Ants are insects in the order Hymenoptera that include bees and wasps. Even so, ants are unique due to their nesting habits, which often consist of large mounds on your lawn. But the question remains, how do you get rid of these unsightly structures?
In this extensive guide, we’ll show you:
- How To Identify Ant Hills in Your Yard
- Steps To Get Rid of Even the Largest Ant Hills on Your Property
- How To Prevent Ant Hills From Returning
- Where To Look For Ant Hills Around Your Home
If trying to exterminate ants on your own becomes too challenging, we recommend Orkin, Terminix, and Aptive. These exterminators have some of the best-trained professionals that can use traps, baits, and other chemically treated solutions that are often more effective than standard DIY methods.
For Terminix quotes, you can reach them at 866-577-5051 or with this form.
For quotes from Orkin, call 866-701-4556, or fill out this form.
For a free quote from Aptive, call 855-521-7075 or visit the company’s website.
Ed has been working in the pest control industry for years helping 1,000's of homeowners navigate the world of insect and rodent management. He manages Pest Strategies now helping homeowners around the world!
Table of Contents
What Is an Ant Hill?
Ant hills are also called ant mounds. Several species of ants create them, including:
- Southern fire ants
- Argentine ants
- Pavement ants
- Odorous house ants
- Red imported fire ants
Carpenter ants do not construct mounds. Instead, they use rotting logs or decaying wood around houses and other structures. The softwood materials allow them to build huge galleries for their homes.
Mounds Are Part of a More Extensive System
Ant mounds are the surface structure of a vast network that houses a colony of ants. This is where the younger ants are warmed during cold nights. Then, when it gets too hot during the day, the workers usher these juvenile ants below the surface where it’s cooler.
Ant colonies can reach up to 200,000 individuals, and with species that have multiple queens, it can go over one million. That’s why underground nests can descend to a depth of eight feet below the surface.
Even if the mound is small, it could merely be a tiny representation of a complex system of tunnels beneath the surface. Although you’ll mostly see worker ants above ground, there are many more below getting ready to replace any lost on the surface.
Types of Ant Mounds
There are a wide range of ant mounds you may encounter in your yard according to the species. Here, we show you the types of ant mounds and how to identify them.
In the case of the Argentine ant, you may notice several entrance holes to a single nest. Also, the mound does not look much like an ant hill at all. Instead, the soil is scattered along a narrow line that can reach several hundred feet or more.
The Argentine ant is one of the most destructive landscape pests. That’s because, unlike other species, it cooperates well with other colonies to form one massive nest that can take over your yard quickly.
Pavement ants construct circular mounds that resemble miniature sports stadiums. They typically have only one entrance hole, and they can be almost any size, from two inches up to two feet in diameter for some species.
The red imported fire ant builds large dome-shaped mounds in yards, fields, and playground areas. They look similar to volcanoes, and they can reach up to three feet in height.
What’s most striking about the red imported fire ant is its ability to spread out horizontally from its nest. It builds vast tunnels just below the surface to forage for food while staying clear of predators. Moreover, it can protract up to 700 feet from the center of the colony.
Southern fire ant hills are typically flat and scattered, and they don’t look like typical fire ant mounds. They open into several entrance holes, allowing worker ants to make a quick exit from predators.
You can typically find these nests in open, sandy areas. However, they can also be present in dry soils and dirt.
Top Ways To Get Rid of Ant Hills
There are several methods for getting rid of ant hills in your yard. Here are the most common ones in order of effectiveness.
1. Granular Ant Bait
It’s best to utilize granules containing boric acid or other insecticides to eradicate ant nests. However, in some instances, products with a milder active ingredient containing borax may work well, also.
You can apply these ant killer baits by hand or by using a standard lawn spreader. The worker ants pick up the bait, eventually feeding the queen and eliminating the entire colony.
When utilizing granular ant bait, it’s preferable to apply small amounts about 12 inches away from the mound instead of directly on top of it. If you disturb the workers on the surface, the queen may split the colony, constructing an even larger nest as a defense against a perceived threat.
