There are dozens of ways to get rid of ants in your garden. Some are pro; others are homemade remedies. Some are lethal; others force the ants to migrate. We will discuss at least one of each in this article. But before we do that, you need to know that it is neither bad nor unusual to have ants in a garden.
Sure, ants and the soil deposits they leave around can be irritating. But apart from this, they might not pose any real threat to you, your loved ones, plants, lawn and property. The most popular ant species in UK gardens, the black ant, can’t even bite (sting) through human skin. Only the red ant (AKA fire ant) can.
So, don’t worry that there are ants in your garden. Only worry if the colony becomes too large for comfort or if it starts to endanger life and property, especially lawn and plants. Outside of these, ants can live in your garden without causing disturbances or dangers.
Even better, they are beneficial to your garden. Ants can aid plant growth, and improve the soil and biodiversity of your garden. That’s why farmers sometimes intentionally add ants to their farms. So, ants are not all bad.
Therefore, before we show you how to remove them from your garden, we want to help you decide if that is the right move. If you are not interested in this part of the conversation, you can skip to the “how to” section. But we recommend you don’t because it will be eye-opening.
Why should you (sometimes) want ants in your garden?
As stated in the introduction, ants are not all bad. Here is how your garden can benefit from these unwanted, yet unsurprising and fascinating visitors.
- Ants can make your garden soil more fertilised and nutritious: Ants feed on organic wastes. These wastes include plants (fallen leaves and fruits) and animals (dead earthworms and insects). As a result, these organic wastes decompose faster, adding more nutrients to the soil. Your plants and lawn will love this.
- Ants can improve soil aeration: Ants loosen the soil when digging tunnels and building their nest. As a result, the soil becomes more porous, improving the movement of oxygen, nutrients and water. Therefore, these items are more easily accessible to plants. This benefit can prove invaluable when dealing with compact clay soil.
- Ants can protect your garden from some pests: Ants themselves are pests. They also encourage other pests (more on this later). For now, let’s focus on their ability to keep out other pests, like caterpillars, bugs, beetles, termites and fleas. Ants do this by preying on the eggs, larvae and young ones of these other pests. These pests (that ants keep out) pose much more danger to your plants.
- Ants can pollinate flowers: All animals that feed on nectar do this. They spread seeds as they move from one flower to another. Ants also pollinate flowers, although they are not the most effective pollinators.
- Ants can encourage biodiversity in your garden: The presence of ants can attract birds, frogs and lizards to your garden. These animals feed on ants. They also improve the ecosystem of your garden. Plus, birds and lizards are two essential natural pollinators. So, by encouraging these two animals to visit your garden, ants indirectly increase pollination rates.
Why do you need to get rid of the ants in your garden?
Despite the benefits we just discussed, there is no denying that ants are pests. As the colony grows, ants can become a nuisance and danger to plants, pets, and even humans. So, you don’t need any justification to want them gone from your garden.
However, in the spirit of disclaimers, here are some of the problems that ants can create in a garden.
- Ants can cause nuisance or danger to humans and pets: They can ruin lovely picnics by invading peoples’ foods and clothes. Plus, the pain from a red ant’s sting can last for days.
- Ants can ruin the aesthetics of your garden: We all get uncomfortable with the sight of ants walking around or the moulds and deposits of soil they spread. Too many of these can bring down the visual appeal of your garden.
- Ants can endanger your plants: The soil deposits they spread can kill grass, leading to bald patches on your lawn. They can also increase the loss of soil nutrients and plant susceptibility to illnesses.
- Ants breed aphids, which pose great risks to your plants: This is the biggest side-effect of having ants in your garden. Ants breed and protect aphids, whiteflies and mealybugs because these creatures secrete honeydew, sugary nectar. Ants love sugary things, so they farm and protect these creatures from predators. Now, here is the problem. Aphids, whiteflies and mealybugs can destroy your garden. They will eat through your plants, stems, leaves, roots and all.
How to remove ants from your garden
Before exploring ant removal methods, here are two things you need to know. Firstly, you need to be careful to avoid damaging nearby pants during the process. Secondly, you have to target the ant nest. You can’t just go after individual ants or trails. If you want those ants gone, you must find and attack their nest(s).
With that being said, here are 11 different ways to remove ants from your garden.
This is a popular and old method. It’s simple too. You just boil some water and pour it into the nest. You can also pour on ants outside the nest. Then wait a while to see the result, and repeat the process if necessary until (pretty much) all the ants are dead.
You can also use cold, ordinary or soapy water. However, with these three, the goal is to drown and suffocate the ants.
Cooking oil and dish-washing liquid mix
Like soapy water, this mixture also drowns and suffocates ants. You need ½ teaspoon of oil and 1 teaspoon of dish-washing liquid. Any cooking oil or dish washing soap will do.
