If you look out over the front or backyard and see many small piles of dirt amongst the grass, these are likely ant hills. Ants are ever-present in the yard’s soil, but they tend to spend a lot of time underground unless they’re foraging for food.
When ants are overactive and leave hills in the middle of your yard, it’s usually either because of a plentiful food source nearby or because the soil conditions permit dirt to pile up. When you’re noticing ant hills or holes, you have several options available to get rid of them and put your yard back into balance.
Why Do Ants Make Hills?
Ants are one of many insects that make up the topsoil biome, the active life that decomposes organic matter and makes nutrients available for plants to absorb. They tunnel in the soil, able to reach 10 feet or more into the ground.
Displaced dirt building up around the entrance holes is what causes ant hills in your yard.
Why Do I Have So Many Ant Hills In My Yard?
Anthills start showing for one of two reasons. The ants are either extra active due to a plentiful food source and displacing a lot of soil, or the lawn’s condition allows the typical ant holes to show or get big.
One common reason for an increase in anthills is the presence of aphids, tiny insects that live in yards and sometimes feed on grass roots. Ants favor the sugary secretion of aphids called honeydew, which is similar to honey from bees. Aphids may be present in vegetable or flower gardens, luring ants to all four corners of the yard.
Another common cause of ant hills in a yard is thin or patchy grass coverage. When ants tunnel, they move soil around and can make the surface level uneven. This might be causing the mower to cut too short in some areas and expose the surface level.
Places where more soil is exposed are susceptible to serving as an entrance to an ant tunnel, and loose soil will build in piles around it to form ant hills.
What Problems Are Caused By Too Many Ants?
Grass can be hurt by ants when their tunnels and holes are so extensive that the aeration dries out the grass roots. Funnel ants, builders of especially big hills with large holes, can undermine grass and sidewalks and driveways.
Carpenter ants, which live in trees and decaying wood, can become a severe problem if they get in the house. They may burrow in the wood structures and cause damage to the building. Common black ants pose a sanitation problem if they get into your home searching for food and an even bigger one finds it.
Spot-Treating The Yard For Ants
Even though you’ll want to get rid of the holes as soon as you see them, decreasing the colony number in the yard first can help prevent the reappearance of hills and any over-activity that might lead to pest-level presence or home infestation.
Treating your plants for aphids if you find them may help keep the ants from roaming too far. Aphids can carry diseases and fungus that harms grass, so it will be in your lawn’s general best interest to keep an eye out for them.
To treat ant hills and kill the colony, natural and chemical solutions will be gentle on your lawn while decreasing the number of ants.
- Spice, essential oils, and vinegar – A popular natural method of getting rid of an ant colony is to flush the ant hole with boiled water mixed with apple cider vinegar, cayenne pepper, peppermint oil, or tea tree oil. The hot water mixture will kill the ants and flood the tunnels, and the spice, vinegar, or essential oils will make the soil inhospitable for an ant colony without harming the grass.
- Soap and water – Mixing a bit of soap in some water can be used to kill ants and not do any damage to the grass. Choosing a dishwashing liquid with plant-based ingredients and without sulfates will be the most gentle option to use on your lawn.
- Diatomaceous Earth (DE) – DE is made of crushed diatom fossils, a type of algae collected from the bottom of bodies of water for their porous, absorbent nature. This powder can be used to kill ants when it’s applied to and around the anthills. It sticks to the insects, they spread it amongst themselves, and it kills the colony.
- Liquid ant bait – You can purchase a liquid ant bait that mimics the appeal of honeydew to the ants. They will drink the liquid and bring it back to the colony to feed the queen and kill off the colony. It works slowly to give enough time for the solution to be transferred amongst them.
- Granular ant bait – Like liquid bait, granular pesticides are formulated to appeal to insects to feed the queen, which destroys the colony. Ant baits can be applied directly to and around ant holes. If ants have been indoors, identify their entry point and place bait at the entrance to disrupt the path and kill the originating colony.
How To Get Rid Of Ant Hills Without Killing Grass
You can rid the lawn of ant hills by raking the soil to even it out. Raking for thatch will also decrease the appearance of ant holes because they use dead and decaying plant material to build their entrances and nests.
Add topsoil and some fertilizer to encourage grass growth so there’s less space amongst the blades for hills to form. If it’s spring, sow some warm-season grass seed to fill in any thinness; if it’s nearing fall, sow some cool-season seed. Watering will help settle the ground and destroy topsoil tunnels.
Laying sod down is another option to add dense turf coverage to the lawn and suppress the appearance of holes and hills development. Once new grass has established itself, make sure not to cut it too short, or it may expose the soil for easier hill formation around ant holes.
How To Treat Your Whole Yard For Ants
If the anthill problem is yard-wide, pesticide products with a boric acid-base can be used on grass without harming the lawn. Many fertilizers contain a little boric acid, so be sure not to over-apply.
Too many ant hills might mean the colony number is pest-level, in which case you should consider contacting a professional pest control service to inspect the lawn. They can assess the situation and discuss the appropriate treatment services that will be safest for your grass.
How Do You Deal With An Ant Infestation?
Ants in the house pose a danger to your children and pets, as well as to yourself. They can carry dirt and germs, and some may bite in defense if handled. Unless the ants seek shelter and establish a burrow in the housing structure, an infestation is generally caused by an available food source.
Check for loose food sources indoors in cabinets, pantries, and any rooms where you’ve seen ants. Look in the garage and near your trash cans for the source or an entrance. Removing a food source is the first step to preventing new ants from returning.
Sometimes retail bug control products will be sufficient to deal with ants, but an actual infestation merits contacting a professional pest control service. They can effectively deal with the ant problem and let you know if there is any lawn or house damage from the insects.