Ants live in most gardens and are a nuisance to home owners rather than a pest. They feed mainly on insects, including ants from other colonies, but on their mission to forage for food they can attracted into your home. Ants are particularly tempted by sweet and sticky substances so be careful to clear up any spills immediately.
Gardener’s have a reason to view ants with caution. Ants can be a nuisance on lawns, and can disturb the soil around plant roots, sometimes burying low growing plants by excavated soil.
Ants farm aphids, also known as green fly or black fly, and protect them from attack by predators like ladybirds. Aphids excrete a sticky substance (honeydew) on foliage which ants crave. Unfortunately for the host plant honeydew encourages the growth of mould. Aphids also suck the sap of plants, which results in distorted growth. Some aphids can transmit viruses which can have a devastating impact on crops including strawberries, raspberries, tomatoes and cucumbers. One of the best ways to get rid of aphids is to check plants regularly and prune back any foliage which displays signs of mould. Aphids can be squashed by hand or blasted off with a hose.
If you spot an ant nest in your garden it is best to leave it alone. A colony can contain up to 100,000 ants and some species like the fire ant, deliver a nasty bite. If ants feel threatened they will become aggressive and swarm the nest.
Facts about Ants
- The Pharoah Ant is very small measuring about 1/16th inch. It is the most persistent and most difficult of all ants to control with very large colonies with up to several million workers and several thousands of queens.
- The Thief Ant is the smallest species measuring 1/32-ich. Nests occur in a great variety of locations including cracks and cupboards.
- Ants have very few predators and a colony can live a relatively long lifetime. Worker ants may live seven years and the queen may live 15 years.
- Pavement ants invade buildings while foraging for food throughout the year. They are slow-moving and a particular nuisance around buildings with slab-on-grade construction.
- The Red Ant measures 1/4 inch long is known to remove rubber insulation from telephone wires and its sting can be painful enough to kill young wildlife.
- The Carpenter Ant does not eat wood, but will feed on nearly anything people eat, particularly sweets and meats. It will also feed on other insects.