An infestation of ants in your lawn can be a very unsightly problem. Anthills don’t exactly add to the aesthetic qualities of your yard or garden. However, getting rid of them can be tough. Ants are resilient and tend to keep coming back unless you actually kill them. So, for those of you who are averse to actually killing them, expect to rid yourself of them for a short time only to find them back again.
Also, understand that if you simply cause the ants to move out of their current mound, and you don’t kill them, they will likely build a new mound very quickly, and likely still in your yard. So, now you’ve simply got one old mound and a 2nd new one. Not exactly an aesthetic improvement to your lawn.
It’s one thing to keep ants out of your home, but it’s a completely different scenario when you’re trying to get them out of your lawn. In my opinion, killing them is likely your only option.
For those of you who agree with me and who wish to actually kill the ants so they don’t come back, understand that you have to get the queen. If you don’t, no matter how many of the “worker ants” you kill, they will keep coming back, even if you manage to achieve a short respite in their comings and goings.
For the kind hearted individuals reading this book, here are some deterrent options you can use if you don’t want to kill the ants. Most of them simply require you to sprinkle them around areas where the ants are living, but, remember, it’s pretty likely they will just come back in another location.
Ants typically do not like mint, cinnamon, cloves, cayenne and an herb called “tansy”. If you can, planting anything that produces any of the above repellents could be a significant help. Not only will the ants likely avoid the areas where you have these plants, you can also take what the plants produce and use it to treat other areas for free. Otherwise, many of the spices listed you could purchase in bulk from Sams or Costco or any bulk food store.
Alternatively, if you’re averse to killing the ants yourself, maybe you can let them kill each other. I heard an interesting story of a lady who used to take a shovel and would transplant ants from one mound to another and vice versa. It is said that the ants would fight and kill each other. Don’t know how true that is, nor whether the queen would be affected, but it might be an interesting experiment.
If you’re looking to kill the ants, then you first have to know what attracts them, so you know what to use as bait. Most ants are attracted either to sweets like sugar and honey or to fats like grease and such. Since most people are not ant experts, and there is no reason they should have to be, spending time here trying to help you establish exactly what type of ants you have would be an exercise in futility. It really doesn’t matter. All that matters is knowing how to “bait your trap”.
So, the first thing is to do a couple of test runs to see what the ants are attracted to. Go out and find an ant colony in your yard (find a mound). Then, nearby place a large spoonful of honey and a foot or two away, place a spoonful of non-liquid bacon grease or something similar. Go back a few hours later and see where the ants are. There will likely be a large concentration of ants surrounding one spoonful and virtually none at the other. Now you know what to use as bait.
Why not just poison the bait the first time around? Well, primarily, if you overdo it on the “poison” (whether organic or not), you might deter the ants from even taking the bait in the first place, which might then give you the impression that your bait was no good when, in fact, you might have found the perfect bait.
By testing the bait separately first, you eliminate other factors that might get in the way. Then, once the bait has been tested, you can then test different amounts of your “poison” to see what amount works best.
In testing the poison, you must keep one thing in mind throughout. You’re not really trying to kill the “worker” ants – at least not primarily. Your primary objective is to get the poison into the mound and to the queen, so you can kill her. Kill the queen, kill the colony. So, if your poison is too strong, you kill all the worker ants before they can get the poison back to the queen. Too little and you don’t kill any of them. The key is, start small and work your way up until you reach the right ratio of poison to bait.
Orange oil, as is found in orange rinds, is one very good natural ant poison. You see, unlike humans and animals, the breathing passages of insects are waterproofed by a wax lining. The oil within the orange peel softens and dissolves this wax lining, clogging the passageways and quickly leading to the insect’s death. Humans, animals, birds, and the environment are unaffected.
So, you can blend up some orange peel and mix it with your bait (again, something sweet or something greasy, depending upon which your particular ants are attracted to).
Dry yeast and cornmeal are also good ant poisons. With these, it is the expansion of these common household items that causes the death of the ant. Once they’ve eaten the bait, the cornmeal or yeast has also been ingested. It doesn’t then take too long before the “poison” begins to expand, eventually killing the ant.
When planting your bait, if it’s liquid enough you can pour the solution right in the opening to the anthills. Otherwise, you can place it somewhere close to the anthill or close to a path the ants typically travel. The attraction of the bait draws the ants to the “poison”. Then, once the ants recognize the bait as being good, they take it back to the colony and to the queen. Congrats. You’ve now killed the colony.
Of course, if you’d like to simply purchase a non-toxic, commercial product instead of blending your own, there are plenty out there. Can’t say that I have any specific recommendations, although numerous studies have shown that a citrus oil based product should work well. Arbico-Organics.com offers numerous commercial ant control products.
As another alternative, diatomaceous earth may also be a good choice. Diatomaceous earth is comprised of the fossilized remains of diatoms. In other words, it’s ground up algae shells, and is completely non-toxic. To you it will feel somewhat like flour, but to small insects it is like walking on huge, jagged pieces of glass. Either they die from the injuries or they move out of the area. Simply spread the diatomaceous earth over areas of concern (it will wash out with a good rain, so make sure you are going to have at least a short dry spell and re-apply after heavy rains). It will actually work it’s way into the soil and help with aeration also.