How to Kill Ants on Vegetables (Gardening)

Ant On A Leaf
Ant On A Leaf | Source

Ants In My Garden

Like any ecosystem the one involving insects is a complex matter. Ants can help your plants in some respect as they will often eat other pests that may be causing direct harm to the plants however, overall they can be a problem. Direct problems from ants are that they can attract disease into your garden and can harm the root system of plants. But the biggest problem is the mutual relationship that ants keep with specific bugs, particularly aphids and caterpillars.

Ant
Ant | Source

Ants farm aphids, they herd them much like we do cattle. These are generally small light colored bugs. Aphids are devastating to many plants and can ravenously devour the leaves of plants in any garden. The ants protect these bugs as they excrete honeydew which ants eat and take back to their queen. The ant milks the aphid by stroking it with their antennae. They even go so far as to store Aphid eggs in their colony to be hatched after winter and begin the process again. You may even see ants picking up and transporting aphids from one location to another. Likewise with caterpillars the ants will feed the caterpillar leaves of your plants while they produce honeydew for them. So getting rid of ants in a bug infested garden is a big step in the right direction.

An Ant Transports An Aphid By Picking Him Up And Carrying Him
An Ant Transports An Aphid By Picking Him Up And Carrying Him | Source

Methods Of Bug Control

There are many different ways to get your ant problem under control. Such as types of insecticide on the market that will kill the ants and many with varying degrees of success. But with smaller gardens it is recommended to stay as natural as possible with the method you use. After all many commercial insecticides can get rid of bugs but they can also be very hard on your plants. Use too little and the bugs still may thrive, too much and your plants may die as well. Below you will find a chart of different types of control you can use, the method of use and expected results.

Type
Method Of Use
Expected Results
Boiling Water
This method consists of dumping a container of boiling water directly on the anthill or digging a hole into it and then flooding the hill.
Results can be mixed, you may kill a majority of the ants, possibly the queen but ants will escape some may be left over.
Cinnamon, Baking Soda, Pepper
Sprinkle any of these substances in and around plants.
Ants abhor the scent of these substances and steer clear, drawbacks are that with rain you may have to reapply, also underground is uneffected.
Vinnegar
Spray on plants and earth as a 50/50 solution of vinnegar and water.
Again ants can't stand the scent.
Ant Bait Stations
Also known as ant traps, these little stations are placed throughout the garden and are filled with food laced with boric acid, poison to ants.
The ants take the food back to the colony and the queen and they eat it. It acts slowly enough that they all should have eaten and the colony will die.
Cornmeal/Boric Acid
Sprinkle around on the earth of the garden.
Much like the bait stations the cormeal is laced with boric acid, the ants take it back to the hive where the queen and colony eat and soon die.
Insecticidial Soap
Spray on the plants themselves.
Being a soap this is much more mild of an insecticide and more natural it is easy on your plants but does kill the bugs. Drawbacks are that you must spray the bugs themselves it does little to deter them later.

If you've used or have an opinion on the best option vote, which method works best?

See results without voting

Whatever method you use keep in mind nothing is an exact science and for bad problems you may have to combine a few different methods. Some of these such as the powders are merely a deterrent and they don't actually kill the ants, while others like the insecticidal soap do kill but just when the bug is sprayed directly. Bait stations are successful as the ants themselves bring the poison back to the colony not knowing that once eaten it will destroy the colony and queen.

Black Garden Ants
Black Garden Ants | Source

The Black Garden Ant

Depending on what part of the world you live in you may or may not have seen this type of ant however they are the most destructive to gardens. They farm with aphids with a ferocity not seen in other ants and they also eat strawberries and other fruit. They also kill insects such as spiders that are known to protect gardens from other pests. They create massive colonies and over time can burrow through brick and mortar. If this ant is discovered in your garden it must be dealt with immediately.

Ants On A Leaf
Ants On A Leaf | Source

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Comments 20 comments

davenmidtown profile image

davenmidtown 4 years ago from Sacramento, California

As someone who studies insects and who has been an organic gardener for decades I have to disagree with parts of your article. I have never found a valid reason to rid my garden of ants. If you pay attention to where ants colonize aphids you will notice that rarely do you have a snail or other phytophagus (plant eating) insects... Also aphids that are colonized by ants do far less damage to plants than aphids that are not colonized by ants. This is because the ants move the aphids from plant to plant so the damage is spread around. Snails cause more damage than aphids do and thus keeping the ants who farm the aphids prevents worse crop damage from occurring. Ants are also recyclers and that role in the garden is almost as importants the role of pollinators...


