Correct Conditions that Encourage Ants
Spread Mulch: In the garden, the best ant control is a constant layer of organic mulch over all bare soil. Three to four inches of organic mulch such as chopped leaves or wood chips discourage ant colonies in the area. Mulch harbors their natural enemies, such as spiders and shrews.
Foil Foragers: Place a band of Teflonä-coated barrier tape around the trunks and stems of fruit trees and other vulnerable shrubs. The slippery substance prevents the ants from climbing up to get honeydew and encouraging aphids to thrive and multiply.
Get Rid of Sweets: Watch for pest infestations and discourage aphid and scale attacks before they begin producing honeydew. Pinch tender tips of plants where aphids cluster and put them in the trash. Scrape scale off leaf undersides with a fingernail.
Encourage Dense Turf: Turfgrass that grows thickly (from 6 to 9 plants per square inch) and has deep roots in healthy soil makes life difficult for ants. Dense, deep grass roots in the soil obstructs their efforts to dig their elaborate tunneled nests. Foster dense root growth by periodically aerating your lawn. Overseed for thicker grass.
Attract Diversity of Natural Ant Predators
Control ants by developing the natural predator system already in place on your property. Encourage the many insects and animals that normally prey on ants. These natural predators come in all shapes and sizes. The predators will take up residence in a yard that includes their favorite plants and other foods, so the greater the variety of plants on your property, the greater will be the variety of natural enemies of ants that are attracted to it. The more of these different kinds of predators live in your yard, the fewer pest insect problems you will have.
Despite their great success in the world, ants have many natural enemies. Some kinds of scavenger beetles inhabit ant nests, and feed on larvae and pupae. Parasitic mites attack ants in their nests. Braconid and chalcid wasps attack ants in all life stages. Research shows that more than 15 kinds of spiders (including the much-maligned black widow) take a heavy toll of ants in farm fields, so it’s a safe bet that spider webs are spread for ant foragers in your yard as well.
Encourage the natural insect predators of ants to stay in your yard by providing them with a tempting variety of plants that provide them sources of pollen and nectar. Insectary plants, hosts for beneficial insects, may be either wild or cultivated plants. The best ones have flat or open blossoms, composed of tightly packed florets, such as daisies, Queen Anne's lace, or yarrow. The more different kinds of flowering plants you have in the yard, the more different kinds of beneficials will visit and patrol there.While many are insects themselves, natural predators may also be amphibians, rodents or, of course, birds. In Texas, the horned toad (actually a kind of lizard) is an ant connoisseur, able to disarm stinging ants before devouring them whole. The banded armadillo is a prime ant predator in some areas of the country. And many small insectivorous animals, especially shrews, eat lots of ants.
Feed Birds Year Round
Flickers and other woodpeckers are especially fond of ants. Most other insect-eating birds include ants in their diet, and huge numbers of ants are snapped up on their mating flights by swallows, chimney swifts, and many other birds, including gulls. To enlist the birds’ help in your fight against ants, provide food, water, and shelter for bird families on your property.