The Q&A Archives: Severe Ant Problem

Question: I have a severe ant problem in my backyard. I have a new lawn I just finished and notice I have a severe ant problem in the lawn itself. Can you recommend a safe way to treat or eradicate the problem completely?

Answer: Ants are generally considered beneficial in the garden; they feed on (and cart away) other insects and they transfer pollen from flower to flower. Many ants obtain sugar by feeding on honeydew, a sweet substance secreted by aphids and other plant-sucking insects. They often defend these insects from predators and tend them as if they were their personal food supply. Indoor infestations of ants are occasionally traced to large populations of aphids on outdoor foundation plants or indoor houseplants.

Most outdoor ants increase in population and activity from spring into summer months and then decline from fall into early winter as the temperature drops and the ants' natural food supplies dwindle.

The best baits for ants are those whose toxicant kills ants slowly. In this way, worker ants live long enough to take the baits back to the nest and feed it to the colony and queen. A number of baits are now available. Some are prepackaged in child-resistant bait stations. Some are gels or pastes designed to be placed in small pea-shaped amounts throughout an area. Some products (such as boric acid) are designed to be mixed with a food. Bait products typically will work against certain species of ants but not against others, so it is important to check the label to make sure the ant you wish to control is listed.

For certain ground-nesting ants that dig deep nests outdoors, a soil drench or mound drench can be effective where other treatments are not. As its name implies, a soil drench consists of applying enough insecticide dilution directly to a mound or nest so that the entire nest is drenched.

There are also granules available for ant control. Visit the garden center of your local Home Improvement store and I'm sure you'll find a whole shelf full of ant control products.

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