How to get rid of ants in the garden

UK Home Improvement

How to Get Rid of Ants in the Garden

Your household garden provides you with a great place to relax, spend time with friends and family and enjoy some fresh air when the weather permits.

However, you are usually not alone in sharing its benefits. This is because almost all gardens in the UK are also home to a wide range of insects and creepy crawlies who live in the space. 

Usually, this is nothing to worry about. In fact, gardens often play a vital role in local ecosystems, helping food chains, biodiversity and all kinds of wildlife to thrive.  However, in some instances, the presence of a large amount of certain insects can be a problem. 

Ants are perhaps the most common insects you’re likely to find in your garden with more than 30 different species living in the UK. More often than not, they’re completely harmless and they’ll do little to bother you. However, in some instances, such as a large infestation, it may be necessary to take evasive action to remove them.

But the question of ‘how to get rid of ants in the garden’ is one where the answer isn’t always clear. In this article, we’ll explore how to get rid of ants, so you can get back to enjoying your garden in the best way possible.

Different types of ant

Like many insects that you may see in your garden, ants are well-known for being social creatures. This means that when you spot one or two, you can bet that the entire colony is not far behind. They’re similar to bees in the sense that they live in large nests with the average colony comprising of a staggering 20,000 – 100,000 ants. These colonies are usually made up of one queen and thousands of worker ants who are responsible for keeping the colony functioning.  

Given the sheer size of just one colony, it’s easy to see how an ant infestation in your garden might become irritating. 

As mentioned above, the UK is home to around 30 different species of ants, but they can be broken down into three main categories.

Black ants

The black ant, or Lasius niger if going by its Latin name, is the most common ant you’re likely to come across. They live under pavements, in soil, plant pots, lawns and compost heaps and it’s likely you’ve seen these little guys scuttling along many times in your life. Black ants are completely harmless as they do not have the ability to sting. More often than not, they’ll keep themselves to themselves and cause you no trouble at all.

Yellow ants

Another common ant you may see in your garden is the yellow ant or Lasius flavus. Sometimes people will mistake these for red ants (more on those later) as their colour is not black and most people wrongly assume we only have black and red ants in the country. However, just like black ants, yellow ants do not sting and are completely harmless to humans. You’re likely to find them living in grass where they often build small mounds for themselves. 

Red ants

Finally, red ants. Red ants have a reputation for being the nastier ant type in the UK, and this is largely down to the fact that they can bite. A red ant bite is unlikely to do you any lasting damage, the most that will happen is you may experience a mild sting on your skin. However, they prefer to eat insects and spiders rather than bite humans so if left alone you’re unlikely to be too bothered by them. Plus, they’re far more rare in British gardens compared with black and yellow ants.   

What problems do ants cause?

Now we know the different types of ants you may come across, let’s take a look at some of the problems ants can cause in a garden. As previously stated, more often than not ants will not bother you at all. You may spot more of them on your property during the warmer months, but this does not necessarily mean they’re going to cause you issues.

However, there are a few circumstances when they might cause problems.

They can destroy plants

The biggest problem ants are likely to cause you is that they might eat or destroy your garden’s plants. Plant sap is a popular and tasty dish in the ant world, so it’s not uncommon for them to dig into your garden’s plants. However, it’s unlikely they will cause significant damage from eating. Instead, the bigger risk to your plants is if the ants nest in the plant pot or soil surrounding the plant. This is because their nest may disrupt the plant’s roots, causing it to wilt and die.

They can bite

Red ants can bite people which may cause a mild stinging sensation on the skin. These bites can also be a bit itchy, but on the whole it is not going to cause you too many problems if you get nipped by a red ant. Plus, red ants are pretty rare for gardens and black and yellow ants will not sting you. 

They can get into our homes

In some circumstances, ants may enter our homes. Sugar is a big part of an ant’s diet and they’re attracted to anything sweet and sugary to satisfy this craving. If they catch wind that your home has some sugary snacks for them to enjoy, they may sneak through gaps in your property and enter your home. While mostly harmless to humans, this is still not a pleasant experience to deal with especially if it’s a large quantity of ants invading your property. 

They are a sign of other pests

This is not so much a problem that ants cause, but if you think you have an infestation of ants in your garden it’s probably a sign of a larger problem. This is because ants are often a signal that other problematic insects are on your property. This can include mites, mealybugs, whiteflies and more which are all known to cause more problems than ants.  

How to get rid of ants in the garden 

Before getting rid of ants in the garden, you should think very carefully whether this is the appropriate cause of action. Ants play a crucial role in local ecosystems and in most cases will not damage your garden or outdoor space.

However, if you have a serious problem with ants and have no alternative, there are a number of things you can do to remove or kill ants in the garden.

Use boiling water 

This is probably the most common method people use to get rid of ants in their gardens. Once you’ve located the entrances to an ant’s nest, you can use a kettle and pour boiling water into the nest. This will kill the ants, but may require several attempts to remove all of them.

Use cayenne pepper and cinnamon 

You don’t need to kill ants in the garden to solve your ant problem. In particular, if you’re concerned about impacting your plants there are a number of mitigations you can take. Use cayenne pepper, cinnamon, chalk or curry powder and create lines around your plants that can act as a barrier. Ants will be deterred by these substances, and likely leave your plants alone. If it’s rained, be sure to reapply these lines as the rain will wash it away. 

Use Dawn detergent 

As well as being used to wash dishes, the dishwashing detergent Dawn can also be used to get rid of ants. Mix two teaspoons of Dawn with four tablespoons of baking soda and add water. This will create a solution that is toxic to all pests, including ants.

Use borax and sugar 

For extreme ant infestations, combining borax soap with sugar is known to kill ants and destroy their nests incredibly effectively. Mix the two substances together to create a gel-like solution. Then, drop this directly into the ant’s nest. This will kill the ants, but will not cause any harm to any surrounding plants or damage your lawn.

Use diatomaceous earth 

If your ant problem stems from ants living in your lawn rather than an external nest, using diatomaceous earth is a great solution. A natural pesticide, this product looks like talcum powder and can be simply sprinkled across the grass where the ants are present. The solution works by dehydrating the ants which will kill them.   

Use orange peel

You might be surprised to learn that orange peel is actually extremely effective when it comes to getting rid of ants. This is because some of the components of orange peel will kill ants’ supply of food, resulting in them having nothing to eat. This will likely see them abandon your garden in search of somewhere with better food options. 

Use white vinegar 

White vinegar has an extremely low pH level that makes it deadly to ants. Simply pour the vinegar into an ant’s nest or on ants in your grass and it will quickly eradicate them.


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