As with other wildlife, grass seed is an attractive treat to ants. While you can keep birds and squirrels away from your freshly sown seed with netting and distraction tactics, ants are a much smaller seed robber that have to be dealt with differently.
Ants In The Yard
Most yards have some ants in them as a normal part of the soil and garden ecosystem, but when too many of them are present, that can cause problems for your lawn. One of the main reasons red or black ants may build a large colony in your yard is that a food source is present.
Seeds are a great source of nutrition that keeps for a long time, so ants will take advantage of fresh seed when it’s available. These will be taken back to the nest and stored for the year ahead.
While some seed pilfering may seem worrisome, a normal amount of ants shouldn’t be able to take enough seeds to result in much of a dent in the growth of your grass. The problems start when the ants set up or expand a colony, having been attracted to the seeds as a food source.
How Ants Damage The Lawn
Aside from the potential to enter the house, a large ant colony in your yard can degrade the lawn.
- Tunnels disrupt root growth – An ant colony over-aerates the lawn by tunneling through the ground and topsoil. Grass roots can’t grow into these open spaces, and roots end up being smaller than normal if they can get established at all.
- Ants remove good fungus from soil – Ants eat fungus that grows in the ground, and while some fungal growth is harmful to grass, other growth Is beneficial. In particular, mycorrhizae is a fungal growth in topsoil that attaches to roots, helping grass absorb nutrients and increasing water retention. Ants that feed on this fungus harm the grass by extension.
- Ants keep aphids – Many ant colonies farm aphids. These are small insects that feed on the sap of grass blades and other plant leaves, and they secrete a sugary substance called honeydew that ants eat for energy. This symbiotic relationship can be harmful to your grass from the ground up.
How Do I Keep Ants From Stealing My Grass Seed?
The first line of defense against ants establishing a colony in your yard is by keeping the lawn and topsoil in the healthiest condition so they can’t build surface-level entrances. Dense turf with lots of moisture-retaining organic material will give the yard coverage that ants won’t be able to penetrate.
When you’re planting seeds, however, it might be due to bare patches, thin growth, or overseeding an existing lawn. If you’re not disturbing your soil, any present ants might be able to take advantage of some of the fresh seed.
Ants build their colonies under ground that is exposed to air, which makes it easier to create entrances. Ant hills are made of displaced dirt from the tunnel, forming mounds in the grass. They like areas that aren’t too low, so water won’t flood their tunnels, so uneven ground is especially susceptible.
When you sow seeds, you can take a few steps to be sure they don’t attract too many ants.
- Put the seeds deep enough in the ground – Many seeds need light to germinate and grow, but putting a thin layer of dirt over them won’t block out enough UV light to prevent germination. Seeds should be under about one quarter to one half of an inch of soil. Ants won’t be able to dig and lift if the seeds are properly covered.
- Cover the seeds with mulch– Grass seed should also be covered with mulch, compost, or hay to keep in moisture and keep out pests. Ants won’t be able to create hills or easily get to the seeds when they’re covered in organic material, which will also help build the soil, further defending against ant presence.
- Prepare the ground – Before laying seed down, the soil should be prepared to provide the best growing environment. If you’re spot-seeding bare patches, make sure the soil is fertilized, moist, and aerated. Make sure the ground is flat, as a mound of dirt may provide a good place to set up a nest with a plentiful food
How Do You Get Rid Of Ants In Seeds?
If you’re finding ants in the seeds you’ve already put down, you have several options to deal with them, all of which revolve around finding the source of the ants: the colony and the entrance/s. Look for ant hills nearby; you might be able to follow their trail back to their nest.
Once you know what kind of a problem you’re dealing with, you can choose how to proceed. Your next steps may include using insecticides, natural repellents, or calling a professional.
- Chemical insecticides – Sprays, powders, and granule pesticides can be purchased and applied. Some targeted-application formulas are intended to be used on the hill only as a spot treatment, whereas other grass-safe formulas can be applied as a full-coverage preventative. When you use the right formula, applying grass seed with ant killer at the same time shouldn’t disrupt germination.
- Homemade methods – Flooding an ant hill entrance and tunnel system with boiling water or a vinegar mixture is a method to destroy the colony’s structure and disperse the ants. A mixture of borax and sugar into a paste will poison the ants, and natural deterrents like cedar oil or peppermint oil diluted in water will make the area unlivable for the insects.
- Call a professional – An ant infestation can become a big problem for your yard and for your home. If you’re noticing an abundance of ants swarming your seeds, or if you’re not sure how to manage ants on your own, a certified professional can help take care of your problem efficiently and effectively.