Ant and Decking – Ant control ideas anyone?

I’ve had a trauma in the garden this week. I was sitting on my home made slate garden bench with two friends when I suddenly noticed a trail, well actually more like a 5th column, of ants heading up a nearby foxglove to an aphid farm which they were obviously cultivating on the top. Ants enjoy eating honeydew from aphid bottoms, and so brown nose their way into the ant’s affection by fending off aphid predators like ladybirds. I know that ants love to make nests under bits of slate. So when I built my slate bench into the soil (I didn’t want to lay down a piece of inappropriate decking and stick a couple of plastic chairs on it) I tried to avoid any ants in my pants scenario by putting down a permeable membrane underneath the slate. This I now know to have been hopelessly naïve. The little darlings loved it in there. All warm and cosy with just enough room between the layers to make a nice safe entrance to the nest. Anyone who has ever removed a stone to find an ants nest underneath will know what it is like to feel the fear. The sound of thousands of disturbed ants preparing to attack whatever monster comes their way is positively primeval, or maybe even prime evil. It sent this goody goody be kind to nature gardener into a cold shiver, not to mention something of an ethical dilemma. Having made a vow not to pour boiling water over ants in my book The Little Book of Garden Heroes its left me with a battle between my tired ass and my overconcious mind. I can’t believe many people would be sitting (or not sitting) there thinking ants or me, ants or me. They’d be switching on the kettle within seconds. What if there really isn’t a better way. I don’t mind killing horse flies. They hurt. And so do ants. But then if you don’t disturb them they’re not interested in human flesh so what’s the problem. The problem is I can’t park my butt on my bench that’s the problem. In fact for the time being, until I resolve this problem the bench is no more. The slate dismantled. The membrane ripped off the soil. At least the huge ant colony that had made its home under there is scattered with all their little eggs to another part of the garden but I’m now down to one comfortable garden chair – a deck chair I found at the local junk yard. Still, I’m going to Glastonbury next week and there’s always a huge amount of ‘tatting’ to be done when the throw aways go home. I’ll pick up a couple of left behind chairs no problem. In the meantime has anyone got any ideas of what I can use to control ants in a biologically sound way, ie no chemicals, no hot water. Has anyone used the biological control ant nematode Steinernema feltiae, and does it work? Would be good to hear from any humane ant battlers out there.

12 Replies to “Ant and Decking – Ant control ideas anyone?”

  1. Hmm, the idea of implanting some kind of parasitic nematode into an ant, to be consumed from within, sounds a lot worse than a quick death by boiling water! Who says nature isn’t cruel or has ethics? Don’t think so! All things in balance, i guess. Keep up the good work!

  2. Yes, you’re right – death by nematode’s pretty ugly. The slug nematode nemaslug takes days to finish slugs off. I guess nature isn’t cruel or ethical, it just is. My choice is whether to be part of the natural cycle of things or intervene in a more human way. Either way what I do will cause the ants suffering. It does raise an interesting philosophical debate. If humans were fighting for day to day survival would we still make ethical choices or would we just be? I like to think our values would remain intact but I suspect the survivalist animal instinct would take over. If the worst predictions of climate change occur we may well find out.

  3. I have just used the nematodes on 90+ nests in a small lawn. Having followed the instructions to the letter I am disappointed to find that about 50% of the nests are still active – however, it may be that the process takes time and it may be that the activity is just the ant in a panic because all their eggs are being eaten..
    As I understand it, the nematodes eat the eggs, not the ants!

  4. Wow, that’s a lot of nests for a small lawn! I thought I had it bad. Thanks for the info. Lets hope they relocate somewhere quickly. Good luck. Allan

  5. I know this is old, but if anyone comes across this, I heard that paprika is the best ant deterent. sprinkle it liberally on a nest when it appears. they should leave.

    be careful where you sprinkle it because when it gets wet it will stain. i.e. not on your pavement.

  6. Ants are living organisms; living organisms have likes and dislikes.
    You can, and should use this against them.

    You seem to be stuck on nematodes. There are multiple methods to deter/kill ants or other insects. No one method or tool is 100% effective. Sit down, and think exactly what you want to do, how you want to do it, and what results you will be happy with.

    Do your own research. Look at the reference sites they have more methods and specific details. Make up your own mind on how you want to deal with them.

  7. Diatomaceous Earth:
    – DE is an organic insect control method.
    – DE is fossilized remains of diatoms, a type of hard-shelled algae.
    – Sharp edges of DE lacerate the exoskeleton and then absorb the body fluids of insects.
    – Please do not inhale DE, and may cause dry hands.
    I strongly suggest Food Grade DE, because it is safe around people and pets.
    Food Grade DE can be eaten, and is said to have extra benefits.
    DE creates an organic barrier, killing and discouraging other insects from crossing.

    Application methods:
    Dusting/sprinkling, pour into cup, and sprinkle around area.
    Painting, or using spray bottles makes for easily application.
    DE Referance websites:

  8. Nematodes:
    – Nematodes are living organisms; some beneficial nematodes kill insects.
    Consider the life cycle of nematodes. Like fruit, flowers, or even ants; Nematodes have natural cycles of life, and grow best in specific circumstances.

    – Where to apply? Outdoors in wet or damp environments, lawns and gardens
    – When to apply? Evening hours, on cool days, nematodes don’t like heat.
    – How to apply? Watering can + nematodes + Water, or other low pressure wet applications.

    Not all nematodes are created equal.
    – Cooler northern climates or hotter southern climates should use different nematodes.
    – What do they kill? Some nematodes go after the nest killing eggs, and the queen, other nematodes kill adult worker and warrior ants. Combination of both is said to be more effective.

    Nematodes aren’t fool proof, you are dealing with a living organism, take the time to learn about them.

    Nematode reference:

    1. Thanks Kathy. Helping animals looks like a great website. I’ll have a good look through it when I have a spare moment. Best wishes

    2. Find it interesting that the Helping Animals site says that ants don’t like lemon peel/juice. It is my lemon bush that is suffering the most from ants. Nematodes I think it will have to be.

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