When you’re lounging in your yard or wandering across your lawn, few things can spoil the moment, like seeing an ant hill. Along with ants being broadly considered pests, they can bite, sting, get into food, bother pets, and more. As a result, the first thought that crosses your mind when you see them is how to get rid of ant hills in the lawn.
Several approaches can work well when you need to get rid of ant hills in your lawn. Simple, natural options like boiling water or vinegar can be effective, as well as carbonated water and certain essential oils. However, there are also alternatives, including some chemical options.
Since several strategies are effective, it’s wise to consider them all, allowing you to select the one you’re most comfortable using. If you’re trying to figure out how to get rid of ant hills in the lawn, here’s what you need to know.
- Why Do Ants Build Ant Hills?
- Are Ant Hills Dangerous?
- What Attracts Ants to Your Lawn?
- How to Get Rid of Ant Hills in the Lawn
- Are Ants Bad for Your Lawn?
- How to Identify Ant Hills
- What Smell Will Keep Ants Away?
- Why Do Ants Build Ant Hills in Lawns?
- How to Prevent Ant Hills in the Lawn
- The Best Way to Get Rid of Ant Hills in the Lawn
Why Do Ants Build Ant Hills?
Ant hills –also called ant mounds – serve as an entrance and exit to the ground nest below the surface. When they dig into the ground or out from below, the extra dirt gets pushed onto the surface of your lawn, creating a small pile.
Additionally, ant hills can serve other functions. In some cases, the ant mound assists with ventilation and temperature control for the nest and offers some protection from the weather. At times, it may also help keep certain predators away, serving as a makeshift barrier.
Are Ant Hills Dangerous?
Generally speaking, ant hills aren’t especially dangerous in most cases. While they are unsightly and may damage surrounding grass, the presence of an ant mound isn’t an immediate threat to most people and pets.
However, ant hills in your lawn mean a colony of ants is actively living on your property. During their search for food and water, that may increase the odds that they enter your home, invade your garden, or otherwise end up in your personal space.
Additionally, there are many species of ants that build mounds in yards. While many of them are mainly harmless to people, others may bite or sting if they come in contact with a person or pet. At times, this may cause little more than a bit of discomfort. However, bites or stings from specific ant species are potentially dangerous, especially in high quantities.
One prime example of a dangerous ant is the fire ant. Fire ants inject venom when they sting, which can cause various health effects. It may be limited to a small, painful, itchy welt or cause something far more serious, such as anaphylaxis., which can lead to death.
Another risk of coming in contact with fire ants involves a fire ant nest swarming you, your family members, or pets. Often, when you engage with a nest, a slew of fire ants may come to defend it. As a result, you could end up with stings from dozens, if not hundreds, or fire ants, with each sting increasing your odds of a severe health issue, including death.
What Attracts Ants to Your Lawn?
Usually, ants nest in a lawn because it provides them with the three things they need most: food, water, and shelter. If a meal, drink, and suitable protection from the elements and predators aren’t available, ants will move on until they find a better spot.
When it comes to food sources, those can vary slightly depending on the ant species. However, other pests, trash, spilled food, vegetation, and similar items can all nourish many types of ants, so they’re the most common food sources that attract them.
Moisture can also come from a variety of places. Standing puddles, small ponds, leaking faucets, or any container that holds water are all viable for ants looking for a drink.
As for shelter, ants that build mounds mainly need soil. Usually, they favor lawns that remain reasonably dry and have solid drainage when looking for nesting locations. However, ample yard debris – including overgrown plants or grass clippings – can make your yard an attractive option.
Decaying wood can attract certain ant species to your yard, such as carpenter ants. Generally, these ants don’t build ant hills, but it’s still important to know, as carpenter ants can cause damage to your home if they take up residence in your yard.
How to Get Rid of Ant Hills in the Lawn
1. Flatten the Hills
If you aren’t dealing with aggressive or potentially dangerous ants, flattening the ant hills may make your yard seem like a poor place for the ants to call home. While the ants will typically build another mound nearby to serve as a new exit or entrance, repeatedly flattening them could make a difference over time.
However, flattening the hills alone might not be enough. As a result, combining this option with others can be best, allowing you to reduce the population of ants in the nest and either kill them or encourage them to leave.
2. Boiling Water
Depending on the size of the nest, pouring water onto the ant hills – preferably into the opening – could be enough to solve the problem. The water will work its way through the tunnels as you pour. Along with the heat eliminating many ants, others won’t be able to escape the water itself.
Additionally, the higher temperature could lead to tunnel collapses. While some ants could work their way out, many won’t, reducing the overall population.
Like flattening ant hills, the overall effectiveness can vary. Large, extensive nests often can’t be fully saturated using this method, so you may see new ant mounds pop up in other areas. However, if you’re persistent and continue pouring boiling water over new ant hills, you may be able to solve the problem.
This option also works well when combined with certain other methods. As a result, you can try this initially and then use different approaches to deal with the ants.