terrektwo profile image

terrektwo 4 years ago from North America Author

davenmidtown - I respect your opinion although I can say we will remain on different pages in this respect. The last part of the article identifying the black garden ant is well documented as a garden pest, so it isn't simply my opinion. As for the average ant's moving the aphids around I prefer no damage to my plants over damage that is spread around. I do agree there are other pests in the garden though such as snails that wreak havoc but this article is just about ants so I didn't touch on those. Maybe in a future article, we'll see.


davenmidtown profile image

davenmidtown 4 years ago from Sacramento, California

There were bits of your article that I enjoyed... my point was that the ants provide a service to gardeners... in an organic way... in a garden you will have insects and snails, slugs, etc..... the role of insect in the garden is very balanced. Remove the ants and something else will come... usually snails which are not insects...but still a garden pest. this is why it is important to look at more than just one species of pest to determine a course of action... I would rather have plant damage then I would try to scrub pesticides off of my food...organic or otherwise...


terrektwo profile image

terrektwo 4 years ago from North America Author

davenmidtown - glad you enjoyed some of the article. If you can grow veggies and other plants without having to kill bugs more power to you. For those with ant issues this article should help. I thank you for commenting :)


Suranee1969 profile image

Suranee1969 4 years ago from Kandy, Sri Lanka

Thank you Terrektwo for this hub. Some of my plants are being attacked by black ants which look similar to your photo 'black garden ants.' I will try the cinnamon and baking soda treatment. Thank you again.


Lipnancy profile image

Lipnancy 4 years ago from Hamburg, New York

Fighting the ant problem right now. Voted up and Shared.


terrektwo profile image

terrektwo 4 years ago from North America Author

Suranee1969 - glad to be of service, let me know how the ant problem in your garden turns out. I hope all goes well.


terrektwo profile image

terrektwo 4 years ago from North America Author

Lipnancy - yes overall ants can cause major problems. I'm sure if you try one of these methods it will help. Thanks for reading :)


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 4 years ago from New York

Summer is the perfect time to write about ants in the garden. My problem isn't necessarily in my garden but on my patio. The little darlings build ant hills between the blocks on my patio extension until it looks like more sand that stone!

I found your hub vyer interesting and well written and certainly intend to get out the baking soda!

Voted up, useful and interesting.


TravelAbout profile image

TravelAbout 4 years ago from United States

I think my garden vege plants have had just about everything but ants...at least I haven't seen any yet. I will specifically look for them from now on and be ready to rid the problem. Those close up buggy pics are great.


terrektwo profile image

terrektwo 4 years ago from North America Author

tillsontitan - hope it works, yes ants can be a nuisance on the patio, sometimes they get into the house. All we can do is try to keep them out :)


terrektwo profile image

terrektwo 4 years ago from North America Author

TravelAbout - thanks for reading, yes I thought the bug pics would enhance the article, thanks :)


Maren Morgan M-T profile image

Maren Morgan M-T 4 years ago from Pennsylvania

Hi, can you do a hub on eco-solutions for a few ants which wander inside the house? I tried sprinkling chili powder - going on the same theory as the cinnamon, etc. - but it didn't work. Thanks! Great hub!


terrektwo profile image

terrektwo 4 years ago from North America Author

Maren Morgan M-T - I'll see what I can do, you may want to try the any bait solution that one can be used indoors too. Hope this helps :)


Maren Morgan M-T profile image

Maren Morgan M-T 4 years ago from Pennsylvania

Ok - thanks.


terrektwo profile image

terrektwo 4 years ago from North America Author

no problem :)


sharewhatuknow profile image

sharewhatuknow 4 years ago from Western Washington

Hi terrektwo. Thank you for such an informative hub. For the life of me I could not figure out what was munching on my butternut squash leaves. I saw black ants, so figured it could be them. We have tons of slugs, so I bought slug killer, used it, no slugs now. However, the leaves still being munched on. I finally got fed up, pardon the pun, and grabbed my can of Raid. I sprayed the leaves lightly about 3 times in the last 3 weeks, and now the leaves look lovely.

I know, I know, there are those of you gasping right now. Sorry, I had to do something!

I did my best to avoid spraying the Raid directly in the soil.

I am glad I found your hub and will try your solutions. Voted awesome and useful!


terrektwo profile image

terrektwo 4 years ago from North America Author

sharewhatuknow - raid is pretty harsh but I guess if it worked and didn't hurt your plants badly then that's good.


Mona 4 years ago

How do I treat fine black ants, that are eatng the leaves from the vegetable plants, also Lady Bugs are becomind a pest.?


terrektwo profile image

terrektwo 4 years ago from North America Author

Mona - well I would try one of the methods listed, they're pretty much what I have :)

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