It can be irritating when the only ones who seem to be reaping the benefits of your work are an entire army of ants. |
Gardening and growing things requires a certain amount of time, effort and patience. Ants have a tendency to take over an area quickly by way of force and if it's your plant they've set their sights on it can create a rather perplexing situation.
Ants are an important component of the garden ecosystem. Ants are cleaners: they eat and help decompose organic matter in the soil, enriching the soil. Ants also eat pest insects such as fleas, fly larvae, and termites. Ants tunneling in the soil improve soil aeration which is helpful to plant roots.
Ants become a garden pest when they eat living plants–usually seedlings, weak, or dying plants–and cultivate colonies of insect pests such as aphids, scale, and mealybugs (these bugs excrete a sugary substance called honeydew which ants eat–ants will farm these insects to ensure their own food supply).
Ant pests can be repelled or killed. A few ants in the wrong place are not a major concern: repel or deter these ants–they will go elsewhere and likely do no harm. Large ant nests in the middle of the garden are a concern; these ants may be eating young plants and cultivating insect pests. Pest ants should be eliminated before they take over the garden.
Control of ants in the garden can range from repelling or deterring them to killing them and eliminating the nest. Here are several organic ant controls: Repelling Ants
If ants are not a major problem in your garden: repel or deter them. Here's how:
• Ants are repelled by strong smells: grow plants with strong natural odors or volatile oils: peppermint and other mints, garlic, rhubarb, tansy, pennyroyal, and sweet fern. Ants are repelled by these plants.
• Ants are deterred by acidy plant substances: lemon juice or hot pepper sprays will send ants away. Mix lemon, hot peppers, or garlic with water in a blender then apply the solution as a spray or drench where ants congregate. A few ants will be killed; the rest will relocate. Other ant repellants include black pepper, cayenne pepper, cinnamon, and chili powder.
• Ants are covered with pheromones–a chemical substance. Ant pheromones leave a trail which allows other ants to follow. Disrupt the pheromone trail by spraying the trail with soap and water, garlic and water, vinegar and water, or a peppermint and water mix. The ants will become confused.
• Look for honeydew secreting insects–aphids, scale, mealybugs–and get rid of them. Ants farm these insects for the sugar rich honeydew they excrete. If the ants' food source disappears, the ants will move on. Aphids, scale, and mealybugs feed on weak or injured plants; keep your garden healthy to avoid weak or sick plants. Killing Ants
If the ant infestation is great and the survival of the garden is in danger, killing ants may be necessary. Be advised that pest ants will be killed, but so will beneficial insects that get in the way. As well, nearby plants may be injured or killed. Use pesticides with caution and care.
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