Are Ants In The Vegetable Garden a Bad Thing?

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I have read a few debates on the internet about ants in the vegetable garden. Some have commented that ants must be removed from the garden area. On the other hand, I have read that ants do not pose a threat and can be left alone. In my opinion, it really depends on the type of ant.

Garden Ants

I call the typical little black, or red colored ant, the garden ant. They may have a more sophisticated name, but I don’t know it. Garden ants can actually be beneficial in the vegetable garden – they act as pollinators by crawling around from bloom to bloom looking for nectar, and they can kill off harmful caterpillars. These ants do not typically harm vegetation by striping leaves from plants. Whenever I find these ants in my garden I let them be. The only time the ants might pose a problem is if the population becomes very large, resulting in an outright infestation.

Something to watch for with ants in the garden, is aphids. Ants are attracted to aphids due to the fact that aphids give off a sweet secretion. The ants will collect these aphid secretions, and take them back to their nests. The ants will also protect the aphids from predators. If you do find ants in your garden, check to make sure that aphids are not present as well. Treat any found aphids as soon as possible. Visit 12 Homemade Natural Remedies For The Garden to find solutions for treating aphids.

The little black specs on this okra bloom are garden ants

The little black specs on this okra bloom are garden ants

Carpenter Ants and Fire Ants

Carpenter ants tunnel and nest in wooden structures and can wreck havoc in houses, trellises, or any other item constructed of wood. Whenever carpenter ants are detected they should be controlled immediately. If they are seen near or in your home or shed, it might be a good idea to call a professional exterminator as soon as possible.

One species of Carpenter Ants

One species of Carpenter Ants

One ant that you definitely want to stay clear of is the fire ant. Fire ants are usually large, red ants that can construct very large mound. A fire ant colony can contain as many as a million ants. Anyone that has ever been bitten by a fire ant can tell you that this is one critter you want to eliminate from your yard.

The Red Fire Ant is an ant you don't want to befriend

The Red Fire Ant is an ant you don't want to befriend

Ant Control

There are some very organic means of getting rid of ants if you are in the need to do so. One recipe to kill ants is as follows:

  • one cup of sugar
  • one cup of borax
  • Mix the sugar and borax in a cup, then lightly sprinkle the mixture around the ant hills. The ants will not be able to tell the borax is mixed with the sugar and carry it into the ant colony. Borax is highly poisonous to ants, wiping out the colony in a couple days.

Another trick to get rid of small hills of ants is to sprinkle a couple packets of Equal or Nutra Sweet around the hill. The ants will think it’s sugar, but it is really poisonous to ants. It really makes you wonder – if that stuff kills ants, what is it doing to those that use it?

Unless it is the nastiest of ant infestations, I don’t believe in killing them just to get rid of them. Try to find some creative ways of dealing with ants or other insect challenges. If anyone has a great idea of dealing with ants, or other insects, please feel free to share them in the comments section below.

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Comments

  1. Carpenter ants can defiantly be a nuisance and a costly problem to homeowners. It is very important to nip the problem in the bud. Dispose of food leftovers properly and make sure wooden structures are protected from moisture. Ants love wood rot and will infest your property if given a slim chance. Products like Maxforce gel and various sprays are very effective or try some good old fashion clorox bleach in a small spray bottle.

  2. I’ll have to give some of these a try – I’ve always just used boiling water on them in the past!

  3. We lived in the country and had a mailbox on the side of the road taken over by ants. Maybe they were in the wood post? Chemical sprays did not get rid of the problem, so I shook a tablespoon of regular table black pepper in the box and poof, no more ants, and they never came back.

    • Hi Joanie,

      I’ve never heard of using black pepper for ants. Very interesting! Thanks so much for sharing this method for getting rid of the ants. If the ants were in the wood posts then most likely they were carpenter ants (they like to burrow in wood). I wonder if the black pepper would work with other types of ants?

      I’m glad to hear that you used a safe and easy way to get rid of your ant problem.

  4. I also have used cinnamon for ants. They appeared to be starting take over one of my flower pots. I sprinkled some ground cinnamon on top of the soil and they moved out almost immediately.

  5. I always hear that garden ants are fine to leave in the garden, but then I see them eating my radishes and chewing through kohlrabi stems! They’re definitely a pest over here. I’ll have to try BF’s cinnamon suggestion. I already use it for cats and mold on potting soil, so why not on the ants?

  6. Thank you for these useful tips. I will give detailed feed back after trying it in kitchen garden.

    DHK

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