Fire ants and carpenter ants are bad news, but some ants do a lot of good by eating other insects (including fire ants). There are both pros and cons of ants in your yard.
In fact, your ant problem may not be a cause for alarm at all.
Weigh the pros and cons before you fully exterminate ant colonies living in your lawn. As long as you can keep the ants out of your space, the benefits of leaving those ants alone might just outweigh the disadvantages for you.
Pros of Ants in Your Yard
Let’s start with the side you probably don’t know about: The benefits of ants in your lawn and garden.
Fewer plant-eating pests
Many types of ants help control pest populations. They prey on live insects, some of which are more of a nuisance than the ants themselves. These lawn pests might eat your grass and plants, bite you and your pets, or infest your home.
Here are just a few of the pests ants help control:
- Chinch bugs
- Some caterpillars
Wipe out all your ants, and an infestation of an even worse pest could follow.
When ants build their underground nests, they dig tunnels through the soil. Those tunnels loosen and aerate the soil, giving plant roots better access to water and nutrients.
Are you familiar with the way earthworms make gardens healthier? Well, ants move about the same amount of soil as earthworms. In this way, ants help prevent compacted soil.
Ants carry their food, which includes pieces of plants and animals, underground with them. After they eat, they discard their leftovers, and those leftover bits of organic material add nutrients to the soil.
Think of the ants’ discard pile as a tiny compost bin that naturally adds fertilizer to your lawn without any effort from you.
Similar to birds and other beneficial animals, ants contribute to the local ecosystem by seeding plants, including native plants.
Ants collect seeds to eat. They only consume the outer shell, then toss the seed itself into the discard pile. There, the seed can sprout.
Cons of Ants in Your Yard
Most people are a lot more familiar with the downsides of ants. Here are a few to consider.
Painful bites and stings
Different species of ants — most famously, fire ants — have painful bites or stings that they’ll use on you if you disturb their nest.
If the ant nest is out of your way, that may not be a problem. But with a nest in your garden or near your outdoor hangout spots, it’s easy to disturb the ants on accident and pay for it.
Before you exterminate the ants in your yard out of fear of being bitten or stung, try to identify the species of ant. Your ants may not be the kind that can hurt you.
We all know ant mounds (aka anthills) can ruin the pristine look of a lawn. Those mounds can also smother and kill your grass.
Remember how ants tunneling underground aerates the soil? Sometimes, when colonies and nests become too extensive, those same tunnels cause the soil to become too dry, which eventually leads to dead grass.
Aphids and mealybugs in your garden
Ants prey on many harmful garden pests, but some species “farm” aphids and mealybugs for the honeydew they produce. The ants protect these pests from predators and help them find a food source.
Why should you care? The food source for aphids and mealybugs is the sap from your plants. They can literally suck the life out of your garden, and ants might help them do it.
How to Get Rid of Ants
Now that you know the major pros and cons of ants in the garden, you can decide if you want to exterminate the entire colony or not.
If the cons outweigh the pros for you, you can exterminate the ants with DIY home remedies such as:
You could choose to use chemical insecticides instead, but they can be harmful to the environment and kill pollinators and other beneficial insects. Pesticides should be your last resort.
The most deadly and effective method of ant control is a combination of natural or chemical ant baits and treatments applied to the ant nest.
And if you would rather let someone else get rid of your ants, Lawn Love can help you find a professional exterminator near you to do dirty work.
On the other hand, you might decide not to exterminate your ants, because of their benefits. In that case, you can use ant repellents to keep the ants away from you without harming them.
Some natural ways to repel ants are:
- Essential oils such as peppermint, cedarwood, or tea tree oil
- Cayenne pepper or black pepper
- White vinegar
Want to prevent another ant infestation in the future? Ants love bare dirt, so maintaining a thick, healthy lawn is one of the best ways to keep ants away. When you don’t have time or energy for lawn maintenance, turn to Lawn Love’s local lawn care pros for help.
If the ants are proving to be a burden for your yard health, consider calling a professional exterminator near you.
Main Photo Credit: Poranimm Athithawatthee | Pexels