Why You Should Avoid Killing The Ants In Your Garden

From carpenter ants digging away at your deck to fire ants nipping at your fingers whenever you try to pull weeds, ants are not the easiest bugs to get along with. But it turns out they are actually serving an important role in the ecosystem that is your yard. While they're generally treated as pests, ants are actually a jack-of-all-trades in your garden. They till your soil, clean up debris, plant seeds, fertilize your plants, and can even hunt down plant-killing pests.

If you're still not convinced you should avoid killing the ants in your garden, keep reading for a deeper dive into all the hard work they're doing to make your garden healthier and make your job as a gardener easier. You'll also find some nonlethal tips for keeping them out of your home so you can enjoy the benefits of a thriving ant population in your yard without the annoyance of a constant ant invasion in your house.

Ants are some of the best garden helpers you could ask for

Ants dig an elaborate network of tunnels, which helps turn and aerate the soil. They move about as much soil as earthworms. That, in turn, increases the flow of oxygen and water to the roots of nearby plants. As they forage for food to eat, they gather up dead and decaying things and take them into their tunnels. Not only does this help clear your yard of waste, but it also helps nourish nearby roots. As that decaying matter continues decaying inside the tunnels, it's effectively becoming nutrient-rich compost that's already evenly distributed throughout the network of ant tunnels. You get all the benefits of composting at home without the work.

While ants love a buffet of decaying things, some species also feast on plant-damaging pests that gardeners are frequently battling, like aphids and mealybugs. They even eat termites. By letting the ants in your garden be, you can prevent these actual pest populations from getting out of control. In short, these sometimes annoying bugs are actually working diligently to keep your plants healthy by eating common garden pests and helping plant roots access oxygen, water, and nutrients.

How to keep ants under control without killing them

There are plenty of things you can do to let your neighborhood ants do their beneficial work in your yard without them becoming a constant annoyance. For most species of ants that are coming inside in search of food, your best move is to get rid of the things that make it easy for ants to wander into your home. Vacuum and mop regularly to keep floors clean and crumb-free. Wipe down counters and eating areas after every meal to get rid of crumbs or residue. Don't leave dirty dishes in the sink or keep food out on the counters. Store your dry goods in containers with airtight lids.

To get rid of carpenter ants, proactive home maintenance is key. As destructive as they seem, these ants typically seek out wood that's already rotting. Regular inspections to fix leaks and seal up exterior gaps and cracks can go a long way toward keeping carpenter ants from tunneling into your home.

In addition to making your home unattractive to ants, you can also take steps to make your yard more attractive to them so they don't feel the need to come inside. One easy way to do that is to take the bag off of your mower and leave the grass clippings in your lawn. It's good for the grass and it provides both moisture and food for nearby ant colonies.