How do I rid my garden of black ants?
Q: I have noticed black ants in my flower and vegetable garden beds already this year. How can I get rid of them safely?
• Carole from Boardman
A: Ants are beginning to be a hot topic this year, so you are not alone.
Since you have the ants in your soil, they are most likely field ants. The soil has warmed enough now for them to be active. If you or others had ants in the home, they are most likely pavement ants. There are many types of ants which are active this time of year.
Ants coming into the home are looking for food. Inside, it is pretty easy — remove food and water sources so they are not attracted to your home. In the garden, it is slightly more difficult.
The first step in control is locating the nest. This time of year, it can be easy to find nests outside. But to be sure you find the nest or other nests, you can simply use a spoonful of a sugary substance or a piece of bacon. Place this near where you see the ants. Once you get a trail of ants, you can use an integrated pest management (IPM) approach to treat the area from which the ants are emerging.
Inside, control of ants in the home starts with eliminating food sources. Clean up all crumbs in your kitchen or other area where you find the ants. Eliminate water sources as well. Seal cracks and crevices where ants are found to be entering the home.
Ants in the garden may be difficult to control. Ants will not harm your flowers or vegetables this summer, but they can team up with aphids later during the growing season. This is a problem for your plants. Aphids are small insects with sucking mouthparts that feed on your plants — a bad thing for your plants. Many ants feed on the honeydew secreted by aphids, so the ants farm the aphids to ensure their sugary food source.
When you do find a nest outside, use hot soapy water to soak the nest. Or you can even dig it up. Both acts discourage ants. Even more important in flower beds is ensuring these ants do not find their way into your home. Plants can be pathways into your home. Keep tree branches and plants about 12 inches away from the home’s surface. Cleaning gutters eliminate possible nesting sites.
There are many insecticides and traps for ants as a last resort if you cannot get rid of them. Baiting is a better option than sprinkling insecticide around the home. Be sure to read and follow the label. Complete details about ant identification and control options are on this factsheet: http://go.osu.edu/Ants
For even more details on safe methods through the IPM approach, visit http://go.osu.edu/antcontrol.
Barrett is The Ohio State University Extension educator for agriculture and natural resources in Mahoning County. Call 330-533-5538 to submit your questions to the plant clinic. Live clinic hours are 10 a.m. to noon every other Thursday on Zoom at go.osu.edu/virtualclinic.