3. Carbonated Water
Another natural option you can try is carbonated water. Some believe this approach works best if you need to get to the deeper levels of an ant nest.
Along with flooding tunnels closer to the surface, carbonated water releases carbon dioxide. That displaces oxygen inside the nest. As a result, it may cause ants deeper in the colony to suffocate, eliminating your ant problem.
4. Dish SoapIf you’re using boiling water to deal with an ant hill, consider adding some dish soap to the water before you pour and carefully mix it into the water. Ammonia-free and bleach-free dish soap makes the water harder to traverse. As a result, fewer ants can escape the oncoming flood.
Usually, you only need to add about ten drops of dish soap per gallon of water, making this option cost-effective. Plus, the dish soap won’t significantly damage your lawn, and any surface residue won’t harm people or pets in that quantity.
However, you want to carefully pour the mixture, ensuring it makes it down the hole and into the nest as much as possible. Additionally, it’s often best to do this on cooler, overcast days. Otherwise, if the dish soap gets on your grass or nearby plants, it could lead to scorching on a hot, sunny day.
5. Boric AcidBoric acid is poisonous to ants. By combining some with granular sugar and a touch of water, ensuring you mix it up thoroughly to create a paste, you can create an ant bait. When the ants bring it back to the colony to serve as a food source, they’ll also consume the boric acid, killing them.
Usually, you want to place the paste near the mound to ensure the ants find it. It’s important to note that this approach can kill your grass. Additionally, it can be harmful if ingested or inhaled by people or pets in large enough quantities, so it might not be ideal if you have pets or small children.
6. Diatomaceous EarthDiatomaceous earth is an effective way to kill ants that’s generally safe for people and pets to be around. It mainly works by causing ants that come in contact with it to dehydrate, leading to their death.
The biggest challenge with diatomaceous earth is that it will only impact ants that come into contact with it. As a result, it won’t do anything to ants that remain in the nest, so you may want to combine it with another strategy.
However, if you pour a ring around the outside edge of the ant hill, the ants that do exit will have little choice but to come into contact with it, which could put a dent in the colony. Plus, choosing food-grade diatomaceous earth isn’t typically dangerous to people, pets, grass, or most wildlife.
White vinegar is a popular ingredient in many homemade pest repellants, including those designed to deal with ants. Along with an incredibly strong odor, vinegar can eliminate scent trails that ants leave as forms of communication and for navigation. As a result, it can prevent them from following the same paths to reach food sources, including any leading to your home.
Like dish soap, it is important to note that vinegar may damage your yard or nearby plants, particularly on bright, hot, sunny days. However, since it’s safe for people and pets to be around, it’s an option worth considering.
8. CayenneThe capsaicin in cayenne pepper acts as an irritant, making it an effective option for chasing ants away. If you have an ant hill, pouring a ring of cayenne pepper around it or adding a significant amount of any water you’re planning to pour into the mound can make your property seem much less welcoming.
As a bonus, cayenne also deters other pests since it leads to discomfort. Additionally, it’s generally safe for people and pets. However, it’s also an irritant to cats, dogs, and people if there is enough skin or eye contact, when eaten in large quantities, or when inhaled, so it might not be ideal for all households.
9. ClovesAnother effective natural ant repellant is cloves containing eugenol, which is toxic to ants. If you want to deal with an ant hill, adding clove oil with a high concentration of eugenol into any water you pour can make that approach more effective.
Additionally, you can add a few drops of clove oil to a spray bottle filled with water and a drop or two of dish soap. That allows you to create a spray that you can use to eliminate scent trails or deter ants from coming into specific areas in your yard.
10. CinnamonCinnamon is an option worth considering for two reasons. First, it produces a strong odor, which appears to deter ants. Second, finely ground cinnamon can harm airways or potentially cause suffocation when inhaled, which could kill the ants.
If you want to try ground cinnamon, consider sprinkling it around the mound, creating a barrier that would need to be crossed. You could also try adding some cinnamon oil to a spray bottle, allowing you to mist areas you want ants to avoid – such as food and water sources – to make your yard less appealing.
11. Coffee Grounds
When it comes to scents that ants prefer to avoid, coffee is one of them. While coffee grounds won’t harm ants, placing them around your home, over mounds, in gardens, and similar areas may make your lawn less habitable.
In many cases, the best way to use coffee grounds is to place them near potential food and water sources you can’t remove from your yard. If ants can find a meal or drink in a reasonable amount of time without having to traverse through the coffee grounds, they might decide your yard isn’t a great place to nest.
12. PeppermintA wide variety of insects – including ants – don’t enjoy peppermint. By getting some peppermint essential oil and adding several drops to a small spray bottle of water, you can create a spray that deters them. You could also add some to any water you plan to pour into the ant hills.
Peppermint is a natural insecticide, and ants usually steer clear of areas where the aroma is present. Plus, it can cover up scent trails, making it harder for them to navigate or communicate.
