Control Ants Using No Insecticides

It is very difficult, if not impossible, to completely eliminate an ant colony from the home landscape with any device or product considered safe for people and pets. Given their positive role in the landscape, it is not even desirable to completely eradicate them. It is possible, however, to cause the ants to move their colony elsewhere. It is also possible, with persistent effort, to control the size of an ant colony. The best strategy, then, is to safely force visible, nuisance ants to move their colony to a more remote location outside the area of the property reserved for normal activities and then keep that colony’s size under control.

Repeatedly raking unsightly mounds flat is often effective in encouraging ants to move their nest elsewhere. Flooding the mounds with water from a hose also discourages them. Insert a hose into the mound and let the water slowly drip for several hours a day for several days.

Another technique is to introduce into a nest a shovelful of ants from one mound into another. Ants are very territorial and will battle to the death to eject a foreign colony.

Pouring boiling water into ant mounds or onto areas where swarms are visible effectively destroys many ants, and sometimes whole colonies if the queen is killed. However, it takes some persistence. Treat small mounds twice, with at least 3 gallons of boiling (about 190° F) water each time. Break up the top of the mound and pour the water in. Re-treat mounds once weekly until all the ants disappear. The boiling water treatment temporarily sterilizes the soil, so work in some organic matter after treatments are complete.

Attract The Songbirds
Songbirds also play a role in balancing populations of ants and other insects. Certain ones, such as flickers relish ants as a significant part of their diet. Others have a more amicable relationship with the non-stinging types. Dozens of bird species engage in "anting" activity, mostly in late summer and early fall. They either sit on anthills to encourage ants to crawl through their plumage or actively squeeze ants in their bills to force the release of fluids from their anal glands or abdomens onto their feathers. Researchers think this helps birds facilitate molting, groom feathers and, possibly, kill parasites such as mites and lice. Where there are few songbirds, ants are likely to be more prevalent.

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