How to get rid of ants in the garden

How to get rid of ants in the garden is not a trivial matter. Many tomato and eggplant lovers know a lot about it.

A garden infested with ants is certainly not good news for its owner who toils all year long to dig, plant, water, etc…. to see his beautiful plants full of vigor and sap being attacked by these harmful insects that devour their leaves and seedlings.

In this article, we will discuss some basic notions about ants and how an ant infestation occurs. Then we will look at some homemade tips on how to deal with an ant-infested garden and what to do about it. These tips are for the most part already experienced by many gardeners around the world.

Before starting to read this article, we remind you that ants occupy an important place in ecosystems and therefore, it is not recommended to get rid of them completely but rather to regulate their presence. Because sometimes for various reasons, ants develop very quickly and in such large numbers that they become a threat to garden plants and especially to the vegetable garden. Just remember that nature has a great capacity to regulate itself and often does not need a man for that.

I. What are ants?

They are hyper-social and small insects ranging from 0.2 cm to more than 5 cm depending on the species, belonging to the family of Hymenoptera, where we also find wasps and bees.

They usually live in organized colonies underground, in mounds at ground level, or in the bark of trees, and are found in large populations in tropical forests, where they can even represent half of the insect population in these areas.

Ants are very similar insects to termites and many people tend to confuse them. However, the two species are somewhat different, because ants have a very thin waist between the thorax and the abdomen, unlike termites. In addition, ants’ heads are generally larger, with jointed antennae and strong jaws.

II. Ant lifespan

It is truly amazing how these little black (sometimes red) creatures can live so many years, longer than some mammals.

There are many studies in which scientists have suggested two main causes for this amazing longevity.

The first cause is genetics. The longevity of some ants depends on the branch of their species, which has acquired over time genes that have made them more resistant. Because we find in nature ants that live very long, while others live much less.

The second reason is the environment. That is to say the abundance of food, the humidity level, and the ambient temperature. 

The average amount of time an ant lives is between 1 and 2 years. Although there are species that do not exceed 3 weeks of life. On the other hand, in some species, the workers live up to 6 years.

On the other hand, the queens live between 12 and 15 years. They are the key element in the establishment of a colony since they are responsible for laying the eggs in the anthill. While the task of its daughters, the workers, is to bring food home.

III. Benefits of ants in the garden

Ants are organisms that have great ecological importance in their natural habitat. They oxygenate the soil, help in the degradation of organic matter, and regulate the reproductive cycle of certain plants by trimming their leaves.

Ants are great predators of other insect pests in the garden such as caterpillars, worms, grubs, spiders, sowbugs, and flies. And they are one of the best factors in the garden for the elimination of many pests.

It is due to their presence that there is the regulation and the delicate balance that is required for the vegetable garden to survive.

The problem with ants is that we start to see a large number of ants inside our garden, which is characterized by lines of ants that move around, following the pheromone traces left by other ants.

IV. Damage of an ant infestation in the garden 

Ants when in large numbers in a garden can produce the following ailments in plants:

1. They promote the multiplication of aphids

We all know that aphids are one of the main enemies of gardeners and crops. They are the main damage caused to plants even in an indirect way.

Ants are the ones who transport the aphids to the young shoots to feed. They also clean and protect them in exchange for collecting the molasses that these aphids excrete.

Indeed, aphids are a real threat to plants and vegetables in the garden. They feed on sugar-rich sap.

And their dejections are a kind of sweet liquid called honeydew, which ants love.

To get this almost free food, the ants have found a very simple technique to get a large quantity of it: they raise the aphids as one would raise cows in a meadow to get their milk.

They do everything to protect them from various predators such as ladybugs. They even clean their habitat and the leaves they occupy. Thus two of the blows, protect the small insects from parasites and recover a very rich food.

The ants sometimes go as far as moving the aphids from one plant to another when it is emptied of its sap and then put them back on another stem or plant still healthy and full of sap.

Et pour rappel, une plante avec des pucerons dessus est une plante généralement vouée à la mort et au dessèchement.

 2. Ants attack plants

There are ants, even if it is really rare, which eat the young seedlings newly emerged.

 3. A presence is annoying for people

Ants when they are numerous invade all spaces in the garden, even the pots are full of them. This fact is unpleasant to live with for gardeners who can’t even find a piece of earth to blow.

4. Ants and nectar

 Ants sometimes take the nectar from flowers and thus reduce the amount of nectar provided by Mother Nature for other insects like bees. But this is of no major importance.

5. Too many ants in a garden

When there is a big infestation of ants in a garden, they build several ant hills all over the place, and this is when it is very close to the plants. They risk killing them because of the depression they make in the soil.

