Getting Rid of Ants in Your Lawn: 12 Methods

Need help getting rid of ants in your lawn? Then you’ll want to read on!

Have you ever experienced the poisonous sting of a fire ant bite? Because if you have, I’m sure you won’t forget it.

I certainly won’t forget my encounter with fire ants.

As a young soldier in basic training, I was out in the wilderness of Fort Benning, Georgia, and I was asked to set up a security perimeter to watch for an imaginary enemy – it was just training, after all.

I found the perfect spot to protect my comrades.  I was hidden.  I had a perfect view of the landscape.  And the dirt I was laying down in was nice and cool compared to the fierce heat of the summer sun. 

It was perfect, and I was ready.

But a few minutes after I settled in, I began to feel a searing sting around my ankles and the tender skin around my belly button. 

The pain was unbearable. As much as I wanted to remain hidden and quiet, I couldn’t.  I jumped up and shouted a few choice words (that I will keep to myself) and looked for the source of the pain I was feeling.

What I found was surprising to me.  It was just a few ants.

Well, those few ants felt like an entire colony.  The stinging pain radiated through the affected area.  Their bites injected a small amount of venom that my body.  The only relief I found was to scratch, but I couldn’t because it could result in an infection.

What resulted from each bite was a swollen red spot with a blister on the top.  I was riddled with them.  I was bitten over 50 times in the matter of seconds.

I didn’t even know ants could do that.  In my mind, I was an invincible soldier.  All it took was an encounter with these tiny insects to bring me to my knees—quite the wake-up call.

My point of this story is…ants can do a lot more harm than you expect. And I don’t want this to happen to you.  Ants aren’t just out in the woods of an Army base in Georgia.  They are everywhere.  And they do a lot more than just bite you.

If these opportunistic creatures have overrun your home or lawn, you need to know how to combat them.

If you don’t want to feel the sting of their bite like I did, you should keep reading.  You’ll learn the problems that ants can cause around your property and different ways you can get rid of them.

Believe me, from experience, this is stuff you need to know.

What Problems Do Ants Cause Around Your Home?

Don’t let their small size fool you.  Ants can do some serious damage on several different fronts.  Let’s take a look at the problems ant infestations bring with them.(1)

Ants Can Damage Your Home

Imagine noticing some damage to the structure of your home.  The wood appears as if it’s decaying.  “Must be termites,” you think to yourself.

Well, look closer because you could be wrong.

Carpenter ants burrow into wood to build their home.  They hollow out the wood and leave it looking clean and smooth.

The termites use the wood as a food source, so they cause damage faster than carpenter ants.  But an infestation of these ants will still compromise the structural integrity of your home. 

Left untreated, the ants’ population will grow exponentially.  These new inhabitants need a place to live.  The framing and support beams of your home are a perfect spot.

As the colony spreads, your boards will weaken and warp.

This weakening can cause the following problems:

  • Doors that stick in the doorframe
  • Windows that won’t open smoothly
  • Walls that cave in or bulge out
  • Ceilings that sink
  • Floors that slope
  • Electrical shorts from compromised wiring

These little ants can wind up costing you a lot of money.

Ants Can Destroy Your Lawn and Garden

Ants are opportunistic omnivores.  If you haven’t treated your garden, ant activity can decimate it in a matter of days.

Farming ants, one of the most common ant species, secrete hormones from their exoskeletons to attract their prey.  This prey includes aphids and other small insects.  What started as a farming ant infestation in your garden becomes an aphid infestation as well.

Field ants create massive ant mounds that burst above the ground.  Not only are these mounds unsightly, but they can also cause real damage to your yard.  They will feed on the grass.  They will dig holes in the earth to build their ant mound.

An ant colony that begins as a tiny ant hill can grow and multiply, and eventually cause real damage to the home and garden you have worked so hard for.

Ants Can Contaminate Your Food

Ants are opportunistic.  So if they have the chance to slip inside your home and roam about, they will.

And, boy, are they hungry.  It can be something as simple as leaving a bottle of ketchup out of the fridge.  Or sometimes, ketchup winds up dripping down the side of the bottle or dropping onto the counter.  An innocent mistake.  One you’ll see pretty often if you have kids.

