Ants are not generally considered dangerous pests, but they can pose significant health and cosmetic damage to turf grass. Controlling ants in the lawn becomes important where their hill building causes root damage to grass and unsightly mounds. These colony insects settle in large numbers and build intricate labyrinths in grass root systems. Ant hills in grass may pose a hazard to foot travelers and mower blades. Knowing how to control ants in lawns begins with some information on these insects’ soil and location preferences, and a concerted effort to destroy their nests.
Lawn Care and Ant Hills
The mounds and hills formed by ant colonies are not the only issue with these fascinating insects. Many species also have an interest in ranching, and will “farm” aphids and mealybugs, protecting them and assisting their daily needs in order to keep a local source of honeydew.
Honeydew is the substance secreted by aphids and mealybugs and is something of a delicacy to ants. Having a colony of farming ants can mean real trouble for your veggies and ornamental plants, the food of choice for mealybugs and aphids. Controlling ants in the lawn is a good way to minimize the population of these pest insects.
Ants prefer dry, well-drained soil in an undisturbed low traffic area. Lawn dwelling ants are generally not an issue because these are not the stinging sort but some species have a habit of undermining grass roots and can cause large dead patches in the lawn.
Another issue is ant hills in grass, which can become large and pose a tripping hazard and make mowing difficult. For low populations, raking will be a regular maintenance for lawn care and ant hills. Simply raking out the hills will scatter the population and reduce hardened mounds from occurring. This simple step is effective if done on a weekly basis from fall to summer.
How to Control Ants in Lawns Naturally
Since ants form social communities, which can live in an area just a few inches (8 cm.) wide or a space many feet across, ant populations and their associated problems will vary. If you have one of the huge groups entrenched in your lawn, steps need to be taken to eradicate the insects.
Killing ants in your lawn is tricky business because children and pets use the area for play and traversing the garden. You can try a 3 percent solution of dish soap with water as a spray for an infested area.
Other possible treatments include diatomaceous earth or a borax and sugar water spray. Unless the infestation is particularly troublesome, the best remedy is to live with these beneficial insects. Most ants eat the larvae of lawn pests that they find amongst the roots of the grass. This is a win-win for the grass lover.
Killing Ants in Your Lawn with Chemicals
Spot control is the best method for killing ants. They tend to concentrate in a small area and spot application isolates the chemical zone and minimizes damage to beneficial insects who also call the grass home.
Use either a spray or granular form. Locate the nest and apply the chemical as indicated on the label. Granular forms require activation with water, so it is best to irrigate after applying the chemical. In all cases, wait until a treated area has dried before allowing children and pets into the toxic zone.
Ants can be a blessing and a curse, so consider the severity of the problem before resorting to chemical treatments. Their activity is also a natural pest control and can increase the tilth of soil, acting as wild aerators to loosen the dirt around roots and enhance growth.