How to get rid of Black Garden Ants around the home
After a mild winter, UK pests are emerging earlier in 2022. With Spring just on the horizon, ant sightings are becoming more and more common. Have you noticed any scurrying across your home or in your garden yet? Here’s everything you need to know about one of the UK’s most common pests, including how to get rid of black garden ants in the home and garden.
Ants are adaptable creatures, capable of settling almost anywhere in the UK as long as they’re near a steady source of food, darkness and shelter. Most commonly, ant infestations settle just outside the home, but their resilience and size mean they could be anywhere. Front gardens, back gardens and cracked pavements just outside the home are classic ant hot spots. Don’t forget to check under concrete slabs and even inside wall cavities.
Black Garden Ants
When you think Ants, you’re probably picturing Lasius Niger, commonly known as the Black Garden Ant. They are identifiable by their black or dark brown colouring, long antennae and distinctive pincers. Looking closely, they are covered in tiny hairs. Each ant is around 5 mm long. Black Garden Ants are very common across the world. They prefer temperate climates like the UK’s.
They have no stingers and their jaws aren’t strong enough to attack humans, so they don’t pose much of a physical threat by themselves. In numbers, they can easily overrun the home!
Colonies average 5-7,000 ants. If you’ve seen a few Black Garden Worker Ants scurrying about, those are just the tip of the iceberg.
Queen Black Garden Ants can live over 25 years in exceptional cases, with the average Black Garden Worker Ant living for around 4 years. This means ants can be surprisingly resilient. Left alone with a regular source of food, a single queen can easily multiply into 35,000 ants!
How to find Ant Nests
Away from human contact, ants live in wooded areas. They enjoy settling in rotten wood and around felled trees.
Black Garden Ants build their nests near human habitats for one reason: food. This hunger leads them into the home in search of crumbs and water. And they definitely aren’t scared of us!
Search for ants around the garden, in between paving cracks and under rocks and stones. You may be able to spot dirt mounds at the entrance to their tunnels. Set bait traps near dirt mounds to reach the colony efficiently.
Ants are mini all-terrain vehicles, capable of taking advantage of the tiniest cracks to gain entrance into the home. Pay attention to door and window openings – we’re less likely to notice these seal faults in the warmer months but they’re prime ways for ants to gain access into properties. Be sure to check for cracks in skirting boards too! Ants are attracted to standing bodies of water, so make sure boiler rooms, bathrooms and kitchens are leak-free.
In the garden, repair cracks in patio tiles and try to minimise mounds of rocks and stones. Black Garden Ants do not like sunlight and will do everything they can to hide close to the earth.
Ants’ main natural food source is Aphids. As aphids feed on sap from healthy foliage, a lush and verdant garden can quickly attract ant colonies. These worker ants venture outside to gather food for the growing colony. The more well-fed they are, the stronger the colony.
Ants expand the nest by tunnelling deeper, expanding out into a lattice of hiding holes.
How ant colonies grow
All ant nests start with a pair of winged males and females known as alates. Between June/July and August/September, alates take part in nuptial flights. After mating flights, females land, remove their wings and burrow underground to form a nest.
Unlike some other ant species, each Black Garden Ant only contains one Queen. Over around 2 months, the Queen lays hundreds of eggs that mature to become worker ants. By spring, the colony’s first worker ants emerge to scavenge food for the growing colony.
The Queen does not emerge from the nest unless the current colony becomes uninhabitable. Black Garden Ant Queens have larger mid-sections and the same black-brown colouring. Male and female alates resemble the Queen, with the exception of a pair of large wings.
The Ant Queen is the single most important member of the nest. She is responsible for bringing the first generation of worker ants to maturity. These worker ants live to serve the Queen. They ensure she is protected and well-fed.
As the worker ant population increases, so do the nest’s foraging capabilities. The Queen is the only member of the nest able to lay eggs. The colony will die out without her.
What ants eat
Ants aren’t picky. In the wild, they live in symbiotic relationships with aphids. Black Garden Ants protect aphids in return for access to the honeydew they produce. In the home, they love sugary foods, grains and vegetables.
Crumbs on kitchen floors and uncovered bags of cereals and pasta are magnets for Black Garden Ants – keep floors clean and loose food packages tightly sealed to prevent attracting them. If you have pets, always clean away uneaten food and never leave water bowls unattended for extended periods.
Black Garden Ants are capable of carrying many times their own body weight and work in teams to secure the most valuable cargo for the colony.
As ants are predominantly nocturnal, it is very important not to leave out uncovered food overnight. In the garden, especially around summertime, dropped ice lollies are huge ant attractants – make sure you mop up the melted bits!
Where a home has a visible ant infestation, they travel along specific routes. When a Worker Ant successfully finds food, it will lay a pheromone trail back to the nest. Other Ants follow this scent in search of more food! While these trails are definitely bad news, knowing their routes in and out of the property is an important part of a successful pest control strategy.
The threat ants pose
Ants do not carry diseases in the same way that fleas do. Despite this, they can pick up bacteria through contact. If a worker ant finds its way into a bin and then crawls across your kitchen, it will spread germs. That’s why we should always strive to keep our homes ant-free.
The first point of action is to ensure that ants cannot get into your property. As mentioned earlier, defects in windows, door seals, skirting boards, tiles and elsewhere in the home can let ants sneak in. Inspect all elements of the water system, including the boiler. Undertake any repairs as soon as possible.
When treating ant infestations, always treat the entire colony at once. If you eliminate a few worker ants without dealing with the nest, the Queen may decide to relocate the colony. That somewhere might be even closer than they already are!
In extreme situations, Ants may even settle inside wall cavities. There, they build the entire nest within the comfort of your home’s walls.
To deter ants from following present pheromone trails, a long-lasting, low toxicity spray like NOPE! CP can establish an invisible barrier that kills on contact and keeps ants away.
But don’t stop there.
How to get rid of Black Garden Ants
To treat the whole colony, NOPE! Ant Bait Stations contain a unique gel formula with a two-part formula. Firstly, an IGR (Insect Growth Regulator) prevents eggs, larvae and pupae from growing into adults. Next, a pesticide delays eradication until the whole colony has the bait.
Over a period of weeks, the gel stops the nest’s growth, targets the queen and destroys the colony. As the bait is designed to attract ants to maximise its uptake in the colony, it may seem like it’s doing the opposite of what you want it to do: get rid of ants! Your patience will soon be rewarded as their numbers thin – unable to replicate thanks to the effective pesticide present in the bait.
Now you know how to spot, prevent and treat Black Garden Ants around your home. When you see pests, just say NOPE!