Ants will take advantage of that mistake and take the food right back to the colony.

That may seem harmless.  I assure you that it’s not. 

These pests will crawl through your trash bins.  Around your bathroom sink.  Even around your toilet.  If you think about what might be lurking in those spaces, it should scare you a little bit.

Because in their quest to bring food back to the colony, they pick up different strains of bacteria that accompany them on their journey.

They can crawl through your pantry and over the utensils that you put in your mouth. 

Are you scared yet?

If not, let’s look at the different bacteria they can spread around your house:

  • E. coli
  • Salmonella
  • Shigella
  • Streptococcus
  • Staphylococcus
  • Clostridium

These bacteria can cause a serious infection, cause you to be violently ill, or even kill you.  All this from an itty, bitty ant problem in your home.

Ant Bites and Stings Can Be Dangerous

You already know about my unfortunate run-in with fire ants.  It should be used as a cautionary tale.

An ant will bite you if it feels threatened.  Considering the size difference, I would say most species of ants would feel threatened by us.

Ant bites are certainly painful, but the bite alone is not hazardous to your health.

The real problem with ant bites is the risk of secondary bacterial infection. 

Believe me, I completely understand the relief that comes from scratching that itch.  But that can lead to infection.  If the area is not properly cleaned and cared for, you could wind up with something like cellulitis.

Some species of ants are capable of injecting a small amount of venom when they bite.  This is what I experienced at Fort Benning. 

While my encounter was certainly painful and unpleasant, there are people out there that are allergic to that venom.  Their allergic reactions are characterized by a swelling of the throat and tongue, nausea and severe stomach cramps, tightening across the upper torso, dizziness, and trouble breathing. 

That sounds terrible.  But it gets worse.

Some people experience anaphylaxis.  This is a reaction of the entire body that can lead to unconsciousness or even cardiac arrest. 

That little ant in your grass doesn’t seem so little anymore does it?

How to Know if You Have an Ant Infestation

Some signs of ant populations around your home are pretty obvious.  Some signs that these pests are planning an invasion are a little harder to see.  So arm yourself with this knowledge before they invade.

You Find Ant Hills or Nests in Your Lawn

An ant hill may seem harmless.  But beneath the surface could lie thousands of these pests.  And you better believe they are plotting and planning to find a food source.

Usually, that source is inside your beautiful home.  These ants are crafty and will make their way inside through different entry points to forage for their supper.  So beware of these nests that show up on your lawn.  This is where their journey starts as they make their way inside your home.

Ant Trails In or Around Your Home

These ant trails mean that the ants have their marching orders.  They march in single file from their ant hill towards the food source. 

At this point, they have discovered a viable place to forage for a meal.  Once the food has been discovered the ants will lay pheromones down on the trail that leads directly back to their ant hills.  This pheromone trail will also attract other ants.

In essence, they have built a nutrient pipeline that flows back and forth from their target in your house to their nests on your lawn.

Crafty and efficient, right?

Ants in Your Pet’s Food Bowl

Ants aren’t picky.  They are happy to forage on pet food.  It’s all edible to them.

So if you notice that these pests have invaded your dog’s bowl (or cat’s bowl for all the cat lovers out there ), it’s a sign that ants may be crawling around in other areas of your house as well.

You Spot Individual Ants Around Your Home

This may seem obvious.  Spotting a single ant roaming around doesn’t necessarily mean that

a whole colony of ants have found a source of food in your home.

However, when you see multiple ants around your kitchen, bathroom, or trash can outside, you need to be concerned.

These ants are the explorers for the queen and they have orders to go out and find a food source for the colony. 

Ants are always on the hunt for something to eat.  So if you begin to find ants frequently in your house, the smart money says a nearby colony is in your yard.

12 Methods of Getting Rid of Ants in Your Yard

Here are 12 methods to use to get rid of ants in your house. The first seven methods are natural while the last five methods use commercial products.

1. Hand Soap

While this won’t kill ants, it will confuse the heck out of them.  Mix the soap with water in a spray bottle to spray on the ant trails and other points of entry to your home. 

