With the weather slowly warming up, I am starting to see more and more ants in my garden – not my house (thankfully!). Nevertheless I am already blaming an ant nest for destroying my Euonymus shrub. And, the other day I saw them crawling on my peony plants, which are just coming into bud.
Apparently most ants are actually beneficial to the garden. They can help to aerate the soil through their natural tunnelling movements and the common Garden Ant can kill off caterpillars, which can cause damage to your plants. (I found caterpillars took a great liking to my bay tree last year, virtually destroying all of its leaves!)
But any ant can damage your plants if their colony happens to be directly next to the root system. They can also cause unsightly bald patches in your lawn, as an ant nest can cover patches of grass preventing it from growing properly.
The more sinister sounding Fire Ant can do a lot of damage in a garden and destroy plants by tunnelling through its root system or feeding off young buds or even nutritious seeds. These ants will bite you too, which can cause allergic reactions in some people!
Are ants as damaging to a garden as moles?
Debatable. Moles probably create much larger tunnels potentially creating a greater mess of your lawn and flower beds. They also feed off worms, which any keen gardener knows are very good for the soil. I would also argue they are more difficult to get rid of…it’s not as if you can use a spray on them!
On the other hand, if ants happen to destroy an expensive plant you have just brought at the garden centre, then you would say that is very damaging too. But if all they are doing is crawling along your plants minding their own business, then they are quite harmless.
How to get rid of ants is seemingly a very common Google search (as covered in a fleas, ants and acne post) and if you are facing an ant invasion, then all of a sudden ants become a major pest. In this case, more professional ant control or DIY products may be necessary. General plant maintenance for the control of aphids and other plant insects will also help, as the natural secretion of aphids is a major attractant to ants.
For a more organic approach, I have read that spraying apple cider vinegar in the garden can act as a deterrent – ants hate vinegar apparently. Who would have guessed it?