Just remember that peppermint oil isn’t just an ant repellent, which may keep many pests or animals away from your property. Additionally, peppermint oil can harm a cat’s lungs, so you may want to choose another option if you have an outdoor cat.
13. Citrus Oils
Another natural solution that can help you deal with an ant problem is citrus oils. Citrus oils contain a chemical known as d-limonene, which is toxic to ants.
If you’re looking for a high concentration of d-limonene, choose cold-pressed sweet orange oil. However, grapefruit, lemon, tangerine, and mandarin can also work quite well.
As with peppermint oil, you can combine it with any water you plan on pouring into an ant hill. You can also add drops of the oil to sprays, allowing you to spritz any trails you spot or exterior areas you’d like to steer ants away from, like doorways, patios, porches, and decks.
14. Commercial Ant Killers
There is a wide array of commercial ant killers on the market today. Some are classified as ant baits. With those, the goal is for the ant to view the chemical material as a food source, bringing it back to the nest where it will be consumed, preferably by the queen.
You can also find ant sprays that kill on contact. Generally, these aren’t always as effective against an ant hill, as not all ants will encounter the spray or any residue left after treatment.
Certain granular treatments are also worth considering. How they deal with the ant problem may vary, so it’s wise to read the instructions and determine if it’s the best choice for your yard.
It’s also critical to note that commercial ant killers usually rely on potent chemicals, some of which are dangerous to people, pets, and other wildlife. As a result, you need to make sure you understand the risks and properly protect people and pets who may come through your yard. If that seems too risky, choose another approach.
15. Contact a Professional
If you have a serious ant problem or are worried that you have a dangerous type of ant in your yard, contact a professional pest control service. They’ll have the knowledge and equipment to evaluate your situation safely. They have access to various treatment options, including safe solutions for people and pets.
Additionally, professionals can do quarterly treatments moving forward. Going that route can reduce the odds that any ants will return.
Are Ants Bad for Your Lawn?
Generally speaking, ants mainly cause aesthetic damage to lawns in the form of ant hills, though some may also damage the underlying root structure of your grass when creating nests, which can lead to brown spots.
Most species won’t eat your grass – barring some species, like army ants. Farming ants release a chemical designed to attract aphids. While those ants won’t harm your yard, the aphids will, making farming ants indirectly bad for your lawn.
How to Identify Ant Hills
While ant hills are usually pretty easy to spot, it’s important to know that they come in different shapes and sizes. Some are generally circular or donut-shaped, while others are domed. There are even flat ant mounds.
Additionally, ants aren’t the only pest that may push up dirt piles on your lawn. For example, moles and gophers can leave what looks like random clumps of looser of dirt in your yard.
Generally, ant hills are small mounds, and many have a hole or a small depression in the center. Additionally, the dirt typically looks finer, and you may even see sand or a sand-like substance instead of what’s commonly referred to as dirt.
The height of an ant hill can vary. As mentioned above, some are flat or near-flat, while others may be slightly above ground level. A few species even build incredibly tall mounds, reaching heights of up to 20 inches if left unchecked.
While the presence of ants may indicate whether it’s an ant hill or created by another pest, approaching the mound is risky if you aren’t certain of the species. If you get too close to an ant hill made by a more aggressive ant – such as fire ants – they may swarm, putting your life in danger.
Additionally, some wasp species burrow into the soil to create nests and can leave small mounds near the entrances. As a result, if you aren’t sure what type of mound it is, it’s best to contact a professional.
What Smell Will Keep Ants Away?
Several scents can potentially keep ants away from your home and yard. Some popular options are spicy pepper, cinnamon, clove, and peppermint.
White vinegar also produces an aroma that most ants would prefer to avoid. Plus, it can effectively remove scent trails ants leave behind for navigation or to communicate with one another. As a result, vinegar is a solid choice for addressing ants in your lawn and keeping them out of your home.
Why Do Ants Build Ant Hills in Lawns?
Generally, ants build mounds in lawns because they prefer open spaces. In many cases, grassy areas don’t have many intrusive roots or other structures that could complicate creating an effective nest. Plus, sun exposure on the surface can help keep the soil drier, which many ants prefer.
How to Prevent Ant Hills in the Lawn
If you want to prevent ant hills in your yard, you need to eliminate or prevent access to food and water sources. Keep garbage cans secure, use food-safe deterrents in gardens, and clean up any spills. Address leaks, puddles, and other sources of standing water.
Also, use spray deterrents – like many of those using the scent-based options above – to make your yard less appealing. Consider using a pest control service that can treat your yard quarterly. They can use products that can kill or deter ants.
The Best Way to Get Rid of Ant Hills in the Lawn
Generally, the best way to get rid of ant hills is to use a combination approach. For example, add dish soap and the right oils to the water you’ll pour into the opening while also surrounding the mound with diatomaceous earth. Plus, don’t be afraid to call a professional, especially for dangerous ant species.
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