How to Keep Ants Away From Your Yard
November 26, 2023
Ants are one of the most common pests in Florida yards. The state is home to 231 species of ants (the most of any eastern state), including 65 exotic ant species (by far the most in the U.S.). These little critters’ nests can be difficult to track down. Not to mention,the insects themselves are at best a nuisance, and at worst can be destructive to your home and yard.
If you suspect you have a problem with ants in your Florida yard, there are steps you can take to send them marching away. Read on to learn the best practices for keeping ants out of your yard for good.
There are a variety of types of ants you may notice in your Florida yard.
Ants may choose to nest in your yard if it offers food or water sources, including plants and other insects.
Ants may cause structural damage to your home or kill your yard’s plants and trees.
You can get rid of ants in your yard using a number of home remedies, including boiling water, diatomaceous earth, borax, vinegar, or dish soap.
Prevent ants in your yard using such DIY methods or by eliminating water and food sources.
If you notice an ant hill in your yard, it’s best to call a professional pest control service as soon as possible.
Common Ants You Might Find in Your Yard
There are a plethora of ant species native to (or invasive in) Florida. Below is a list of some common ones you might notice in your yard.
Why Are Ants in Your Yard?
An ant invasion in your yard can be frustrating, especially when you’re left wondering why they chose your lawn over your neighbors. There are a few key reasons why your property might be an appealing spot for ant colonies to nest in.
Firstly, ants love a damp lawn. Any sources of water or moisture are valuable, from bird baths to gutters to exposed leaky pipes. Mulch and rocks keep the soil in your yard moist, which may attract ants. Moreover, most species of ants are attracted to sugary, sticky substances, including sap and nectar from certain plants.
Ants also eat “honeydew,” a sweet sticky substance secreted by other insects, such as aphids or whiteflies, in your yard. If you store garbage cans in your yard, ants may be enticed to build nests nearby.
How Can Ants Damage Your Yard?
While ants are typically harmless to humans and even act as beneficial insects to the local ecosystem, there are certain cases in which they can be destructive to your garden or lawn.
For instance, not only are ant hills an unsightly nuisance, large ones can also smother grass.
Ants that burrow underground may disturb your plants’ roots, and ants that burrow in wood (i.e. carpenter ants) can cause structural damage to your home, porch/deck, trees, or firewood supply. Even ants of other species chewing on a plant’s stem or trunk in search of sap can end up killing plants or trees.
Moreover, ants that eat honeydew may protect other insects that secrete it, such as aphids, which are parasites to a variety of plants.
How to Get Rid of Ants in Your Yard
If you’ve noticed an ant problem in your yard, don’t fret—there are a variety of DIY solutions that will drive away and/or kill ants. Below is a breakdown of your options and how they work.
Boiling water is one of the most common organic ant killers. Pouring 2-3 gallons of boiling water on an ant mound will kill about 60% of ants (the remaining 40% have a chance to scatter in a timely manner).
Be warned that extremely hot water may kill the surrounding vegetation in your yard as well. Boiling water is a safe and effective method of killing a large number of ants immediately, and can seep into the ant colony below the mound (which is often much larger—the ant hill is only the tip of the iceberg).
Diatomaceous earth is a dusty powder made from fossilized algae. It’s virtually non-toxic to humans and not poisonous when eaten by insects, but rather works by absorbing oils and fats from the cuticles of ants’ exoskeletons, causing them to dry out and die.
The sharp edges of each granule are abrasive to exoskeletons, which speeds up the process, creating a “death by a thousand cuts.” Diatomaceous earth is also a long-lasting solution—it’s effective as long as it’s kept dry and not disturbed.
Borax, or sodium tetraborate, is a powdery white substance made up of sodium, oxygen, and borate (its more processed form with other minerals added is called boric acid). Borax is toxic to ants and kills them by disrupting their digestive systems.
When a worker ant who’s left the colony to forage for food comes across borax, they’ll bring it “home” with them and it may kill more ants or even the entire colony (for this reason, be sure to adjust how much borax you use according to the estimated size of the colony).
However, ants are unlikely to spring for borax alone as a food option. This is why it’s often mixed with sugar and water to create an ant bait solution. If you use this borax solution in bait stations around your house, be sure to strategically place them where ants will find them but your pets won’t.
Vinegar is a common natural remedy for ant invasions. Simply mix equal parts of water and vinegar (any vinegar you have on hand, apple cider vinegar or white vinegar will do), in a spray bottle and spray it directly on ants when you spot them.
You can also spray this solution on ant hangouts in your home or yard, or in places where you keep your food as an ant repellent (ants also hate the strong scent of vinegar). Try placing a vinegar-soaked cotton ball near an ant nest to drive ants from the area.
Dish Soap and Water
A mixture of dish soap and water is actually lethal to ants. Spraying such a solution will kill the insects on contact by penetrating their exoskeletons and suffocating them. Just two ounces of dish soap per quart of water is a sufficient ratio. As an added bonus, the scent of dish soap covers up ant pheromone-packed ant trails, which attract more ants to the area.
Tips for Preventing Ants in Your Yard
Keep a healthy, fertilized yard—perform or invest in regular lawn care
Keep trash cans and compost bins far from your lawn
Remove dead tree branches and limbs from your yard immediately
Clean any spilled food or drinks immediately
Patch up leaky pipes; remove water sources like bird baths
Remove mulch or rocks if necessary
Spread diatomaceous earth, soapy water, or even cayenne pepper (ants hate the scent) as a preventative measure
Rake or shovel ant mounds immediately
Professional Ant Control Services
If you notice even one ant hill in your yard, it’s likely a larger problem is lurking beneath the surface. It’s best to call a pest control professional as soon as possible if you suspect an ant infestation. An exterminator will be equipped to properly assess the size of the problem and its source, and will recommend the best course of treatment to ensure that the ants are gone for good.
Ants can cause structural damage to your yard or disrupt the local ecosystem, and some of them even have painful stings (beware of fire ants). Better to be safe than sorry if you suspect your yard has been infiltrated.