How to get rid of Red Ants in Garden?

We are familiar with these small insects- Ants. They are so common that most of the time we ignore them. Their presence has become obvious to us. They are the most successful creatures on our planet. They existed with Dinasours and survived the extinction. These small insects are found everywhere on the globe. They have conquered land more than we humans can ever imagine. Have you ever imagined, how to get rid of red ants completely?

All these seem like a textbook story. But trust me whether you like it or not, they are hiding in your garden. There are more than 10000 different types of ants identified to date. Their collective population is more than 20 times of total human population on earth. This clearly indicates ants are very successful in survival.

There is nothing to worry about with these stats. No, they are not going to invade our planet. They already have and we are living just fine.

How to get rid of Red Ants in Garden
How to get rid of Red Ants in Garden?

The problem occurs only when their concentration increases in a certain area. Next, they start harming our plants, pets, and finally us. Now, this is the situation to worry about. Keep reading you want to get rid of red ants in your garden.

Check out my previous post: What is Triple 16 fertilizer? How to use it? Lawn care

Why are there Red Ants in my Garden?

The presence of ants in our garden is not uncommon. They are present everywhere. Some are red while others are black.

If you see 10-12 or few dozens of them wandering around the garden. Then it is obvious, they are searching for food or shelter. But if they count more than 100 even 1000, then it’s time to search for the source.

There must be something that is attracting them. There are few considerations that you can check to identify the cause of the problem.

  1. The location of your garden. If there is any cold shady spot then it is more likely to attract red ants on a hot summer day.
  2. Soft fruit and vegetable seedlings. Red ants are attracted toward soft juicy vegetable seedlings. Actually, they don’t feed on these seedlings. It is a good resource for farming fungus in their base. Yes some of them own fungus farms.
  3. Pest like Aphids and mealybugs. Aphids and mealybugs release honeydew. This sweet sap is a suitable food source for ants. Simply more pest in your garden means more ants. Ants protect these pests to milk them for honeydew.

Are Red Ants useful to the garden?

Yes, Red ants are useful at least to some extent.  A limited number of ants can control the population of other insects, bugs, larva, and grubs. Otherwise, these creatures may have fed on your plants.

Ants make colonies below the ground. They create a network of interconnected tunnels. These tunnels can help the air, water, and nutrients to reach the root system. Once they leave any colony, this space is utilized by the root system.

Ants can easily break down dead and decaying organic matter like any dead insect. It can help in the faster decomposition and the residue is the best organic compost for the plants.

All of this is possible if the number of ants is limited in the garden. Otherwise, they can bring havoc, and it will definitely not good.

red ants hunting insects
red ants hunting insects.

Also read: How to Propagate Blueberry bush from Cuttings?

Will Red Ants hurt my garden?

Few red ants cannot harm your garden. Instead, they can acts as a protector, especially against bugs and grubs.

On other hand, the whole colony of red fire ants can easily destroy plants and even big trees. They make their nest near the root system of mature plants and trees. It can increase the chance of infection in the roots and stunt the growth. In the worst case, the plant or tree may die without nutrition or moisture.

They can cut the small seedlings and damage the root system. Ants may move tiny seeds and end their chance of germination.

Too many red ants in the garden can reduce the population of natural pollinators. They will hunt for larva and caterpillar of moths and butterflies. They can even kill small birds and their eggs. This will eventually reduce the number of pollinators. Later it will result in lower fertilization and fruit formation.

Overall, Too many red ants can damage the natural fauna of the garden.

black ant on flower

How to get rid of red ants in the garden?

You should be aware of the fact that killing ants is the last option. There are many alternative options available to get rid of red ants in the garden. You should remember that killing is not an option.

We should never kill ants just for the sake of killing.

These small creatures are part of the garden ecosystem. your intention should be to keep the population in control especially in your garden.

Distraction is always better than killing. It is a slow but less cruel method. You can lure ants to any empty corner of your garden with sugar cubes or any sweetener. They will keep returning to find easy food sources and the rest of your garden is safe.

Also, try to keep your garden free from pests especially aphids and mealybugs. They act as a food source and no food will force them to move away.

Ants can be easily distracted by-

  • Easy food sources like sugar syrup or honey.
  • Some spices can also distract ants. Asofetada is the best spice to dither ants, they hate its fragrance.
  • Sometimes Spraying onion garlic oil near their colony can distract them.
  • Finally, you can try some insect repellent plants to avoid red ants.

Finally, if their population is out of control then kill is the only option. You can either use-

  • Ant poison or gel.
  • Boiling water.
  • Professional help.

How to eliminate red ants in the garden?

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As I have already said- Elimination is the last option. Try these techniques only when there is no other option available.

