Ant Killer Tactics – How to Get Rid of Ants in the Garden

Last update: 1 year ago

ant killer tactics for ant free garden

Ants. Love them or hate them, it is undeniable that they are amazing creatures. With large, complex societies, fungus-farming techniques and an empire which almost spans the entire globe, it is a blessing that they are so small and have not yet developed an overwhelming collective intelligence.

During the summer months, you may have noticed convoys of ants going to and fro in your garden. Some may have even made it into your home in search of sugar or anything else they can get their mandibles on. Like most garden pests, ants will generally do their own thing without bothering anyone else. In case they are becoming a nuisance, it is time to start asking how to get rid of ants in the garden.

What is a colony of ants?

If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not to fear the result of a hundred battles.

This quote may be a little over-dramatic, but it does help to know a little about the pest you wish to remove.

A colony of ants sometimes referred to as an ant society, is made up of thousands upon thousands of individual ants under the leadership of one queen. Other than the queen, there are also workers, soldiers and drones. Most species of ant build massive underground nests. These structures are incredibly complex and contain nursery rooms, farming rooms, food storage areas and even tunnels to control the airflow inside the nest.

We usually only see a few entrance mounds and small piles of fine dirt. But this is just the tip of the iceberg. Researchers in Brazil unearthed an abandoned ant nest, which covered an area of 500 sq ft and was measured to a depth of 26 ft. While nests of this size are uncommon, it does illustrate the fact that ant nests are much larger than we may initially think.

Ants and your garden

Some of the more ecologically-minded among you may be wondering if ants are beneficial to your garden or if they really cause damage to your plants.

Ants can be somewhat beneficial to your garden. Since they are predators, they hunt other insects that live in your lawn and can aid pollination while they are foraging. However, ants like to build nests around the root system of plants, which can stunt growth and leave plants more vulnerable to disease.

Quite a few species of ant also eat honeydew, which is excreted by aphids as they feast on plants. Ants have been known to protect aphids from other predators, such as ladybirds, to maintain a reliable food source. Increased aphid activity in your garden, especially when they have bodyguards, can be disastrous for plant life as they can advance unhindered through your garden, sucking out all of the tasty plant juice.

How to get rid of ants in the garden

Before morphing into Rambo and unleashing righteous fury upon the unsuspecting ants in your garden, please ask yourself the following questions:

  • Are they in an isolated area of my garden?
  • Are they a threat to me or to my family?
  • Are they a threat to my home?

There is no need to kill things just for the sake of killing them.

Now that the moralising is taken care of, let’s move on to turning you into the world’s greatest ant killer.

Looking to get rid of the little buggers inside your house? Check out Fantastic Pest Control’s article on getting rid of ants in house.

Natural methods

When it comes to ant infestations, it’s never about simply sporadically spraying their seemingly endless trails with an ant killer weapon of your choice. Na-ah, to eradicate the entire ant threat in your garden, you have to go straight for the source. The following methods have been proven to eliminate ants both outside and inside the ant nest:

