An ant infestation can be harmful to your garden in several ways. Ants may damage the roots of your plants and also protect other pests like aphids, whiteflies and mealybugs. Some varieties like fire ants are known to eat off seedlings and young buds. Other types like carpenter ants prefer to live in wood, thus causing damage to trees and furniture.
Controlling ants in your garden is not as simple as it seems in the first instance. After all, they have been living on this planet right from the dinosaur days, developing unique survival skills. So, how do we go about it? Well, the effectiveness of treatment depends upon the type of ants and the place of infestation (whether indoor or outdoor). For example, fipronil-based insecticides are highly effective in getting rid of Argentine Ants while borax baits are used for common household ants.
Given below are three broad methods to control ants in your garden:
Don’t Invite Them
Just like sugar attracts ants in your home, honeydew attracts ants in the garden. Hence, keeping your garden free from honeydew secreting insects will ensure that you are not inviting these unwanted tiny guests to your garden unknowingly. Some of the common types of insects that secrete honeydew include aphids, scale and mealybugs. If you see any of these sap-sucking pests in your garden, make sure you get rid of them so that ants do not hang around looking for honeydew that these pests produce.
Plants like garlic, peppermint and tansy produce strong smells that repel ants. Having such plants in your garden minimizes the chances of ant infestation. You may also consider sprinkling pepper or cinnamon powder around your plants.
Another way is to interrupt a trail of ants by destroying the pheromones or scent that they use to follow other ants. Spraying the trail with vinegar, soap-water or peppermint-water mix will do the job.
Sprinkle diatomaceous earth powder on ant nests and trails. It dehydrates and kills them. Consider using food-grade powder so that it is safe for you. Also, remember to keep the area dry for a few weeks.
Lemon oil is also toxic to ants, while being safe for humans and plants in your garden. Prepare a solution of lemon oil, molasses, dish soap and water. Spray this solution around the plants to keep them safe from ants.
Borax is another commonly used bait for killing ants. Mix a half spoon of borax with equal amount of honey or sugar. Put the mixture into open containers and place them in your garden. The mixture will attract the ants, which they will carry back to their queen, killing the entire colony. You may also add a little water to the mixture, dip bread crumbs into it and spread them in the garden. However, make sure that you keep borax away from children. Wash your hands properly after the treatment. Borax is poisonous to humans and other animals.