6. Stealing seeds from seedlings

Ants have no law that forbids them to take seedlings newly planted by gardeners. Sometimes they will pick up seedlings that are left on the surface and take them back to their anthill to add to their stock.

V. How to get rid of ants in the garden

We have seen the benefits and harms that can come from ants. It is undeniable that exceeding a certain population in a certain cultivable area, their misdeeds become more important and require a radical response from the gardener.  We will now some methods and tips for how to get rid of ants in the garden.

And remember that sometimes the combination of two or more tips will give a faster and longer-lasting result. So do not hesitate to implement the maximum of these tips.

1. Diatomaceous earth

Diatomaceous earth is a whitish powder made of fossilized marine phytoplankton. Although it is completely harmless to us, mammals when in contact with the exoskeleton of an insect, absorb the waxy membrane and eventually kill them.

Therefore, try spraying this substance on and around the ant farm. Better yet, they won’t even see the process and they will pass through the powder, accidentally contaminating themselves. This will gradually kill them.

2. Vinegar

Vinegar is a quick and effective solution to end the infestation for anyone who wants to know how to get rid of ants in the garden. Prepare a solution of equal parts water and vinegar and spray it with a sprayer in all areas of the garden.

The strength of this product and its high acid content are highly venomous to ants; on the other hand, their smell will help repel them and scare them away from your garden. In small doses, it is not dangerous for other plants in the garden.

3. Chalk Line

Another good idea that will help you eliminate ants in the garden is the use of chalk or baby powder because both products are natural repellents for this type of insect

For some reason, ants don’t cross chalk lines and no one seems to know why. So draw a chalk line around the areas you want to protect.

 You can draw lines with powdered chalk in your garden or sprinkle talcum powder in the most strategic areas. This way you will prevent ants from moving around your garden or even your house.

4. Growing certain plants

It is recommended to grow certain fragrant and repellent plants in case of ant infestation. For example, onions, garlic, or lavender. If it is already too late to plant them, you can even spray an infusion of these plants.

For example, you can take a few cloves of garlic and crush them in a liter of water. Then spray it on the surroundings of the anthills and the plants. The same can be done with onions and lavender.

It is advisable to let these plants macerate for several hours to acquire a bitter consistency.

Another interesting option is to prepare a solution based on lemon juice and water. This juice is an effective repellent because its acid content causes ants to confuse their tracking sense. Spray it on the path of the ants and you’ll notice how useful it is.

5. Coffee grounds

Coffee grounds are one of the tips for how to get rid of ants in the garden. It is known to be an excellent ally in the garden.

It can be used to speed up composting or even as a fertilizer for your plants. But what interests us here is its characteristic of being a great repellent of insects in general, including ants.

Even if it doesn’t kill them, it at least keeps them away from your beautiful plants.

Just sprinkle the soil of the plants with the coffee grounds to keep them away for good.

6. Boric acid

Boric acid when mixed with powdered sugar proves to be an excellent repellent for invasive ants. By mixing the two ingredients in equal parts and placing the solution over the path of the ants in a container protected from rain and wind, you will be able to get rid of the ants in the garden in the long term.

7. Baking soda

Insects globally do not like baking soda at all, and ants are among those who hate the smell of this multipurpose substance.

To prevent ants from infesting our gardens, we can sprinkle baking soda on the borders of our gardens. And to also put on the anthills, which will force them to move out in the long term.

8. Boiling water

Hot water at a high degree is one of the old tricks to eliminate ant hills established in gardens and vegetable gardens. Perhaps the simplest answer to how to get rid of ants in the garden is in the use of boiling water.

It is necessary to first locate the ant farm and prepare the maximum amount of hot water to drown with the hosts of the hole that lies under the soil of our garden. A radical solution to scare away the remaining individuals.

Do not hesitate to repeat the operation several times in a row to ensure the definitive elimination of ants.

9. Neem oil

Neem oil is also famous for being a good repellent for insects like bedbugs. A few drops in a sprayer full of water will do the trick to keep ants from getting to plants already sprayed on the ground with this solution.

 For one liter of water, you should put between 20 to 30 drops of neem oil.

VI. Prevention of Ant Infestation in the Garden

First, watch for the creation of new colonies and prevent them from establishing themselves as soon as they are discovered near the crop rows.

Always set aside a few rows of crops for insect repellent plants such as garlic, onions, and lavender.

Cut off diseased branches from trees in the garden and throw them away in the forest or simply burn them.

Have the reflex to put the coffee grounds daily at the feet of the plants and trees.

Hopefully, we have answered the question of how to get rid of ants in the garden.

Useful Links:

Ants have colonised almost every landmass on Earth.

Identifying ants

10 Cool facts about ants!