  • Boiling water. The most widely known natural ant extermination method is using boiling water. Simply locate as many entrances to the nest as possible and pour boiling water inside. You may have to do this repeatedly until all of the ants are dead.
  • Dish washing liquid and oil. This method has quite a high success rate as the dish washing liquid and oil soak into the ant exoskeletons and suffocates them. All you need to do is mix half a teaspoon of liquid dish soap with one and a half teaspoons of cooking oil (olive oil and canola oil work best) with 1 quart of water (0.946 kilograms or 2.08 lbs or 33.38 ounces). Once the mixture is ready, pour some into a spray bottle to take care of ants outside the nest and then pour the rest directly into the nest.
  • Boric acid and sugar. This is possibly the most effective home remedy for getting rid of ants. Mix boric acid with sugar until it turns into a paste and then place small amounts of the paste around the entrances to the ant nest. Ants love sweet things and so they will be drawn to the paste, they will eat some and carry the rest back to the nest for the queen. Shortly after eating the sweet paste, the queen and other ants will begin to die due to the boric acid.
  • White vinegar. Pouring around 1 litre of white vinegar directly into the nest can work wonders. It is not harmful to the ground or your plants, but it will kill the ants on contact.
  • Nematodes. These microscopic worms are the natural nemesis of ants. The tiny worms will hunt and devour the ants whereas the ants will most likely search for a new nest as they cannot tolerate having their natural predator nearby.
  • Diatomaceous earth (DE). Diatomaceous earth (food-grade, mind that!) is effective against a variety of critters, both at home and in the garden. You’d better sprinkle the ants’ path or around the plants, you don’t want the ants to get to. DE works well if the soil is dry. The wetter the surface is, the more time it will take to do its magic.
  • Insect-repelling plants. Various plants, especially the ones that contain essential oils, give off a certain smell that puts off lots of unwanted insects, including plants.

Most natural methods don’t work immediately. It’s because of what they are – natural, meaning, the active ingredients in them are not as lethal for ants as what professional poisons will be. Therefore, if you feel the times are direr, you can turn to the below commercial ant treatments.

Professional methods

  • Ant killer gel. Most garden centres sell an ant poison which comes in gel form. This works in the same way as boric acid and sugar. The ants are drawn to the sweet gel which is then carried into the nest for the queen to feast upon. Despite being a form of poison, the gel poses no threat to your garden or plants.
  • Ant killer poison. Powder poisons are best used against ants found indoors or near your home as they can affect plants and alter the soil due to their toxicity. If you choose to use powder poison, make sure to take some precautions beforehand, such as blocking off the poisoned area to keep pets and small children away. Spread it on a calm day as the wind may carry the poison to neighbouring gardens. Another point to keep in mind is that ants can slowly build up a resistance to the poison.
  • Professional extermination. If none of the above methods has worked and the ants have invaded your home, it may be time to consider hiring a professional to take care of the invasion.

So there we have it, your guide on how to get rid of ants in the garden. As you can see, there are many ways of killing the ants and decimating their nest, but we would urge you to seriously consider whether or not the ants are truly pests or just a mild nuisance before taking action. Otherwise, happy ant hunting!


Did we miss anything? Do you have any tips for getting rid of ants in the garden? Let us know in the comments below or give us a shout on social media!

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64 CommentsLeave a comment

  • There are thousands of species of ants that pose different threats to humans. Some are just looking for the food. Some are looking to bite you, nasty little things. Ant bite can have different effect on different people. Some people might feel a little itching for a moment, on some it might last longer. Ant bite can also result in vomiting. You might not know how to get rid of ants but we do.

    • Thank you for your comment, Bilal, indeed, you have to be careful with ant bites there.

    • Hey!! I got a real problem with ants here (Greece, Corfu). The soil near my house is full of ants, lots of nests and more we cannot see, now ants have come inside our house, they have nests in the roof woods and now inside doors, they are everywhere! They dont go with sprays and stuff, they bite you and can spread on the floor for no reason. We got a real problem we cannot live inside and outside the house. What do you suggest?

  • If you use any posion how soon after can you plant?
    I have a flower bed by my front porch that has two big any hills. I bought some posion to kill them today and used it this evening but I was hoping to start planting flowers but how long should I wait and Is it even safe to plant anything in the same soil now?

    • Hello Dominique,

      In most of the cases, it depends on the poison itself. There are organic-based ones that do not do any harm to plants, however, it’s important to check the instructions on the package.

      Hopefully, if what you used has a low toxicity rating, such as silica-gel based or borate-based poison. Lower toxicity means it will be even more effective since ants will not die before carrying the poison in their nest. Some of the most common low toxic poisons include sodium borate, sodium octaborate, sodium tetraborate, boric acid, borax and disodium octaborate tetrahyde. Those pose very low risk for environment and are safe around people, pets and plants.

