It’s happened to me many times: I go out to do a little work in my garden only to find that ants have moved into one of my beds and aren’t too pleased that I’m rooting around out there. Ants in the garden can be distressing if you aren’t a fan of bugs, but they don’t always spell problems for you.
There are pros and cons to having ants in your garden that we’ll be discussing in this article. Let’s get right to it.
Are ants in the garden a problem?
Before we go killing anything with fire, you should assess whether or not the ants in your garden are actually a problem. Gardening is a way for people to impose the order of homogenous, straight lines of crops into the chaos of nature – but that doesn’t mean that your garden isn’t still a wild place.
Gardens are buggy. There’s worms, snails, crickets, ants, aphids – all manner of different creepy crawlies that can be beneficial or detrimental to your garden. Ultimately, you need to reason out that you can’t control each and every single two, four, six, eight, (or more) legged creature that decides to call your garden home.
Read More: 16 Plants That Repel Bugs
Ants can be beneficial to your garden
Here’s a fact about ants: they exist and have existed for millions of years which makes them a vital part of our ecosystems – and your garden. Ants aerate your garden’s soil, which allows water, oxygen, and nutrients to reach your plants more easily, and they can help break down organic material faster, which also fertilizes your plants.
Some ants will also feed on pests, like aphids, and act as a food source for animals that you might like seeing in your garden, like birds, frogs, toads, lizards, and other small creatures. Ants are a part of the circle of life!
But ants can also do harm
Not every ant is a benevolent little creature strolling through your garden. Some ants can cause property damage and, even worse, inflict pain or death in humans.
Some species of ant truly love getting into the foundations and walls of homes. Carpenter ants are a well known type of ant that can cause property damage.
Other ants are able to inflict pain, like the notorious fire ant, found in some southern areas of the United States. Fire ants inflict a severely painful, burning sting to unsuspecting humans and, if stung enough times, can cause death. Most fire ant stings will fade in a few days, but they can cause death in about 5 percent of humans stung.
So identifying the type of ant in your garden will really be what determines whether or not you need to take action.
How to get rid of ants in the garden
There are a few strategies that can be effective at getting rid of ants in the garden. Ants are numerous and tough to budge, though, so your mileage may vary.
- Repel ants using cinnamon and cayenne pepper around your plants. This should stop or reduce the number of ants found on your plants.
- Gently get rid of aphids by hand or with non-chemical aphid spray. Aphids are a source of food for ants. No food, no ants.
- Distribute food-grade diatomaceous earth around ant trails and nests. These method kills ants and other unwanted pests by dehydrating them, but are non-toxic to humans.
- Worse comes to worse, go nuclear. The best non-toxic way to get rid of an ant colony is by pouring boiling water on the nest itself. This water can kill worker ants, larvae, eggs, and, if you’re lucky, the queen. This method carries potential bad karma.
- Attract insects that kill ants. Praying mantises, for example, are known to eat ants. Read about how to attract praying mantises to your garden.
When in doubt, leave them be
If you aren’t sure what type of ant you have and they don’t seem to be hurting you or anything else, your best bet is probably to work around them. Ants aren’t necessarily a pest and likely won’t cause any harm to your garden. But like any unexpected guest in your home, best to keep an eye on them.
Keep Reading: Plants That Repel Ants In Your Garden