When the weather is good, you might have the urge to put down a blanket or towel on your lawn and just sunbathe for a bit. Unfortunately, there are usually a few pesky critters crawling around – ants!
Ants on your lawn can be annoying, but they do a lot of good as well. If you really want to get rid of them, you can use methods such as heat treatment, soapy water, diatomaceous earth, white vinegar and more.
To find out how these methods should be used and to learn about a few more to try, keep reading.
How an ant infestation affects your garden
Ants are small insects that can be seen as garden friends and garden pests. A pest is an insect that transmits diseases and damages the environment or plants around them. Ants can fall into this category, but that doesn’t mean they are all bad.
Ants can actually have a beneficial effect on your lawn and garden plants. Ants tend to dig through the soil, aerating the earth and making it more absorbent and easier for roots to penetrate. They also carry organic matter like dead insects and plant material under the soil. When this material breaks down, plants can use the nutrients they provide as fertiliser.
Some ants are also predatory. This means they will take care of other garden pests like plant lice, spider mites and more. Even ants that feed on plant material will benefit your garden. They tend to eat the algae and mildew that forms on some plants and not the plants themselves.
Unfortunately, ants can also help some pests, like the aphid, survive. Aphids and ants have a symbiotic relationship where the aphids feed the ants and the ants protect them in return. This is a relationship you want to destroy as soon as possible since aphids are highly damaging to plants and crops.
Some ants like the fire ant can also be dangerous to our health. They have a nasty sting that can cause severe reactions. If you have fire ants, it’s best to get rid of them as soon as possible.
You might also be wondering ‘do ants eat grass?’ the answer is yes and no, it depends on the species. Some ants don’t feed on grass, but their nests and ant hills will smother the grass killing it in the process. That also answers your second question, do ant nests damage lawns?
Do you need to remove ants from your lawn?
No, you don’t need to remove the ants if they don’t bother you. The only time you might consider removing ants is if you have a problem with a stinging species such as fire ants, or a potentially destructive species such as carpenter ants. These ants tunnel through wood as they build their nests and can be extremely destructive to your furniture and home.
If you don’t spend a lot of time on your lawn and don’t have kids who do, you can leave the ants alone. They benefit your garden after all. Ants will also disappear on their own as lawn health improves, so keep up the good work.
How to get rid of ants nest in your lawn naturally
Getting rid of ants naturally requires a bit of research. If you want the ants to go away but don’t want to kill your lawn in the process, here’s what you can do:
1. Find out which ants you have
There are as many as 50 ant species in the UK and the type of ant that’s infesting your lawn will determine how to get rid of them. Here’s a breakdown of 6 possible ant species that you might have in your lawn:
- Black garden ants
This is the most common species of ant in the UK. Black ants tend to nest on the edges of lawns, under pavements and even in your walls if you’re not careful, in fact, they’ll nest just about anywhere there’s a suitable spot for them.
Black ants are quite robust and use formic acid to attack their prey and defend their nests. Colonies can include as many as 15,000 workers, but 4,000 to 7,000 is the average colony size. Black garden ants prey on insects, nectar and even their own dead.
Due to their fondness for sugar, you can easily bait these ants with a sugar water mix to get rid of them.
- Yellow meadow ants
Yellow meadow ants are another common garden ant species. These ants tend to build small mounds on your lawn and can easily be mistaken for the red ant due to their colouration. Yellow meadow ants aren’t destructive and won’t damage your lawn too badly. If you leave them be, you can easily coexist.
Meadow ants also tend to stay underground so you’ll hardly know they are around unless you look for the mounds. The most common time to see them is during their mating flight or when the nest is disturbed. Yellow meadow ants are beneficial to your garden since they feed on small insects and mites that stray too close to their tunnels.
- Black stinging ants
The black stinging ant is a species of ant that’s typically found along the coasts of southern and western England. They have large nests of up to 30,000 ants which makes them quite a formidable opponent. As the name suggests, these ants will sting if they feel threatened in any way. Black stinging ants are beneficial to your garden as they appear to bury their food in mounds of soil. As the food decomposes, your plants will be able to use the nutrients.
- Wood ants
The wood ant is a timid species of ant that prefers to nest under rotting logs. They are mostly found in the Midlands down to southern England. This ant lives in relatively small colonies of about a thousand ants.
Unlike most ants, wood ants have extremely good eyesight that allows them to spot prey and danger from a distance. When confronted, these ants tend to run rather than fight. If you have wood ants in your garden, you can leave them be. They pose no threat to you at all. If they do get into your home, however, you’ll need to remove them quickly before they bore into your wooden furniture, floors and walls.