      On the other hand, pyrethrins and pyrethrum based poisons still pose a low risk for humans, but much higher for the environment because they dry out the water supply.

      In other words – check the labels. If it says garden-safe – then it’s perfectly okay to plant.

      If the pesticide affects the soil water runoff, we recommend enriching it through composting, mulching and organic fertilisers – check the methods here.

      Let us know how it’s working out!

    • Hello Mrs Underwood,

      Actually, ants are mainly attracted to honeydew inducing insects, that might happen to have set base in your potted plants. What’s more, ants will treat this as a free feast, come often and guard those little gnats – aphids, mealybugs, whiteflies or soft scales, at all costs. However, you can use insecticidal soap to treat the plant. Sprinkle it carefully, especially on the under side of their leaves, as the buggers prefer to lay eggs there. You may have to repeat the process several times so that it’s effective.

      Another prevention method is to immediately take the potted plants outside or away from your indoor house, because that will simply spread the infestation inside your home. You can also remove any fallen leaves on the soil – they actually provide a nice cosy hiding place for ants. Check if you also treat your plants with sugar or honey-based products, those are magnet for ants.

      Hopefully with these tips you’ll have your pots ant-free. Let us know if it works out!

    • Hi,

      I had pots with tomatoes that was infested with ants I mean, It was scary, I really thought that’s it, I’m loosing my plants for sure. I saw somewhere that ants hates cinnamon. So I boiled some cinnamon with water on the stove , let it cool , and poor all that in my pots. The next day I couldn’t find 1 ant. I don’t know if they were dead or just left somewhere else but I did not get ants again all summer in those pots or anywhere around there.

  • My front and back garden is invaded by them. I have a number of rose bushes and they are covered plus a big Apple tree, also covered. Going to take alot of work get rid of them….

    • Good luck Edith! Try to see if there is a way to keep living in harmony with them, for as long as they don’t do any damage to you, reside in an isolated area or enter your house, ants are fine to keep in the garden – it’s just their natural habitat. However, when it comes to ants on trees, you should be aware of several issues:

      There are just a couple of reasons why ants are attracted to trees. They are either searching for food, like honeydew left by aphids or mealy bugs, or the tree started to decay and there are holes where ants reside. Therefore, ants actually serve as a warning sign that something is wrong with the tree or there are additional pests.

      Here’s how to get rid of ants on trees quickly:

      • Sprinkle the tree with peppermint oil water-based solution. You need 30 drops max per one gallon.
      • Arrange ant baits at the base of the tree trunk.
      • Get rid of insects that feed on tree sap and produce honeydew by spraying with insecticidal soap solution.

      We mentioned above that ants don’t harm the trees, but there are exceptions. Here, we want to mention red fire ants and carpenter ants. Hopefully, that’s not the case for you, but here’s the gist of how to deal with those:

      • Red ants damage younger trees and can bite you painfully. Dome-like mounds at the tree trunk base mean that red ants reside there and you should not under any circumstances come in contact with the mound. Immediately go with an insecticide solution or another method described above in the article.
      • Carpenter ants eat away rotten trees in order to burrow their tunnels. They literally use the tree for their home, instead of a mound. If you see sawdust piles on the ground around your tree, that’s a sure sign of carpenter ants. In such a case, you can check with a tree surgeon to inspect the tree health and determine whether it needs to be taken down, since it’s rotten and might fall.

      And when it comes to roses, simply follow the procedures above. As we already mentioned oftentimes ants are attracted by honeydew producing insects so dealing with them generally keeps ants off your greenery.

      Hope it helps!

  • Hi, we have just recently bought a property and trying to resurrect a garden rockery in the back garden but in turning the soil we have discovered lots of ants. We see them on the path, on the lawn and throughout the soil.

    How can you source the nest? Don’t know where to start!
    Is there something you can treat the soil with, without causing harm to the soil or plants?


