Ants are very common in pots and gardens. They’re very sociable insects, and they form colonies where each ant has its place and a job. They can communicate with each other and survive under difficult conditions. There are several species of ants, most of which aren’t harmful to humans or plants. Black ants, fire ants worker ants, carpenter ants and the list goes on and on.
In many cases, we should admit that ants benefit your garden as they help fertilise the soil, they create ventilation and better drainage of the water into the soil with the tunnels and the new nests they make. Plus, they disperse soil nutrients and help spread plants by transporting the seeds to different places. At the same time, though, they can damage gardens and plants. Let alone how irritating they can be. Do you already know how to get rid of flies, wasps, bees and midges but not this insect? If you have found an army of ants in your backyard and you’re looking for ways to get rid of them, here are all the possible, natural and not, ways. No need to call pest control.
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Why are you getting ants in your garden?
Several factors may attract ants to your garden. If there are breadcrumbs left on the soil or your patio, then for sure, you’ll see ants coming one after another to gather them. However, it isn’t your fault for the appearance of these tiny hard-working ants in many cases.
If insects that excrete honeydew have infested your garden, ants are attracted by that, and they collect it, helping at the same time your plants from infestation. If left on plant leaves, honeydew will block photosynthesis, as mould will grow and cover the leaves. However, it isn’t the only factor that attracts ants in your garden. Sugary substances, like nectar, small insects and also other ants are factors for ant infestation. Some species of ants look for food sources on oily seeds like cyclamen or in vegetable gardens.
How to get rid of ants from your garden?
Thankfully, there are several natural ways to eliminate ant colonies from your garden. They contain natural ingredients which don’t harm you, your plants and the environment in general. Let’s see them.
1. Keep your garden out of the debris
OK! It might sound impossible; it is, though, a way to keep ants out of your garden. You’ll probably have realised that when breadcrumbs and any other food particles are left, then, almost immediately, an army of ants appears, mostly when you leave behind sweet and starchy food, like sugar, honey and cornmeal.
Thus, don’t leave any sign of food. Clean everything out of crumbs. The table, the chairs and don’t forget to sweep the place around where you eat. If you have a pet, avoid leaving its bowl outside, as pet food attracts ants. Wash it after your pet has finished its food to eliminate the food scent.
2. Find the ant nest
It’s a bit hard to find the ants’ nest, but you can achieve it if you follow the trail. Ants tend to move one behind the other. Thus if you find the edge of the group, you’ll probably find their nest. As soon as you find it, then you’ll be able to deter the whole colony. Expose the nest’s top and pour a kettle of boiling water over the nest. This will eliminate the whole colony, including the queen ant.
3. Clean your yard
Ants like to build nests under layers of fallen leaves, thatch and firewoods. Keeping your yard clean of any dry grass and wood will keep ants out of your garden. Plus, every time you use your lawn mower, rake the grass and bag it to prevent thatch. What’s more, if you notice an anthill, spray the ant mound with insecticide and plant grass to prevent ants from returning.
4. Check your flowers
Check your flowers, including those in pots and flower beds, for swarms of ants. If you find any, then there’s probably a nest under the soil. Get rid of those plants that look infested and plant, wherever is possible, some citrus rinds like lemons and oranges.
5. Glass cleaner and dish soap
A glass cleaner-dish soap combo can stop ants from strolling in your yard. How do these two products work together? Ants leave a scent behind while walking called pheromone. When you spray the area with the combined solution, it just removes that smell and ants don’t come back because, without the pheromone scent, they can’t communicate with each other.
What do you need to do?
- Just mix in a bottle of glass cleaner and a little dish soap -instead, you can use liquid detergent as well; it can work the same way- and spray the area where you find ant colonies or where they come from.
- Wipe down the area, but not completely. Make sure you leave a light residue.
6. Diatomaceous earth (silicon dioxide)
Silicon dioxide is a naturally occurring powder extracted from the ground. It consists of diatoms -microscopic skeletons of algae- that have been fossilised over millions of years. Its diatoms are made up of a chemical compound called silica-found in nature as a component from sand and rocks to plants and humans. It is used as a filtration aid, mild abrasive in products including metal polishes and toothpaste, insecticide, absorbent for liquids, matting agent for coatings, cat litter, a thermal insulator, and soil for potted plants and trees like bonsai.
Silicon dioxide isn’t dangerous for humans since it isn’t poison. But it can irritate your skin. When it comes in contact with insects, it removes the outer coating from their exoskeleton. What do you have to do to get rid of ants? Just sprinkle it wherever ants are. For more details, you should read the instructions labelled on the package.
7. Borax (sodium borate)
Borax is a natural mineral used in many detergents and cosmetics. It has many uses like softening hard water, neutralising odours, treating mould and mildew, antifungal compounds, and insect killers. Borax might be a natural substance; however, it isn’t safe for humans and pets. It can irritate the skin, eyes, and respiratory, cause digestive problems and so on. It is, though, a great ant killer if combined with sugar.
To create the borax solution, you need:
- ½ teaspoon of borax
- 8 teaspoons of sugar
- 1 cup of warm water
- A bowl
- Cotton balls
Now, do as follows:
- Mix into a bowl, borax, sugar and warm water and stir very well until borax and sugar are completely dissolved.
- After that, soak some cotton balls in the solution and place them in the areas where ants congregate.
Note: You can also leave some bowls with the borax solution out in the garden. Just be sure to wash them very well afterwards, or throw them away.