The soap will destroy the pheromones.  Without those pheromones, the ants cannot communicate with one another.  This forces them to start all over again.

2. Tea Tree Oil

This essential oil will repel and kill ants.  Pretty cool, huh?

You can use this essential oil 1 of 2 ways.

If you want to use it as a spray, mix 10 drops of tea tree oil with two cups of water.  Spray at site where you have seen the ants scavenging.

You can also soak balls of cotton or even Q-tips and place them where you have seen the ants around your home.

Be careful to keep this away from your pets as they can also become very ill if they come in contact with the oil.

3. Peppermint Oil

Peppermint oil is a natural insect repellent.  Mix 10 to 20 drops of the oil with two cups of water in a spray bottle to get rid of ants in your yard. 

Spray the mixture on your baseboards and window sills.  Spray anywhere you think might be an entry point for the insects.

4. Cayenne Pepper

The use of cayenne pepper is one of many home remedies that act as natural insect repellents.

Some evidence shows that if you sprinkle cayenne pepper around your baseboards and behind your appliances, it will keep ants away from your house.

5. White Vinegar

Mix white vinegar with water at a 1:1 ratio for another natural insecticide to get rid of ants in your yard. 

This mixture will kill ants while also acting as a repellent.  Squirt the mixture directly on entry points and ant trails to deter them.

You can also spray on a cloth and wipe down all the hard surfaces of your kitchen.  The vinegar will clean your kitchen while keeping the ants away at the same time.

6. Liquid Detergent and Glass Cleaner

Anecdotal evidence suggests this mixture will destroy the pheromone trails and deter ants at the same time. 

Spray the mixture on any areas where they congregate and any paths that they frequent in your yard.  This will remove the pheromone and take the ants back to square one.

7. Cornstarch

In and of itself, cornstarch is harmless.  But if you find large numbers of ants congregating in your yard, it can come in handy to get rid of them.

Pour the cornstarch liberally over a large number of ants and add water.  The result is dead ants molded into cornstarch. 

8. Diatomaceous Earth

Say what? 

Yes, diatomaceous earth is a type of silica formed of the fossilized remains of aquatic organisms called diatoms.

Despite the misleading name, it is not poisonous.  It kills the ants by absorbing the oils in their skeletons and drying them out.

Even though it is not poisonous, it will irritate your skin at the contact site.

9. Ant Baits

Ant baits, such as Terro Liquid Ant Bait, are a chemical treatment for homeowners to use to get rid of ants.  An ant bait will provide these social creatures with what they imagine to be a savory treat they can take back to their nests in your yard. 

What that poor explorer ant has done is bring a form of insecticide disguised as a meal into its nest.  The ants share the poison and slowly die off.

An ant bait should not be placed on the pheromone trails as they will avoid them altogether.  Place these products in areas of high activity like behind the stove or near the baseboards of your house.

10. Non-Repellent Spray

These sprays are incredibly effective and can be used as a supplement to baits.  The spray itself is not detectable and the insects will walk through it and coat themselves in the residue.

When you use non-repellent sprays in combination with baits the ants don’t stand a chance.

The spray will not kill the ant on contact.  Instead, the ant will make its way back to its home and slowly poison the rest of the population with the insecticide from the spray.

11. Contact Insecticide Spray

Whether indoor or outdoor, these sprays, such as Raid, will kill these bugs on contact.  Of all the treatment methods, this one is the most effective and quickest for killing ants.

However, I do understand that there are personal choices involved in choosing a pest control option.  It is a dangerous chemical, after all.

If you have children or pets running around, this probably is not the route you want to take. 

12. Call the Pest Control Professionals

Sometimes things are better left to the pros.  If you are fighting a losing battle against these crafty creatures, then ring up an exterminator.  They have the knowledge, experience, and equipment to get rid of the ants you have in your yard.

You’ll know when you’re beat.  So raise the white flag and pick up the phone.

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Happy Planting!

About the author: Jeffrey Douglas is a horticultural hobbyist that loves everything related to plants and gardening. He specializes in gardens and houseplants.

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