The process is the same as we did with the boiling water. Pour the mixture into the nest and over ants outside the nest. For ants outside the nest, spraying will be easier. So get a spray bottle.
Sugar and boric acid mix
Boric acid is a poison. By mixing it with sugar, you trick ants into eating poison. They will take this sweet but poisonous substance into their nest, feeding and (unknowingly) damning the entire colony. Kind of like a Trojan horse, right?
Here is the process. Combine sugar and boric acid to form a paste. Then put this poisonous paste where you know the ants will find it. These locations include their nests and trials.
Bait station (AKA bait box)
This is a box containing ant-killing powder. Just buy, then set it along the ant trails. They will track the poison back to their colony, damning the others too.
These are microscopic worms that prey on ants, termites, fleas, bugs and other similar pests. Nematodes eat the larvae of ants and these other pests. They also drive adult ants from their nests. The best part is that after the job is done, these nematodes will perish because their food source is done. So they don’t pose any threat to the rest of your garden.
Food-grade Diatomaceous Earth (DE)
DE is a natural powder formed from fossils of algae. It’s a versatile substance for a farmer or garden owner. Here is how to use it to deter ants. Spread DE around locations and plants you don’t want the ants to come near. They (ants) will stay away. Do note that DE is most effective when the soil is dry. It doesn’t work that well on wet soil.
This kills ants and drives off the survivors. Just pour a litre of white vinegar into the ant nest. Then exercise some patience. You can also use regular vinegar. For this, mix 1 part vinegar and 2 part water.
Note that white vinegar is safer if grasses and plants are nearby.
This method works the same way as the diatomaceous earth method. Just spread some cloves or garlic powder where you don’t want ants. They will stay away from the area. You can use this method to chase ants away from certain plants, areas, their nest or your entire garden.
Insect-repealing herbs, spices and substances
These include cayenne pepper, orange peel, lemon peel, curry powder, cinnamon, garlic, and diatomaceous earth. The process is similar to garlic and diatomaceous earth. Spread these substances (solid or powder) around certain locations. Ants will stay away.
An inverted flowerpot
This method is unique among everything we have discussed so far. It is designed to force-migrate the ants, not kill them. Here is how to do it. Fill a flowerpot with sand, place it upside down over the nest, then wait for the ant colony to migrate into the pot. This could take weeks. But when it’s done, you get to move the entire ant colony without killing them.
A similar method is to remove the queen and wait for the other ants to follow. You will have to excavate their nest for this. The queen will be the biggest ant in the colony.
Professional Ant killer
They come in powder and paste form. These ant poisons are effective. However, introducing them into your garden may not be a great idea. They can change soil PH and affect plants. They can also be hazardous to kids and pets.
Still, ant killers are viable and effective options. You can get them in local stores. Just buy and pour into ant nests and trails.
Every ant removal technique listed in this article is tried and tested. However, they don’t always take on the first attempt. This is because ant nests/hills are complex. Apart from the mould at the top, the nest can be much deeper and wider underground. It can also contain up to 40,000 ants. Plus, a method that worked on one species of ants may not work on another.
So, be ready to try multiple attempts. Try to give any method (you choose) enough chance. Then you can try another or even call a professional exterminator, if necessary.
What do I have ants in my garden?
Ants want three things: food, water and shelter. They can find food in organic matter, like food remnants and fallen leaves or fruits. Obviously, your garden has more than enough water for them. Finally, they can find shelter under your grass and patio.
If ants can be beneficial to my garden, should I leave them?
You can let them be if they don’t cause any danger or disturbance to you, your loved ones, plants and the rest of your garden and property.
How can I prevent ants from getting into my garden?
As stated in the introduction, it is not unusual for ants to invade a garden. It may even be a good thing. So, you will probably have an ant problem at one point or another. However, these animals are territorial, so you will rarely have to worry about more than one colony at a time.
Still, here are some ways to keep them out.
- Keep your garden and patio clean: This will remove foods that attract ants.
- Cut your grass often: This will reduce shelter for ants
- Plant insect repealing herbs and spices at strategic spots: This will keep ants away
- Don’t let aphids excel in your garden: They damage crops and attract ants.
Are ants as hardworking as they say?
Yes, they work from sunup to sundown, only stopping to hibernate in winter. They also lift three times their weight. Apart from being hardworking, ants also have a complex social structure. Each colony has a queen, drones, soldiers and workers. Every ant in the colony plays a role.
Even their nests are complex, with different partitions for farming, airflow, nursery, and food storage.
What are the most popular ant species in the UK?
The three most popular ant species in the UK are red ants (Formica Rufa), yellow ants (Lasius Flavus) and black ants (Lasius Niger).