- Red ants
Red ants consist of more than one species of ant. They can be found just about anywhere in the UK. These ants tend to be a deep red colour and are known for their painful stings. Myrmica ruginodis is the most common red ant. This ant lives in small colonies of about 100-300. Red ants are polygynous which means they can have many queens in one colony. They are extremely aggressive so watch out, they have no problem attacking humans.
- Horse ants
Horse ants, also known as red wood ants, are another common ant species found in southern England. This ant tends to build large mounds from pine needles and other woodland litter. For this reason, they are usually found on the edges of forest clearings, pathways and in dense gardens. They also have huge colonies with as many as 100,000 ants.
Watch out if you have horse ants in your garden. They are large aggressive ants that will attack by biting and spraying formic acid if disturbed.
Now that you know a bit more about the ant species you’ll be dealing with, let’s look into how to remove them.
2. Make a sodium bicarbonate solution
Sodium bicarbonate, or baking soda, is an inexpensive and eco-friendly option for killing ants. Before making a sodium bicarbonate solution, you’ll need to know what each species of ant prefers. Red ants for instance prefer protein over sugar water. This will affect how you mix your sodium bicarbonate solution. Here’s what you need to know:
Making a sugar water trap:
- Sodium bicarbonate
- Solid, absorbent food like waffles or bread
Add 3 heaped spoonfuls of sugar and one spoonful of sodium bicarbonate to a container. Mix about 6 spoonfuls of warm water to dissolve the solution. You can add less water if you want your solution to be less concentrated. Make sure you have something solid to place in the liquid. Allow your solid portion to absorb as much liquid as possible, but make sure you still have some liquid left for the adults.
The reason for the solids is that baby ants eat solid food while adult ants prefer liquid. The adult ants will take the poisoned solids to the nest to feed their young. This way you’ll be eradicating the whole nest, not just the adults.
This solution will work well for any ant species with a sweet tooth like sugar ants.
Making a protein trap:
- Egg whites
- Sodium bicarbonate
- Solid, absorbent food like waffles or bread
Add 3 heaped spoonfuls of sugar and one spoonful of sodium bicarbonate to a mixing container. Mix one or two egg whites into the solution. Make sure you have something solid to place in the liquid. Allow your solid portion to absorb as much liquid as possible, but make sure you still have some liquid left for the adults.
Making a fat trap:
- Peanut butter
- sodium bicarbonate
- Solid, absorbent food like waffles or bread
Add 3 heaped spoonfuls of sugar and one spoonful of sodium bicarbonate to a container. Mix with lukewarm water to dissolve the solution. Add one heaped teaspoon of peanut butter and mix until it forms a milky solution. Add more water to get the consistency right.
Alternatively, you can keep it as a thick solution and spread it on the bread. If you have a liquid mix, make sure to add something solid to the liquid. Allow your solid portion to absorb as much liquid as possible, but make sure you still have some liquid left for the adult ants.
The peanut butter trap works well for any ants that prefer something fatty.
3. Make a trap
Now you have your poisoned solution, but now what? You don’t want to poison the wrong critters, so make sure to place your poison in a trap. You can simply use a closed container with some small holes drilled in the side.
This allows the ants to enter, but other insects like bees can’t access the mix. Also, make sure to place the trap out of reach of any pets that might think it’s a toy or delicious treat. Once your trap is ready and baited, place it near an ant trail or nest to start the killing process.
Other homemade ant treatments for the lawn
Besides the sodium bicarbonate solution trap, there are also other home remedies for ant infestations. Let’s take a look.
1. Boiling water
Boiling water is a very effective method for eradicating ants if you can access the nest. Keep in mind that boiling water is dangerous, so take some steps to protect yourself while using this method. Boiling water will also damage any plants you pour it on, so make sure you’re prepared for some brown patches on your lawn.
To use this method, simply pour boiling hot water into an ants nest. The water will kill them instantly and hopefully go deep enough to get to the queen. This method is not foolproof, so make sure you have a backup.
Vinegar is another effective method to get rid of ants. To prepare a vinegar solution, mix equal parts water and vinegar. Once done, put it directly onto the ant hill. If you have some left, spray the area surrounding the ant hill with the solution.
Ants use scent to find their way back home. Vinegar removes the scent which causes the workers to get lost. The ants inside the ant hill will be killed by the acidity since their small bodies can’t withstand it.
Keep in mind that even though vinegar works really well, it will kill your plants and lawn. The roots of your plants will get burned and die off as a result. It may take a while for any plants to regrow as well since the vinegar will make the topsoil very acidic.
3. Sun exposure
This might sound ridiculous since the nest is most likely already in the sun, but it does work. The ants built their nest there for a reason, after all, the environment in that area was perfect for homing them. To use the sun exposure method, you’ll be disturbing the criteria they need to survive. Here’s how.
