A plea came in to Ask Gardenerd this week from Alice about ants everywhere: “I have ants into EVERYTHING. They even destroyed my worm bin. I thought I might try using containers for everything. At least I might be able to keep them off the ground. How can I do that [with] using little or no pesticides? Help!”
Sorry to hear about your ant issues, Alice. They can be tough to deal with. Let’s look at the available options.
Ants in and of themselves are not bad. They tunnel through soils and aerate garden beds. That’s a good thing.
But when they start farming aphids, it’s a different story. Ants feed off of the sticky sweet honeydew that sucking insects excrete, and in exchange for that, they will provide taxi service for aphids to and from plants that aphids like to consume. What can we do about it?
Will Containers Work?
Your idea about using containers only goes so far. Pests can climb up the legs of elevated planters and pots if they want to. It does reduce the area that requires treatment (access points only), but you may spend a lot of money on new planters only to discover that ants remain.
We’ve found that using borax-based traps like Terro Baits helps curtail the population well enough to remedy the problem. To use them, you place a trap near the trail of ants, and they take the bait back to the colony.
NOTE: We only use this if we see ants bringing aphids into play. If we just see ants, we leave them alone.
You can use the link above to order Outdoor Terro Bait stations (we make a few cents if you do). It’s the safest option we’ve found so far.
We’ve got a video for that!
Yes, we’ve done a YouTube video tutorial on how to keep aphids (and therefore ants) off your plants. Check it out here.
Thanks for writing in, Alice. We hope this helps you reduce your problem. Find more pest control solutions in our online course Creating a Healthy Garden.