Ants in the garden

There are over 50 different ant species in the UK, most of them pretty well go unnoticed but there a few which can cause a fair bit of grief to gardeners. Pippa Greenwood explores the fuss about ants.

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Ants can be found in gardens and/or greenhouses in most months of the year, but things are most likely to get out of hand from spring until mid-autumn but it is once the eating al fresco season starts that they really make their presence felt.

Red ants in particular can be pretty aggressive and have a nasty formic-acid laden bite and black ants have often bitten me too.  Either way it can really hurt, especially if you get them trapped inside gardening gloves or any other item of clothing…that age-old expression ‘ants in your pants’, the significance of which I think you can only truly understand when you’ve experienced it….nasty….very nasty!

Ants are often attracted to areas where people like to eat as black ants in particular are attracted to sugary foods, so patios and garden benches can become a very unappealing place to sit.

Ant hills

Ants also do a lot of tunnelling and yellow ants in particular often form really noticeable mound or ant-hills, especially on lawns – so if your lawn is your passion you’ll know all too well how tricky they can make mowing, and what a mess the soil from the hill can be once spread over the lawn surface, making a perfect seed bed for weeds. The tunnelling activity can also cause problems when ants get to work in flowerbeds and vegetable plots. Ants don’t attack plants directly but they move the soil around below ground so much that it can cause drought symptoms on otherwise perfectly healthy plants.

Ants love sugary substances, including the sugar-rich honeydew excreted by some sap-sucking pests and there are even reports of ants farming aphids for their honeydew and also ‘guarding’ aphids against aphid predators.

How to control ants

Nemasys Natural No Ants
Nemasys Natural No Ants

There are various ant killer powders, aerosols, liquids and other controls available, but they cannot be used in gardens or on plants. In addition, there is one potential problem often cited by entomologists as being a reason not to attempt chemical control: once the nest has been destroyed a number of new queen ants are likely to colonise the area, often meaning that you end up with even more nests than you had to start with.

There is a very effective nematode deterrent available and I get lots of very positive comments about it, both the fact that it is harmless to pets, humans and wildlife and the fact that it seems to work really well.  Just apply it once the ants have started to appear. You can find out more and order ‘NoAnts’ from my Pippa Greenwood website. We’ll then send them out speedily, first class post in an insulated envelope.

Pippa Greenwood

About Pippa Greenwood

Pippa’s gardening passions include grow your own and the things gardeners hate most – pests and diseases! She gives many gardening talks and worked for the RHS for years, spent 13 years as a presenter on BBC Gardeners’ World and since 1995 has been a regular panellist on BBC Radio 4’s Gardeners’ Question Time. She was also the gardening advisor for the murder-mystery series, Rosemary & Thyme. Vist Pippa’s website www.pippagreenwood.com for gorgeous vegetable plants with advice from Pippa, pest controls and more
@PippaGreenwood
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