Garden Ants... How to get rid of?

Melissa B.
Melissa B. Posts: 4 ✭✭✭
edited October 2020 in Pest & Weed Problems/Solutions

Hope this question is in the right place. I have a small three tiered garden I put together last summer. I went to plant a couple sweet bell pepper plants and the top tier is teaming with ants. I put a layer of diatomaceous earth down, and then mixed up some honey and borax and set a small amount in the corner. Neither seemed to do much. As soon as I break through the dirt they stream out. I've put another layer of DE down and some more honey/borax out, but I don't have much hope. We've got three more days of rain coming, so it will wash out anything I've put down. I hate not being able to use one third of my small garden area. :(


  • H_D
    H_D Posts: 384 ✭✭✭

    ants actually have a purpose in our gardens..they aerate the soil and help move oxygen and water through..they are natural pest control as well for specific pests. with that said

    have you tried..

    sprinkling some ground cinnamon or cayenne? Honey may not be strong enough as a "sugar" for the need. Have you tried placing Tansey or Bay Laurel in your garden (it will also attract ladybugs and the like) on that note I am sure essential oils will also do the same trick.

    Is it possible the ants are doing there job and there are other pests around like aphids??

  • schaeffersj7
    schaeffersj7 Posts: 1 ✭✭✭

    I have been using sugar to get rid of fire ants. I buy the biggest bag of white sugar that Costcot sells. When I see a fire ant mound I sprinkle a handful of sugar and in a day or two they are gone. It only works during the time they are feeding,. not when dormant in the winter. I don't know i it kills them or drives them away but they are gone. Sometimes I put sugar in my fert. spreader and cover the whole yard.

  • Melissa B.
    Melissa B. Posts: 4 ✭✭✭

    Thanks Heather, I'll try some cinnamon or cayenne. I removed all the dead plants in the fall, so I didn't find the ants until I went to check the moisture before planting just a few days ago. I didn't see any in the lower two tiers while I was planting. Did find some worms in the lowest tier, thought that was good. The ants only appear to be in one side of the top tier, but I hesitate to plant my pepper plants for fear of the ants.

    Thanks Schaeffer, if the cinnamon/cayenne doesn't work I'll try sugar. :)

  • Grammyprepper
    Grammyprepper Posts: 168 ✭✭✭

    Hey, @Melissa try putting earthworms into the other tiers of your planter! When I find random worms, I always rehome them in my container plants. IDK if that will help with the ants, but it will surely help your plants.

  • Melissa B.
    Melissa B. Posts: 4 ✭✭✭

    Okay Grammyprepper, I just had to internet search ants and worms, LOL! Looks like the ants -probably- won’t hurt my worms. I should see if I can transplant a few to the top tier and go ahead and plant the pepper plants.

  • LaurieLovesLearning
    LaurieLovesLearning Posts: 7,356 admin

    We found that sugar/honey with borax did nothing. We mixed it with water alone, and that worked.

    I think that I also remember reading something about rhubarb tea made with the leaves. Of course, this is not to go on top of edibles and NOT to consume. Spray or pour use only.

  • map2health
    map2health Posts: 2

    @Melissa. I know how invasive ants can be. I live in the southern hemisphere, my garden has barely survived a heavy drought last year that put us onto very strict water usage. We have placed all kinds of water saving features in our garden now including water tanks from our gutter run off and DIY catchment pipes from all our drainpipes. During this time we were infested with ants. They were probably desperate for water too. But they brought aphids and all kinds of trouble along with them. (eating up our grouting under our outdoor patio tiles!). Whilst I tried to encourage them to mutually beneficial areas, I didn't want them near my tiny fledgling lemon tree, my new grape vine and my two potted Blueberry bushes that I was watering every day with my rationed shower water run-off. I remembered Neem oil and looking it up on this network (I think?) I found that it was a perfect, non invasive solution. Mixed with a soapy solution and sprayed liberally on all areas they loved to congregate around my plants and bases of my pots has definitely worked.

    By the way..I also came across an article that stated diatomaceous earth is not at all good to use in the garden or to use medicinally either. I will try to find the article. Anyone else come across this?

  • Melissa B.
    Melissa B. Posts: 4 ✭✭✭

    The article about diatomaceous earth would be interesting. It didn’t seem real helpful when I tried it. If you are able to find the article, I’d be interested in reading it.

  • cre8tiv369
    cre8tiv369 Posts: 67 ✭✭✭

    Ants love mounds, and a 3 tier planter is a mound. I always have a few mounds around my property near areas I don’t want ants and the ants always settle in the mounds (they are ant magnets and the ants always go for the mounds). When they do, I dig up the mounds and liberally powder the swarming ants with diatomaceous earth (the DE has to be dry to work, it scrapes off their wax coating and they dehydrate as a result). I load the ant swarming dirt into a wheelbarrow and cart it away and spread it around, scattering it around is important (the DE is a direct attack and a scattered ant colony no longer functions as a collective and dies). Then I get some fresh dirt and build a replacement mound near the location of the one I just destroyed. A pile of wood chips can act like a mound, but the main colony will be in the dirt under the wood chip pile, and that is a pain to dig out, so be careful not to ignore a pile of any debris as it can attract an ant colony. Manipulating ants by giving them mounds makes it easy to spot them and deal with them if and when they get too close to a house or garden. Pests are best controlled when you can use their nature against them or to direct them in a way that suits your desires. I would take apart your three tier planter and dig out the colony this fall/winter and then rebuild your planter. Raised beds can be seen as mounds to ants as well, but a proper mound (taller) nearby will usually draw them to it, and away from the raised beds. Good luck.

