you do not want the ants to reach around your home, on the doorsteps, and in window frames.
For faster removal, spray that mixture directly onto a trail of moving ants. Some other ant repelling plants you can use include the following:
This method is not harmful to the ants, your crops, you and your family, or your pets; instead, it will help you add some beauty around your home.
Cinnamon is another great method to use if you only want to repel the ants and not kill them. Ants are attracted to sweet things like sugar, and cinnamon is not on the list of sweet things.
To use it, you can choose to spread the cinnamon powder around the areas you do not want the ants to reach, like your garden or your home. If you have potted plants, you can also spread the powder around those plants.
Consider also sprinkling the powder around the anthill to prevent the worker ants from returning to it. That will cause the other ants to look for another way to get out of the nests in search of food, to keep them and the queen from starving to death.
While cinnamon can be a bit expensive, it is effective and will not harm your crops, pets, you, or family members. You can use cinnamon together with artificial sweeteners, where you spread the sweeteners in the areas or direction you want the ants to follow.
Some other methods you can consider using include the following common household items:
- Orange Guard
- Baking Soda
- Coffee Grounds
- Rubbing Alcohol
- Tea Tree Oil
- Cucumber Peels
- Cayenne Pepper
You can also consider covering your garden with nets, especially if you have a raised garden. These nets should have very tiny holes but be enough to pass sunlight, air, and moisture to your plants.
You should also ensure that there are no holes in the nets big enough for ants to pass through.
With all these methods, you have to be careful not to harm the plants, introduce unwanted chemicals in the soil, and ensure that your pets do not ingest the harmful chemicals. If you still need help keeping ants off your property after trying a few of these methods, be sure to contact a local pest control expert or the county extension office for more help.