    • Hello Frankie,

      To be blunt, it can sometimes be super difficult to trace ants outside back to their nest. Your best should would be to observe multiple ants behaviour rather than following a single one. Try to observe a larger area and track them back to their nest. The main reason for this is because ants scout the area in a zig-zag pattern. It’s never a straightforward line and since the pheromones they give off take time to spread out more, the ants never walk straight least in the beginning of the infestation.

      If there are also any rotten woods in your garden, there’s a fair chance it’s become a home for carpenter ants.

      Another source of food for ants in garden can be aphids. If you have an aphid-infested plant, then there’s a fair chance ants go there to feed on honeydew-rich aphids.

      All of the methods we mentioned above are not harmful to the ground or the plants.

      Best and good luck!

  • Sir, thank you for the info re weeds. & ants. You can save pounds & pounds by using ordinary house hold chemicals . I will next e-mail you when I need help with pruning my Buddleia bush, now nearly a small tree.

    Thank you once again,


  • I recently moved to a bungalow, the garden hadnt been cared for due to the elderly residents that lived here couldnt keep on top of things. My whole back garden appears to be a huge ant s nest. They are coming from the lawns, inside the lawn and the edges of the lawn, they are coming from every tiny gap in the slabs in the garden, basically everywhere you look they seem to be there, not only is it the little crawling ants, there seems to be 100’s if not 1000’s of flying ants. I have to be careful what i use to try to destroy them as my neighbours cats come in the garden daily, and i have a little dog. I have used sprays, boiling water, white vinegar, powder(not ideal because of the cats and dog), and even tried ant baits, the baits were totally useless and done nothing. I have just been in to my front garden, and noticed 100’s of ants in a particular spot on the edge of the lawn there also. I am at my wits end…can you advise me what i could possibly do to try and get this under some kind of control, in a way it wont harm my neighbours cats, or my dog. Thank you

    • Hello D Mac,

      We don’t want to say that sometimes we have to admit that we should leave the nature at peace, but if the ants are indeed creating a huge problem for your household, you have to go for the nest. Unfortunately it’s not always possible since, as you are describing it, ants can often spread throughout the garden, meaning their nest is also enormous. You can also try biological control, a method we’ve described above, involving the usage of nematodes. Biological control can often prove effective, but it shouldn’t be mixed with chemical.


      Fantastic Gardeners

      • Hi, I have a similar problem, and they are creating a huge problem as can’t leave anything on my lawn and they keep ominous in the house. At last count I had about 36 mounds. I’ve tried nematodes every year every 6 weeks and they done nothing, I’ve tried DE, didn’t work, I can’t use boiling water because I’m trying to recover my lawn. We have clay soil so the grass is hard to keep lush as it is and the ants are destroying the roots… I also find yellow coloured ants as well as black… please advise

        • Hello Laura, if the situation is that dire, have you considered professional garden ant extermination?

    • Hello Mike,

      You can check on Ebay and see what types they sell there. If it’s powdery, you can easily dillute it. You can also check in a hardware shop – they sell such substances as drain cleaners.


      Fantastic Gardeners

    • Hello Godwin,

      It is meant to use in the garden, however, a more efficient solution would be the ant gel baits from Eraza. Those things kill every bad insect that comes in contact with it. In no way it damages the lawn, for example. However, when it comes to trees, it’s better to be careful than sorry. There are numerous organic-based pesticides.

      Fantastic Gardeners

  • I planted a few young plants few months ago and noticed recently that ants are very active around the soil of the plants. How do I get rid of them? Thanks in advance.

    • Hello Claudia,

      From our methods above, using insecticidal soap and ant bait must be the best way to deal with ants around plants. Those methods are not harmful for the vegetation.

      It will be great to let us and the community here know if you had any success with the above methods, or if you have found another effective solution to add to the list!