Ants can only survive up to a maximum temperature of 46°C. This means that if we raise the temperature above this level, they will quickly start dying.
To do this, you’ll need a beautiful sunny day, some bricks or rocks and a black bag.
Simply lay the black bag over the ant’s nest and hold it down with the bricks or rocks. Now you wait. As the sun shines on the black bag, it will heat up the nest below. If it’s a nice sunny day, the temperature will quickly exceed the critical thermal temperature ants require to live.
Keep in mind that this method will also damage your grass. You’ll need to pay extra attention to your lawn to get it back in shape after effectively cooking it under the black bag.
4. Soap and water solution
Soap and water are other methods you can use to get rid of ants. This method doesn’t work that well on lawns, but you can use it in your home and on your potted plants.
The soap masks the pheromones ants leave behind to find their way back home. This confuses them and they get lost. Secondly, if they are in direct contact with the soapy solution, it will stick to their bodies and suffocate them. Soap doesn’t kill plants, so you can safely use it on potted plants that have been infested with ants.
5. Non-chemical ways to kill ants
If you don’t like the idea of using chemicals, even weak ones like sodium bicarbonate and soap, you can use natural pest control such as nematodes. Ants hate nematodes since they naturally predate the ants. For this reason, the ants will quickly relocate their nests to a safer area away from your garden. The best part, the parasitic nematode, Steinernema feltiae, is safe to use around children, pets and wildlife. You can use this method to get rid of black, red and yellow ants.
To use this method, you will need to get your hands on some nematodes. After that, simply ensure the soil is moist around the ant’s nest and introduce the nematodes. Keep the soil moist for at least two weeks after setting them free.
Keep in mind that the soil temperature needs to be above 5°C for this method to work. Nematodes can survive the odd frost spell but will die in constant coldness.
What about commercial ant nest killers for your lawn?
Commercial products are very harmful to the environment, before you consider them, make sure to try the sodium bicarbonate solution again. This method is very effective even though it can take a week or two to work, so be patient.
If nothing works, it’s time to get in pest control. They will quickly and effectively sort out your ant problem once and for all.
How to get rid of ant hills after ants are gone
Once the ants are gone, it’s just a matter of time before the nest will disappear. To speed up the process you can help it along by raking the loose soil into your lawn. This way, you’ll be exposing the grass below which will help it to recover faster. The extra soil will quickly be reabsorbed into the system so you won’t even notice it after a few days. You can also use water to help the ground quickly absorb any excess soil.
How to prevent ant mounds from appearing on your lawn
As soon as you notice an ant hill appearing on your lawn, take action quickly. Create a sodium bicarbonate solution and place it near the ant trail or nest. In a matter of weeks, the problem will be solved.
You can also stop ants from coming onto your lawn in the first place by scattering diatomaceous earth over it. This is a fine rock powder with very sharp edges. Keep in mind that it will kill all insects that walk over it, not just ants.
Why is my lawn full of ant nests?
If your lawn is unhealthy or struggling in any way, it creates the perfect breeding ground for ants. Ants will usually pick a bare patch of soil or a thin patch of grass to build their nests on. If the grass is lush and healthy, it creates a thick carpet that is too difficult for ants to burrow into.
How do I get rid of ants in my lawn without killing them?
The best way to get rid of ants without killing them is to improve the health of your lawn. Ants will thrive on a lawn that’s struggling in some way. If you can create a lush, thick green lawn, you’ll notice the ants naturally moving away.
Alternatively, you can spray a weak soap or vinegar solution on your lawn to remove any pheromones that the ants leave behind to find their nests. Make sure it’s weak, however, you don’t want to kill your grass.
Can you mow over ant hills?
Yes, but they will return again. If you want to get rid of them for good, try diatomaceous earth or a sodium bicarbonate solution.
What is the best ant killer for lawns?
Sodium bicarbonate is the best and safest solution when getting rid of ants in lawns. Alternatively, you can also try diatomaceous earth, but it only works when the lawn is dry for a period of time. sodium bicarbonate traps will work regardless of the weather and kill the whole colony as the ants take the poison back to the nest to feed the queen and young.
How long does it take to get rid of ants from your lawn?
Depending on the method you use, it can take anything from one day to several weeks. The sun exposure method usually works within a day, while the sodium bicarbonate solution can take a week or more to kill off the colony.
Ants on your lawn don’t need to be the end of the world. There are easy methods to get rid of them such as making a sodium bicarbonate trap and using vinegar or diatomaceous earth to get rid of them. Whatever method you choose, keep in mind that not all ants are bad and they do contribute to a healthy ecosystem.
Which method did you use to get rid of ants on your lawn? Let us know in the comments below.