- Garden ants rarely cause damage to plants. However, they feed on sugary foods, oily seeds, honeydew from aphid-infected plants, and other small insects. Heaps of earth around the nest entrance can be a nuisance in the lawn where they interfere with mowing, and they can also partly bury low-growing plants.
About Garden ants
- There are two main species of garden ants, the red ant Myrmica rubra and the black ant, Lasius niger.
- Queen ants fly in from neighbouring gardens all the time but are killed by ants from existing nests. Killing a queen and her nest simply makes space for another. For this reason it is best to focus on controlling only those nests that are causing real problems.
- Adult worker ants are all female, wingless, and around 5mm in length.
- Queens are significantly longer and fatter.
- Larvae are white legless grubs roughly 5mm long.
- Each colony can vary in size from as small as 500 individuals to many thousands.
- After over-wintering, females emerge in spring and lay eggs.
- The first brood will be fed by the queen for three to four weeks before pupating in the soil.
- Adult workers emerge after two weeks to maintain the nest and feed the queen and subsequent larvae.
- When adults find a food source they leave a trail of chemicals known as pheromones back to the nest for others to follow.
- Towards the end of summer winged males and females are produced.
- Between August and September mating takes place during flight.
- After mating, male adults die and females shed their wings and return to the soil to overwinter.
Products containing the following chemical ingredients are all effective on Garden ants
- There are a large number of pesticides available for ant control although these are mainly for indoor use.
Note: It is important to read manufacturer's instructions for use and the associated safety data information before applying chemical treatments.
- Observe foraging ants and follow them back to the nest.
- Dig up nests where possible making sure to remove the queen.
- Encourage insectivorous birds by hanging bird boxes and feeders.
- Place tin cans over the ant hill in the morning. As it heats up, the ants take their eggs up into the can. In the afternoon slide a piece of cardboard under each can, and remove and dispose of the eggs. They make a tasty treat for birds, especially chickens.
- Clean previously infested surfaces to remove pheromone trails.
- Use natural predators and parasites to control aphid populations.
- Dig up soil in the winter months to disturb overwintering females.
- Maintain pest-free plants.
- Clean honeydew from any infested plants with water.