      Fantastic Gardeners team

  • Are there some organic methods?my dad told me of trying flour.i am not confirmed plz confirm can flour get the ants to retreat out of the nest?

  • I have cemented yard and there are holes and 1000s of ants invaded the yard when we step out the vibration on the floor lets the ants out I have tried so much and can’t get rid of them please advise coz can’t enjoy sitting in yard the ant sting n bite.

    • Hey Patsy,

      Since it’s cemented yard, there should be no problem using any heavy-duty ant killer chemicals and ant gel baits. You can also call a man in, if the situation is too dire. It probably won’t work from the first time, you have to repeat treatments several times for a greater effect.


  • Hi, plus minus 5 months ago I planted flowers in pots and in the ground in my new courtyard. Of course aphids arrived on some plants and not long after, the ants, as was expected. I used a teaspoon of dish soap in water and sprayed all plants that had both critters. I repeated this as and when I needed to. It got rid of the aphids, but not the ants. I then noticed white soft “things” on the stems of some plants and with them loads of ants. What the things are I have no idea, but it must have been something to do with the ants. I then used ant powder around the base of the plants, removed all the white “things” and the plants are beginning to shoot again. But I used quite a lot of the ant powder on the soil around all the plants. Will my garden die?? I’m desperate to get rid of the ants. I’ve read all your comments and taken it all in for future reference. It’s just I’m afraid of the amount of ant powder used.

    • Hey Jane,

      It’s quite difficult to completely get rid of all the ants. In fact, ants probably can easily start another colony. You can try and repot the plants in a fresh clean soil, if you are afraid from using too much ant poison. We wouldn’t recommend using too much, instead if problems appear again, you can try a mix of insecticide killers and natural solutions.

  • I have dried cow dung that I want to use as fertilizer. As I was breaking the paddys up I found them to be riddled with ants. The ants weren’t in the dung when I collected it. I have had the dung stored in bag at home. How do I get rid of these ants ????

  • That is horrible all the suggested ways to kill ants. I think we should focus how to move ants further from our homes, rather than boiling them alive! They are an amazing creatures, that are of a hhigh importance to our planet.

    • I’m not sure if I understand your question, Pat. Birds usually go for seeds and stuff, they won’t eat boric acid clumbs.

  • Question- I used granular ant killer about 5 years ago in an area where I now want to plant raspberries. I removed all the product and dirt around. Is it safe to plant in that area? I have also brought in new soil.

  • Hi, thanks for the list; the natural method is quite resourceful and just to add to it: table salt is your best friend here. It’s almost certainly one of the best ways at keeping ants at bay, perhaps worth adding? Thanks Shelly

  • Instead of using costly pesticides or ant traps that do not work good try using an effective home remedy that is proven to be cheap. Mix 1/2 cup borax with 1/4 cup icing sugar and sprinkle it around ant nests or high traffic areas. The icing sugar or other sweet stuff like syrup, sugar will draw them in and they’ll get borax on their bodies and take it down to the nest to wipe it out. They are resilient so it might be necessary to re-apply in a few weeks but it works. Borax is used in fishing to keep roe from getting freezer burnt or dried out, and is used in laundry applications and is not unfriendly to the environment. Try it…

  • I. we recently installed a new patio and partial new lawn. The new lawn was just laid and seeded two days ago. We previously would have ants on the old patio, which seemed to get worse recently, and noticed ant hills in the lawn. Now, there are baby ants crawling all over the new patio and I’m sure they are enjoying the new and old lawn as well.. I want to get rid of them, at least around the patio but wouldn’t mind removing them completely. What is the easiest and most efficient method of accomplishing this? and THANK YOU.

  • Thankfulness to my father who informed me on the topic of this
    web site, thijs website is actually amazing.

  • Help, Having followed advise which worked , using borax and honey to get rid of an ant’s nest. Which was located behind a newly built decking wall,
    I now find l have bluebottle’s trying to get in how do l get rid of the bluebottle’s .
    Very pleased others are trying to rid themselves of ants, flying ants are not nice.

