Everyone is always looking for the safest way to keep pests from entering their home, or taking over in their garden. In some cases, old landscape practices such as using wood, or old railroad ties to construct beds is actually something these little critters are attracted to. In others, certain plants actually attract ants such as Peonies and Crab Apples. Changes in weather and/or rain patterns can also cause ants to enter your home to take refuge, while their intention may not be to stay in your home, you can help prevent them from entering it.
The best way to keep ants out of your home and garden is to prevent them. If you have standing wood, lumber or wooden flower bed boxes, you might want to think about replacing them with stone alternatives. If you have a deck or fence you can’t replace with stone, this may be an instance where using treated wood or composite recycled wood products may be the best solution. Also, keeping well maintained firewood piles away from your home, at the edge of your property away from buildings will help prevent insects such as ants and termites from nesting close to your home as well as rodents.
Some plants actually attract ants and in most cases the ants will not harm the plants. In either case, it may be best to plant these AWAY from your home, just like keeping a wood pile away from your home. They will eventually find them, and occupy them – so the best solution is to keep these plants away from the foundation of your home or other structures you don’t want them entering. Peonies and Crab Apple trees are the two most common plants to find ants nesting beneath or living close to. Both plants (along with some others such as Honeysuckle and Sugar Maples) have very sweet sap. The ants will chew into the plants to collect and eat the sap. Although this generally doesn’t harm the plants, they may look chewed up and be stick to touch where the ants have done this. In the case of Peonies, it is said that the ants may actually help the buds open by chewing them.
As far as ants entering your home, you may want to watch where they are coming from. Something as simple as filling a tiny crack or hole will keep them from entering. Ants send out “troops” to investigate new areas. They leave a “scent” trail for the other ants to follow if the investigation turns out to be successful. So, at first you may see only one or two ants – this is when you should NOT KILL THEM and watch where they are coming from. They will most likely lead you to a crack or tiny hole in your home. Because ants “smell” with their feet, remedies such as drawing chalk lines and using ground white pepper are often suggested. Although we are skeptical of the chalk lines actually working, we have read that the pepper does tend to work. Using soap, oil or other sticky or greasy substances may not be good in the long run, especially when used around plants.
If you already have an ant infestation and want to try to get rid of them, we have heard that using corn meal is a safe, natural alternative. The ants will pick up the corn meal as “food” and take it back to their nest. At the nest the cornmeal will be ingested and once it is ingested it will expand causing them to die. It is mentioned that instant grits may also work the same way.