8. Boric acid
Don’t confuse borax with this acid. They aren’t the same. This product is a compound used to get sweat smells out of your clothes, deodorise your fridge, and kill pesky bugs crawling around your kitchen, including ants. It is a poison, so make sure you keep it away from children and pets and protect yourself while working with it.
You are going to need:
- ½ teaspoon of boric acid
- 8 teaspoons of sugar
- 1 cup of warm water
- A bowl
- Cotton balls
Once you’ve gathered all the ingredients, follow these simple steps:
- Pour a cup of warm water into the bowl and then add ½ teaspoon of the acid and 8 teaspoons of sugar. Stir until you dissolve the acid and sugar.
- Then, soak a few cotton balls into the mixture and place them wherever you’ve seen ants.
Bonus tip: You can also mix boric acid with maple or corn syrup and apply it on a flat, throwaway surface, like a cupboard. Then place it where you see ants.
9. Hand soap
Another great pheromone-scent remover is hand soap. Mix hand soap with water and wash the areas where ants pass by. Soapy water will remove the smell that ants leave behind while passing through an area and lose their way.
The smell of pepper irritates ants a lot. Hence, you can use black or red pepper as an ant pesticide. Just sprinkle some pepper around, focusing mainly on the areas where ants are gathering.
Peppermint is an excellent, natural solution for many bugs, including mosquitoes and ants. A few drops of peppermint oil is enough to vanish these irritating visitors. Just make sure that there aren’t any pets around, especially cats, as they can become very ill. Let’s see how you can make your own.
- A spray bottle
- 10-20 drops of peppermint oil
- 2 cups of water
- Mix the oil drops with two cups of water in the sprayer and shake it very well.
- Spray the solution around the area where ants congregate and let it dry.
12. Tea tree oil
Another great bug repellent is tea tree oil. Tea tree oil is effective in killing ants. Just keep in mind that like almost all essential oils, tea tree oil is also harmful to pets.
What you need:
- A spray bottle
- 5-10 drops of tea tree oil
- 2 cups of water
- Cotton balls
Now, you can follow these instructions:
- Pour 2 cups of water into the bottle and add 5-10 drops of tea tree oil.
- Now, you can spray some cotton balls with the mixture and place them where ants hang around, or you can directly spray the area with the solution.
13. Lemon eucalyptus oil
An excellent natural solution is also the lemon eucalyptus oil, which contains citronella. You can find this oil at health food stores and online. To get rid of ants, just soak some cotton balls with the oil and place them where ants appear. Make sure you renew cotton balls every week.
14. Oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE)
Don’t confuse lemon eucalyptus oil with oil of lemon eucalyptus. OLE comes from the gum eucalyptus tree found in Australia and contains an effective insect chemical that reppels insects called PMD. It can be used to repel ants and mosquitoes. Saturate some cotton balls with OLE and place them wherever you see ants.
15. White vinegar
White vinegar is a well-known and effective cleaning agent. From now on, you can use it as an ant repellent too. Use diluted vinegar on all hard surfaces throughout your yard. The strong smell of vinegar repels ants even when it dries, and you can’t smell it. Mix equal amounts of vinegar and water and wipe every possible surface with the mixture.
16. Boiling water
As we already mentioned, boiling water is excellent to destroy ant holes and kill all the ants in the nest, including the queen ant. But, it can kill the entire colony. That’s why you have to treat every single ant hole you find in your yard.
Cornstarch is very effective at repelling ants, especially in large amounts. You just need to pour cornstarch over the group of ants and add water on top. If you don’t want to make so much mess, instead of using water, cover the ants with cornstarch and vacuum them.
18. Cinnamon leaf essential oil
Cinnamon leaves contain trans-cinnamaldehyde, which is very effective at killing ants, including red ants. How can you apply cinnamon leaf oil? The procedure is very simple. You just have to soak some cotton balls with the oil and leave them in the areas you see ants. But you can also sprinkle some powder around the areas. The strong aroma of the cinnamon will repel them.
19. Neem oil
Neem oil is extracted from the neem tree that originated from India. You can find neem oil and products containing neem at health food stores and online.
20. Coffee grounds
If you want to get rid of ants, then you should try these grounds. Brew some coffee and sprinkle the brewed coffee grounds on areas that ants gather, like pet bowls and plants.
Tried all-natural methods but nothing? Try this!
If you didn’t have the desired results with the above natural ways, you could use commercial products dedicated to killing ants. You can find sprays designed for that but also use bait traps, which contain pesticides. How do ant bait traps work? They attract ants. They eat the bait and carry some back to their nests, killing at the same time other ones as well. Ants also eat dead ants. This way, more ants absorb the pesticide. If everything you try, natural and non, but still ants wandering around your yard, then it’s probably time to call the professionals.
Can you permanently get rid of ants in the garden?
You can get rid of ants in your garden by preventing growing aphids, scale insects and mealybugs, taking good care of your plants by firming them very well into the soil, watering them and watching out for any damaged plants.
You can also look for ant nests on the lawn. Ants make hills causing patches and letting weeds grow into the turf. You can get rid of the anthills by watering them with cold water regularly. Avoid the use of boiling water to destroy ant nests on the lawn as it will destroy your plants as well.
Ants are very frustrating insects. You can find them on every nook and corner of your property, either inside your home or outside in the garden. They’re looking for any kind of food to bring back to their nests. You can now get rid of these tiny visitors following the above DIY repellents. Try them and say goodbye to these uninvited guests.