Note: This article originally asked a question of our readers, and now it’s time to share the results!
Ants can be incredibly beneficial to the garden, but there are also many types that can be huge problems.
For example, leafcutter ants are common household pests that can damage plants, while many species actively protect plant pests such as aphids and even use them as cattle.
Ant piles (AKA ant hills or mounds) are a sure sign of a nest nearby, but that’s only the story’s beginning.
Since these hills are actually entrances, destroying them can not only cause a temporary halt to ant traffic in the vicinity, but you can also use this as a means to help destroy unwanted colonies.
Today, we’re going to be looking at how to easily accomplish both of these goals, but the answer is a little more complicated than it first seems.
First, we’ll look at why ant mounds are complex, then give our recommended solutions, and finally give readers the results of our original question.
Destroy and Kill Ant Piles: An Easy Solution
We’ll revisit that method but also give you everything you need to know so you can attack any ant pile effectively.
Types Of Ant Mounds
Let’s begin by taking a look at entrances to ant nests and how they can differ. The mound of dirt you see in your backyard is the entrance and exit to the underground ant colony.
Some species, such as the pavement ant (Tetramorium spp.), deposit debris outside the entrances of their nests, forming little mounds of debris.
Other species are known to create huge spires of mud or clay, although these rarely reach the epic heights in the US as they do with species found in Africa and South America.
But there are also many species that don’t make mounds around their entrances, instead concealing the openings under larger debris such as rocks.
In most cases, a nest will have multiple entrances, often spread about to provide a means of escape in case the nest is flooded or invaded.
This is where a lot of methods become less effective, as they might not be able to work on a particularly large ant mound, or the ants escape the affected portions of the nest.
Now that you know the different types of ant hills, it’s time to learn how to know your ants!
Know Your Ants!
This is a crucial detail that we previously neglected and is becoming an increasingly common reason ant control methods are backfiring.
First, let’s learn what an ant colony is. It is a distinct social structure that consists of a queen ant, worker ants, and reproductives.
See, there are two basic types of ant colonies: those with a single queen and those with multiple queens.
Single queen nests are generally smaller and far easier to bring under control.
But many invasive species, such as the red imported fire ant (Solenopsis invicta) and Argentine ant (Linepithema humile), have colonies with multiple queens.
In most cases, when the colony reaches a certain size, one of the queens will take a number of workers and form a satellite colony nearby.
Carpenter ants (Camponotus spp.) also build satellite colonies that tend to lack extra queens.
The number of queens is so important because aggressive species with multiple queens react to threats against the colony by breeding at an increased rate.
Thus, if you attempt to attack an Argentine ant colony head-on, most methods will result in a population explosion rather than reducing the infestation.
If you suspect an ant infestation in your garden, following the ant trails for nest inspection is imperative.
And when possible, attempt to identify the ant species you’re up against based on their size, shape, behavior, and the design of their nest entrances. This will help strengthen the efficacy of your control efforts in killing ant piles.
Most Effective Solution for Single Queen Colonies
And now, let’s look at how to kill colonies, starting with a single queen.
These colonies are often smaller, although some species will build satellite colonies.
In the case of the latter, you’ll need to find the main nest for a total victory.
However, perhaps the most effective (and easiest) method out there is the use of bait traps.
Boric acid mixed with a bit of peanut butter and/or sugar sounds simple, but it’s quite effective.
While you can buy chemical bait traps, this homemade remedy is easy to make and will be carried back to the queen, effectively killing the entire colony over time.
The only downside is that these baits aren’t safe around kids or pets, so you’ll want to put them out of reach.
Also, this won’t destroy the mounds themselves, but these can easily be swept away once the entire colony has been destroyed.
Another old home remedy you can do is pouring boiling water on a fire ant colony. It works by burning and killing the ants that directly come in contact with the water.
However, you need at least 3 or more gallons of water to eliminate an entire ant colony. It’s also best to add dish soap for added impact.
One disadvantage to using hot water is it may also kill plants nearby, so be careful and avoid pouring it where plants are growing.
Most Effective Solution for Multi-Queen Colonies
But what about multi-queen colonies?
Any method that alarms the colony can result in overbreeding, such as stomping or pesticides.
Even worse, if you don’t kill all of the queens, the colony will continue to grow. They can last for years, as worker ants can continue establishing a safe ant hill for the entire colony.
Any attempt to destroy the mound will result in setting off alarms, so again, you should use the mounds as markers for your battle, not as targets.
Only a few methods have proven effective against these mega-colonies, such as sprinkling diatomaceous earth or boric acid around the entrances, slowly causing the ants to die of seemingly natural causes.
You may also mix equal amounts of lemon juice and white vinegar in a spray bottle and spritz in the ant hill’s entry points. This solution will mask the ants’ scent trails, repel, and kill them.
However, these can be washed away by wind or rain, meaning they take second place in terms of effectiveness.
So what’s the best method for these bigger colonies?
Surprisingly enough, bait traps win the war again, as the ants don’t seem to question where the poison is coming from as it slowly ravages their entire ant colony.
No alarm is set off, and the poison ant bait will find its way to all of the queens, given time.
And time is really the only issue with this method overall – it isn’t going to finish the job overnight, so you’ll have to use patience.
However, ensure there are multiple bait placements to impact the ant population.
Meanwhile, you can always sprinkle a little diatomaceous earth around your more vulnerable plants to keep ants from climbing and deal a little extra damage to the ant population. By using these homemade killer ants, you keep the ants at bay in your garden.
Soda Water: The Easy Solution That Wasn’t
We previously mentioned reports that soda water could quickly kill a nest and asked for feedback from those that tried it.
Well, after getting some feedback from our readers and doing a little digging of our own, here’s what we found out.
On the surface, soda water (as well as other carbonated waters) had everything going for it.
Carbon dioxide is heavier than oxygen, suggesting it would sink deep into the nest, displacing the oxygen and suffocating ants.
As an added backup, the water itself could potentially drown ants.
Best of all, this method wouldn’t harm the soil or nearby plants, according to the claims.
But this was the actual problem: The carbonated water remedy has been circulating around the internet since at least 2007, yet nobody had first-hand experience trying it.
In 2009, the claims of soda water being an effective remedy against fire ants were tested in a laboratory setting.
The results were abysmal.
When tested, the soda water had little to no effect, with most ants simply avoiding it.
On the rare occasion, an ant became trapped, and the water, not the carbonation, finally killed it.
On top of that, the ants rebuilt the entrances damaged by pouring soda water on them.
Ant nests tend to be quite deep, easily extending several feet down for many species.
When you pour soda water on the mound, there’s a good chance the ground will absorb the soda water before it gets even partway down.
Those who tested this method at home had similar results, with next to no effect on single ant colonies and often setting off alarms in multi-queen colonies.