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It is an unfortunate fact that, as the weather improves, we will not be the only creatures venturing back outside. Garden ants lay their eggs in the spring, and within a few weeks they will be out and about, looking for food and bringing it back to their growing nests. Towards the end of summer flying ants will also start to appear around UK homes.

While there are over 12,000 species of ant, the ones most common to the UK are not too harmful providing you do not let them get out of control. However, if you leave an ant problem untreated it can cause larger issues down the line:

  • Ants in the UK may not be a problem for plants, but aphids certainly are. Ants are known to be aphid farmers and will keep them safe so that they can produce food for them. As such, they will often help aphids move to healthy plants.
  • Ants nests can be a big hazard when mowing a lawn.
  • Some ants will feed on planted oily seeds.
  • While they may not like plants, ants love fruit. They will be particularly attracted towards fruits that do not grow with protective skins, such as raspberries and strawberries.
  • If ants cannot find enough food outside, they may start venturing into your home!

If you have a major ant problem in your garden, you may prefer to hire a local pest control specialist to take care of it. A professional, as well as having the knowledge to tackle your ants, will also have access to specialist equipment and poisons that will help them to do the job more efficiently.

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Finding your ants

To get rid of your ants once and for all, you will first need to find their nest. Simply killing ants whenever you see them will not cut them off at the source, and the 'source' has thousands to replace any workers that you get rid of!

Look out for small piles of disturbed earth on your lawn, in your garden beds and between any nearby pavement or patio slabs. Ants can also make their nests at the bases of exterior walls. 

While it is doubtful that any ants native to the UK will cause you serious harm, certain species of red, wood and flying ants can still bite. Ants will also try to defend themselves if you rile them, so do not start stomping around on nests with no shoes on! When dealing with your ants, make sure you wear a long sleeved shirt, full length trousers and a pair of gardening gloves. If you want some extra safety, tuck your socks into your shoes!

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Removing your ants

Getting rid of garden ants is usually a relatively simple task, and there are plenty of tricks available. 

One thing that you will want to consider before doing anything else is whether or not you are happy to use chemical pesticides. While these are effective at killing ants, they can also harm nearby plant life. As such, they can be a very poor choice for removing ants from a vegetable patch or lawn! If you are still determined to use a chemical pesticide, look for any that contain pyrethrins or pyrethroids and be sure to speak a representative at the store you are buying from for advice.

Luckily, there are a number of highly effective and completely organic methods for getting rid of ants in the garden:

  • Encourage insectivorous birds to frequent your garden by installing a bird house, bird box or a few bird feeders. Helpful species like green woodpeckers will think nothing of digging their beaks straight into a nest and feasting away.
  • Heat a kettle full of boiling water and then pour it into the entrance of the nest. As well as killing hundreds of ants on impact, the water will also cause the inside of the nest to collapse. If you use this method, keep an eye on the nest area over the next few days and repeat the process if you notice any ants starting to return. Several kettles of water may be required to destroy a larger nest.
  • Force your ants to move by plugging up the entrance to their nest with rocks and stones. You can force the ants to choose a new home by sprinkling a natural repellant around the rocks, such as peppermint oil.
  • Get rid of your ants using essential oils. Clove oil in particular is a natural insecticide that is highly effective on a number of household pests. Citrus oils are also naturally toxic to ants.