  • Your post to get rid of those ants was very helpful and fantastic. It was amazing to read all the things which helped me out in all the possible ways. The ways you mentioned were so easy to perform and even I got effective results. Thanks for sharing such information.

  • Both my front and back gardens are one big ant mound. With each step you see ants everywhere. It is like it is one massive huge colony. All the grass has gone yellow (presumably killed by them). My pots are ants nests (plants don’t exist in there now due to this). We also have red ants nests that seem to be expanding. We have tried boiling water, baby oil, salt, white vinegar, talc, Zoflora, bleach, ant powder, etc. Nothing bothers them, it’s like they are super ants……….totally untouchable.

    The only thing I have found that works inside & on house wall (we had flying ants coming out the cavaties last year) is DETHLAC SPRAY. It is excellent!! Unfortunately, it doesn’t work on porous surfaces.

    Anyone has any ideas please help as my daughters are unable to play safely in the gardens & I am unable to enjoy sitting out there or do my garden how I would like it (we have been here 2 years now & I have not been able to do anything due to this problem. It’s severely affecting my mental health as my garden was my outlet.

  • Looking for ways to get rid of ants on an apple tree for a friend I came across this blog. Just wanted to mention that I’ve used baby powder with success both inside my kitchen and outside where the ground and walls of my house meet. It’s an old house so lots of cracks where ants get in and out. They don’t like to cross a line of baby powder and it’s relatively harmless to use but avoid breathing it in.

  • lots of ants plus flying ants in my garden , can put up with some ants but flying ones a no no,
    I’, feeling guilty putting ant powder down with nesting birds near by,
    please advise as i have grandchildren and small dog who visits ,

  • I want to protect my beneficial insects, while killing the ants. What is the best natural remedy for such a use case?

  • I have multiple ant nests in my garden they have also migrated in various parts of the walls on outside of my house. I’ve tried ant powder vinegar wash up liquid essential oils boiling water . I had pest control out who wouldn’t treat outside. I’m at my wits end.

  • Does white vinegar work on red ants? They are very small but I know they bite and they seem to have spread across my garden.

  • Also how do I know the difference between a red ant and a fire ant or are they the same, I live in the U.K.?

  • Thank you for the useful advice. My medium sized garden is absolutely swarming with ants all over and affecting the health of many of my plants all around the garden. There are so many that we are unable to sit out in any form of prolonged comfort before they are crawling all over us. I have no idea where the nest(s) is or are due to the sheer volume. Can you give any further advice as to how to locate a nest entrance please so that I can have a go with one or more of your suggested methods of removal. Thank you

  • I have thousands and thousands of flying ants on my patio (rural area, they blanket the patio). I don’t know where the nest is, how do I go about killing them. Thanks

  • Liked your help with ant problems, but ants are in my entire garden. I am tuning my entire garden and no matter where I dig there are ants. If I add Terro pellets as I am doing this ,will it hurt my new plantings? You are greatly appreciated.

  • Please please help. I havr ants in my house hundredd of them. Had rentokil our to spray them but they still come back in. Afraid that they are in walls of house. Please help.

  • Crows are making lots of small holes in my lawn looking for ants eggs. The lawn is a mess. How can I get rid of the ants in the lawn? Any ideas?

  • Thanks for your very detailed instructions. These are worth trying if they can replace the expensive exterminators.

  • I have about 50 yellow ants nest in my lawn Have no clue as to where they have originated from
    Can you please tell me how to get rid of them without killing my grass

  • Hi, I think am gonna try the Boric acid and sugar, Only could some one tell me if I should mix the sugar with water then add the Boric powder, Is that what your ment to do with it, otherwise I don’t know how sure and Boric acid would turn into a peast without a little water .Hiw did you mix the Boric acid.?

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