There are numerous pests that can appear in your garden, but one of the more impressive is the ant. Working together ants can achieve incredible feats, moving seemingly impossible weights of food and material to build their colony. However, as impressive as they are, ants can be destructive too, especially if they start roaming inside your home in their search for food.
With that in mind, knowing how to deal with an ant infestation in the garden can be helpful during the summer months, but to do so effectively, you need to know what it is you are up against.
An ant is never alone
The first sign that you have ants in the garden maybe when you spot a single ant in your kitchen, or exploring your flowerbed, Rest assured that ant is not alone, because ants live in colonies consisting of thousands of ants that perform different roles, workers, soldiers and so on, along with at least one queen.
Larger colonies will have more than one queen, with thousands of workers dedicated to keeping each one fed and cared for. But it is the winged ants, known as alates, that emerge in their thousands during breeding season in the summer that will be the pest that causes you to want to know how to remove ants from garden areas. The winged ants make spending time in in your garden unpleasant, as they swarm in such numbers.
The colony lives underground in a series of tunnels and chambers, with just a few small entrances on the surface. A colony can take up a surprisingly large area and descend many feet deep, with the shape and size of the ants themselves affected by the size of the colony. The important thing when dealing with ants, is that if you encounter ants, there is a colony nearby. Ants do not exist on their own, and so the question when finding out how to get rid of ants in garden bed settings, is how to remove the colony.
Do you need to kill them?
As predators, ants will keep the population of destructive insects in your garden down, so you may be asking why they may be thought of as pests in the first place. We mentioned earlier the problem of them getting inside your home looking for food, and the issue that the winged ants cause in the summer months, but ants can also cause problems in your garden in other ways.
Ant colonies are formed underground, often around the roots of plants, hindering growth and weakening them, which leaves the plants more prone to disease. The weakening of plants can occur over a wide area and cause problems across the garden.
Ants also love honeydew, which is a substance secreted by some destructive insects such as aphids. Here, rather than hunting and eliminating the insect threat to your plants, some ants will actually defend them to ensure their honeydew supply. This can have a severe impact on your plant’s health all over the garden.
However, if the ants in your garden are not causing plant problems, are not getting into your home or really affecting you, do you really need to get rid of them? As part of the natural ecosystem, we should always think twice before killing a colony, and do so as a last resort.
Dealing with an ant infestation
When learning how to kill ants in garden UK residents have a choice of natural methods or can go the chemical route. While the natural methods apply everywhere, if we discuss specific brand names or types of chemicals, for those of you looking for help understanding how to get rid of ants outside UK region, the chemical solutions available to you may differ.
A Natural Approach
Because you should always want to be as gentle to your garden environment as possible, our journey to an ant-free space starts with finding out how to kill ants in garden naturally, using no commercial chemicals.
This is perhaps the most common way to get rid of ants in garden bed or other areas, boiling water. It is the solution my Dad used when I was a child, pouring boiling water into the entrances to the ant colony. It is a simple solution, but because you probably won’t find all the entrances, you may have to repeat this a few times to kill off all the ants.
Food grade diatomaceous earth cuts through the ant’s exoskeleton, killing those that come into contact with it. Sprinkling it around plants, into the entrances to the colony or across trails that ants are using will kill them off. Again, you may have to reapply a few times. Always wear a dust mask when using diatomaceous earth, you don’t want to breath it in. This approach is great for dry soil, but the damper things are, the less effective the treatment.
Washing Up Liquid
Take a small amount of washing up liquid and mix with cooking oil, add them to water and mix thoroughly with a whisk. Pour the mix into the colony entrances, and spray around areas where there is a lot of ant activity. This can get rid of ants in garden because the soapy, oily liquid enters the exoskeleton.
White vinegar is highly acidic, something ants are very vulnerable too as they cannot cope with high PH levels. You only need around a 5% vinegar solution in water to have the desired effect. Pour down the colony entrances where it will kill ants on contact.
There are many substances to choose from here, all have been used successfully. The idea is you take a substance the ants do not like crossing, and then place it over areas where they are often seen, around entrances to the nest and so on. While this does not kill the ants, it will irritate them enough to move. You can use a variety of materials for this, the most effective being:
- Crushed red pepper
- Garlic Powder
- Cayenne Pepper
- Curry Powder
This needs to be reapplied after rain, and while it can encourage the colony to move over time, you never quite know where they will move to. The ants could remain a problem afterwards.
Natural solutions can be effective, but usually take a little time to do their thing, so if you are impatient or have an urgent problem that needs dealing with, the commercial solutions offer faster results. There are two types of commercial ant poison available from most garden centres, whether own brand or well-known manufacturers such as Nippon or Raid.
Commercial ant poison in gel form is great for a safe, fast way to get rid of ants from the garden. The ants are attracted to the sweet gel that you place around the colony entrances. The workers will take the poison deep into the colony, eventually killing the queen and other ants inside.
Boiling water aside, this is perhaps the most commonly used way to get rid of ants from a garden, the familiar white powder that you sprinkle around areas of ant activity. Unlike the gel, powdered poison is a hazardous substance, and you should keep any pets or children well out of the way, and ensure you wear a mask and gloves when applying it.
While it is effective, there are issues. It can be harmful to plants, so it is best to restrict its use to areas around the property such as hard paving where the soil cannot be contaminated. In addition, ants can build up a resistance to the poison, so it is possible for it to become less effective over time.
Professional Pest Control
In the most severe cases, where you have tried everything else and ants are invading your home on a daily basis, a professional pest control service may be the answer.
You may be surprised at the range of option available when choosing how to get rid of ants in the garden soil, but there really is something for everyone to try. From simply boiling a kettle to calling in the professionals, there is a way to get rid of ants in garden areas that will work for you.