There are more than 12,000 kinds of ants around the world, with commonly encountered garden ants including the Argentine ant (Linepithema humile) and the pavement ant (Tetramorium caespitum). Ants have many benefits, such as cleaning up decaying plant matter and aerating the soil. Ants can encourage the presence of aphids and other honeydew-producing pests, however, and may also bite you and create a nuisance. Control ants with a variety of options ranging from low-toxic pesticides to physical, manual removal.
Soak the Potting Soil
Ants may occasionally invade potted plants. If you notice ants in the potting soil, find a bucket that's bigger than the plant pot. Place the potted plant in the bucket and fill the bucket with a soapy solution made from combining 2 tablespoons of liquid dish soap for every quart of water used. Use enough soapy water that the water covers the surface of the potting soil.
Soak the pot for 20 minutes. The soapy solution drowns and kills any ants or ant nests in the potting soil. Remove the pot and flush it with fresh water to remove all traces of soap.
Burn With Boiling Water
The heat from boiling water scalds and kills ants on contact. Meanwhile, the rush of water drowns any surviving ants and collapses the ant nest.
Heat 2 to 3 gallons of water to a roiling boil and pour the hot water directly onto the ant nest. This method wipes out the entire ant nest approximately 60 percent of the time. Repeat the application of boiling water if you notice ant activity resuming. In many cases, it can take three or four boiling water applications to destroy the ant nest.
Avoid getting boiling water on any desirable plants. The heat and steam will kill grass, flower plants and any other vegetation it touches.
Bait the Ants
While you can buy commercially prepared toxic ant bait from a garden store or nursery, try making your own low-toxic ant bait at home using boric acid.
Things You'll Need
- Honey or peanut butter
- Index cards
- Boric acid
- Measuring spoon
Clean plastic container with lid
Test whether the ants you're wanting to get rid of are sweet-loving ants or fat-loving ants. Smear honey on an index card and peanut butter on another index card. Place the cards where you notice ant activity in your garden.
Monitor the index cards for one day. At the end of the day, the card that has the most ants on and around it indicates the bait of choice.
Mix a homemade ant bait by combining 3/4 teaspoon of boric acid with either 4 tablespoons of peanut butter or 6 tablespoons of honey.
Smear the boric acid-laced bait into a clean plastic container with a lid, such as an empty, washed yogurt container.
Close the container and poke a couple of holes in the lid.
Place the container wherever you notice ant activity in your landscape. The ants will crawl through the holes to access the bait and bring the bait back to their nest. The boric acid will kill the entire nest over time.
Check the trap every couple of days. If the bait is gone but ant activity continues, replenish the bait. It can take several weeks for boric acid to wipe out the ants.
Bucket the Ants
Bucketing an ant nest is one of the fastest, most efficient and simplest ways to get rid of an ant nest instantly.
Things You'll Need
- Closed-toe shoes and pants
- Shovel and bucket
Baby powder or cornstarch
Pull on a pair of closed-toe shoes and long pants. Tuck your pants into your shoes to keep ants from crawling into your clothing.
Dust a shovel and bucket with cornstarch, baby powder or similar powder. This will prevent ants from crawling up the shovel or the sides of the bucket.
Head out into the garden in the early to midmorning, which is when ants are moving slowest and most ants are still in the ant colony.
Dig up the ant colony, digging in a 1-foot circle around the ant nest and removing soil approximately 2 feet down into the ground. Pour the removed soil into the bucket.
Take the bucket into a deserted field and dump the ants if you don't wish to kill them. If you want to kill them, fill the bucket with water and add a squirt or two of soap. Leave the bucket overnight to drown and kill the ant nest.