  1. You can use a mixture of borax or boric acid with sugar syrup or cornmeal. This will not kill the ants instantly. Instead, they will carry this mixture to their queen. And together they feed on it. Ants can’t digest the borax mixed sugar. Eventually, the queen and her soldiers die. This method is effective every 1 out of 3 times.
  2. You can put boiling water over the ant colony. You may have to repeat this step several times as ants are prepared for flood-like situations. It is an old method and seems very effective. But there is a practical problem. Ants can make their colony as deep as 20 meters and this can cover several feet in width. So boiling water will not work in a big ant colony.
  3. You can also try Ant poison gel. This will act as a luring agent and attract lots of ants. They will feed and eventually die due to dehydration and starvation. Again this method is only effective if you have a sufficient amount of gel so that it can be taken to the queen before distribution.
  4. The fourth option is also an Ant poison but in powdered form. This Poison is effective in killing, distracting ants for a long time. But it should be applied indoors and can harm the soil. So most professionals do not use this type of poison.  It can do more harm to us than to the ants.
  5. Diatomaceous Earth (DE) is a powdered form of fossilized diatoms. They can quickly dehydrate moist insects and kill them. It should be kept dry to work perfectly. This material is of no use in the rainy season or moist location. It can be harmful to both humans and pets if inhaled. DE or Diatomaceous earth is not always effective for red ants.

What kills fire ants in the garden?

There are many chemical inorganic means to kill ants. To kill fire ants in the garden you have to introduce their natural predators. They will keep feeding on these ants and control their population naturally. The most common natural predators of red fire ants are-

  • Frog and toads.
  • Nematodes
  • Lizards & chameleons
  • Birds.

Frogs and toads need wet soft areas to hide. If your garden has a spot like that then you can introduce them as a control measure.

Nematodes are the easiest option to introduce in the garden. They are tiny worms that can repel and kill several infectious pests. Nematodes can control the population of ants, moths, and giant beetles.

They first enter the body of the host (an ant) and release several bacterias to neutralize it. Then feed on it from inside and lays eggs. eventually, the ants get killed by the nematode. Meanwhile, the ant will carry these worms inside their colony and risks the life of the queen ant.

The dying ant also releases some pheromones or scents to inform the colony about the invader. This will eventually force the colony to leave the space.  They can’t live with their natural predators.

Sticky Ant Traps can also kill some ants but it is not very effective for large furious red fire ant colonies.

How do I get rid of ants in my garden without killing my plants?

Organic kitchen products are best to get rid of ants. This is the safest option for garden plants. You can try cinnamon powder to distract them. Though this is not 100% effective on every ant’s variety, still you will have an advantage over fungal attacks on the plants.

Next spraying soap oil solution can control aphids and hence reduce ants in the garden. This method doesn’t directly affect the ants. Instead, it removes the food source that will compel the ants to leave the plant.

Onion garlic spray is very effective in distracting ants. It is effective but requires a proper application. This solution will not kill the ants. They don’t like the smell of these oils so they try to keep away from it. You may have to spray this solution several times over days to get rid of red ants in the garden.

The final and the most effective method is here. Use Asafoetida with Antiseptic solution like Dettol and water and spray near their colony. This method will work for almost every type of ant. It will not kill the ants but force them to leave the colony. The smell of asafoetida and antiseptic solution reacts with their pheromone sensors and creates a sense of danger. Therefore they are compelled to leave the colony. You may have to repeat the application for several days for 100% success.

red ants feeding

How does it work?

Chloroxylenol is an aromatic chemical compound. It is present in many antiseptic solutions along with soap and several oils. It will combine with Asafoetida in the solution and dither any bug, and insect especially red ants.

Asafoetida is a common kitchen spice. It is a dried latex extracted from the roots of Ferula plants. Asafoetida has a strong pungent smell. You can smell a pinch of asafoetida from more than 10 feet in your kitchen.

How do you get rid of red ants permanently?

Killing an entire ant colony is the only option to get rid of red ants permanently. Still, it is not a guarantee of no ant in your garden.

It is a natural selection process. One colony is killed and destroyed by another ant colony. So it more likely that you will see them again after a few weeks or more.

Chemical soil treatment is the only way to remove ants permanently from the garden. These treatments are done by professional insect controllers. They use specific chemicals that either creates a sense of danger or encourage the ants to work actively without eating. In either case, the ant will die and hence your garden will be free from ants. These chemicals are very effective and can last for several seasons but can harm the garden ecosystem. It is not good for plants, animals, and humans.

Share your methods with us and help us get rid of red ants in the garden. Check out this before leaving: Pineapple Sage: How to Grow and care Salvia Elegans?

Keep Reading and Keep Gardening!


Hi, My name is Sukant. I am an I.T professional. Gardening for me is not just a hobby, it's a way of living life with nature. My Ancestors were Commercial farmers: So I personally feel attached to the green. I am not an expert, I'm here only to share my gardening experiences. It's always Refreshing.

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