  • kbmbillups1
    kbmbillups1 Posts: 1,314 ✭✭✭✭✭

    I had really bad ants in my garden this year. This worked really well for me: They say the key is the right ratio of sugar to borax. I made 4 bowls in those tiny Ziplock container and put them in my beds where the ants were taking over. The next morning I was surprised at the amount of ants in the bowls. Within a few days my ant problem was under control.

  • Leslie Carl
    Leslie Carl Posts: 255 ✭✭✭✭

    We use boiling water. Enough to soak the whole mound. The boiling hot water kills them on contact.

  • Hassena
    Hassena Posts: 345 ✭✭✭

    We've used essential oils to make the ants move away from areas we like to be in often. Like our home/kitchen. Making a spray of the oils remove their scent trail. We like wintergreen best as it's supposed to make ticks move out.

    lets see....we pee on ant mounds, use boiling water and pretty sometimes i dig up their mounds. Unless they are biting me or in our home I let them be.

    best of luck. Some ants are really bitey and that stinks.

  • Owl
    Owl Posts: 346 ✭✭✭

    I found a recipe online (that I can’t seem to locate now) that had me soak garlic in water for a couple days and remove the garlic, add cinnamon, a drop of soap, cayenne pepper, and (I think) lemongrass essential oil. I will look for it because it works. I made up a gallon and use it a lot. It sure stinks though!


  • @Lexie I would love to try that, thank you!

  • Leslie Carl
    Leslie Carl Posts: 255 ✭✭✭✭

    @Melissa & @seeker.nancy I just read that beneficial nematodes will eat ants but will not harm your plants. So if you introduce these nematodes into your garden bed, the ants will vacate or die.

    We sprayed nematodes on our garden last year, in an attempt to rid ourselves of the japanese beetle grub population, which actually worked quite well. But I didn't realize that they were good for getting rid of ants as well. We have a large nest in our strawberry patch, which didn't get the nematode treatment before, that I'll have to try that on. I was afraid to use boiling water for fear of killing the berry plants as well. This would be a safer solution. Maybe it can help you too!

  • @Leslie Carl does that have to be done at a certain time of the year or temperature dependant? I was going to try that but the prices I saw last year were out of my budget. Maybe I'll get that done this year lol. Thank you!

  • Leslie Carl
    Leslie Carl Posts: 255 ✭✭✭✭

    @seeker.nancy Yes, they should be applied in early spring or early fall, when the temperature is 55F. The soil cannot be dry, so either water it good and deep or apply them after a good soaking rain (best). Make sure you don't expose them to sunlight. So, the best time to do this activity is in the late hours of evening or in the wee hours of the morning. I chose the evening so that the ground would stay wetter longer. Make sure you spray more water on the soil, so that these friendly worms swim their way into finding their food, the insect larvae.

  • @Leslie Carl awesome, thank you!

  • Leslie Carl
    Leslie Carl Posts: 255 ✭✭✭✭

    @seeker.nancy you are very welcome! Also, I believe you can apply the nematodes on a cloudy day as well. The instructions come with them when you purchase.

  • Leslie Carl
    Leslie Carl Posts: 255 ✭✭✭✭

    @seeker.nancy I just found a link that explains how to use the nematodes for ants:

    You can find more info at this link:

    Here's where you can buy the right strain of nematodes for killing ants (Heterorhabditis bacteriophora):

    Hope this helps :)

  • Desiree
    Desiree Posts: 255 ✭✭✭

    @Leslie Carl, did this take care of your japanese beetle problem? I have been inundated with beetles attacking my peach tree, wisteria and pussy willows for the past few years. It is almost a full on battle to get rid of them.

  • jjocean
    jjocean Posts: 31 ✭✭✭

    I garden in raised beds - really raised - 24" tall so I don't have to bend over to weed and tend them. I live in the south and Fire ants (bless their pea picking hearts) love love love my beds. I've found I can convince them to move by taking a garden hose with a "fire hose" nozzle and running it up and down through the bed on a couple of successive days. They always move to the yard or nearby. I don't like them in the beds whether they are good or not because the little buggers bite like Heck when I weed. I call it the great compromise.

  • Leslie Carl
    Leslie Carl Posts: 255 ✭✭✭✭

    @desireet02 Yes! The nematodes worked wonders! We were inundated with them the year before last, but last year only saw a couple of the beetles and several larvae that I found in the soil of one of my potted moringa trees as I was repotting it.

  • karen
    karen Posts: 80 ✭✭

    for the Neem oil try not spray mid day as it will kill beneficial insects. early morning very late afternoon are good times./

    BTW I too am in the southern hemisphere and have black ante that eat produce, and fire ant that hiding all over plus these tiny tiny ones that you actually have to be looking for to see. When i find the black ant mounds in the garden I may pour vinegar or boiling water in the holes. the water does no damage to surrounding soil. it depends if it is in the larger yard or amongst the vegies, They also come up through the grouting as mentioned and I do the boiling water and vinegar there and on the sidewalk. The fire ants are just a nuisance hiding around stuff that i am not into much. I brush them away - not with my hands ! Those teeny tiny ones? while I dont like seeing them in the kitchen and mostly I dont provide access for them they are usefu lin a very interesting way. One of my cats is a cockroach hunter; kills them but leaves them in the hallway. I came acrosswhat I thouhgt was a dead one, on its back that was moving ever so slowly across the tiles. Fascinated I crouched down and it was being transported outside by these tiny creatures. from that point on I leave them alone LOL

    .frankly i have way more problems with cockroaches and ticks than ants so I prioritize ;)

  • tuliv4
    tuliv4 Posts: 17 ✭✭✭

    Thank you Leslie for the links you shared. It’s exactly what I’ve been looking for - nematodes and lady bugs.