The biggest drawback of ant baits is that they work slowly, and that’s because they take time to reach the queen. For this reason, it could take up to several days to eradicate one ant mount.
For rapid destruction of ants in your yard, drench the mound using a liquid solution containing the active ingredient cyfluthrin. Be sure to cover the entire mound. In addition, you may be required to remove the top layer of soil to ensure deeper expansion into the nest.
For longer-lasting results, use a micro-cap insecticide spray containing bifenthrin. You can also add an insect growth regulator. When used together, these products eliminate adult ants on the surface and disrupt the life cycle of developing larvae.
3. Foam Injection
Injecting the mound at multiple entry points with foam insecticides can have a more prolonged residual effect than liquid spraying alone. This is because the foaming action ensures better ground penetration. In addition, it comes in several pesticide formulas, depending on the ant species you encounter.
Pumping boric acid dust into an ant mound can also be a viable solution. However, be sure to use enough pressure to get as far into the nest as possible. A one-quart hand duster with a 24-inch attachment is ideal.
Diatomaceous earth may also work well to eradicate ant mounds, and it works by shredding the insect’s exoskeleton, causing it to dehydrate. However, there are limitations to dry dusting, especially in regions susceptible to high moisture and humidity.
5. Bait Stations
Ant bait stations are generally for inside use, and also, you would have to employ a large number of them to achieve modest results. So, it’s not economically viable to utilize bait stations for outdoor mound treatments for those reasons.
6. DIY Home Remedies
Spraying soapy water onto an ant mound has limited effect. Still, if you use a large amount of dish soap, it could temporarily offer some relief.
Pouring boiling water over the mound may also be a viable, short-term option. However, it typically only kills ants on the surface, and it doesn’t penetrate the nest as many pesticides can.
The Argentine ant is one of the most destructive landscape pests.
That’s because, unlike other species, it cooperates well with other colonies to form one massive nest that can take over your yard quickly.
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How to Prevent Ant Hills
Mowing your grass with ant hills scattered throughout your yard is not a good idea. So, it’s best to prevent them before they crop up. Here are some steps recommended by top pest control companies to keep ant hills from taking over your yard.
1. Remove Food Sources
Start by removing any food sources from your yard that may attract ants. For example, even the tiniest dab of peanut butter or other protein can attract ants.
Sweet foods can also be a culprit. For that reason, it’s vital to secure trash cans that may contain several food sources for insects and other pests.
2. Cut Back Vegetation
Plant nectars offer sweet food for most ant species, and many foraging ants will quickly find them, especially within dense vegetation. That’s why it’s crucial to cut back weeds and other nonessential plants from your garden and lawn areas.
3. Limit Water Sources
Ants need moisture to survive, and watered lawns provide a constant, steady supply of water regularly. So, it’s essential to repair all sprinkler system leaks to limit water availability.
Also, be sure not to overwater your lawn. The softer the soil, the easier it is for ants to build their nests.
4. Use Defensive Baiting
Sprinkle ant bait over your entire lawn regularly according to label directions, especially where you notice the most ant activity. Ant trails are a good starting point. Also, be sure to spread some over older ant mounds since some species utilize abandoned nests.
Why Do Ants Build Ant Hills?
When workers excavate the massive tunnel system used for the nest, it’s deposited on the surface, and it then builds up enough to create the mound.
Ants build mounds from dirt, pine needles, leaves, and other natural materials. The hard surface crust protects from the weather while keeping the inside at an optimal temperature for eggs and larvae.
Most of the colony lives deep under the surface in the lower chambers, and there are also vast networks of tunnels and cavities in the mound, primarily to keep the eggs and larvae at just the right temperature.
The small stones within the mound structure help hold the heat in, while tree resin acts as an antibacterial substance to ward off disease and fungus. The design of the mound also deters predators and provides a natural defense against them.
Where You’ll Find Ant Hills
Ants need moisture, so they typically build their mounds in moist soil that is easy to excavate. For example, you can find the red imported fire ant in soft, sandy areas.
Ants also need a steady food source, and that’s why many species build their nests near trees or plants that provide sweet nectars.
Another factor is defense. For example, Argentine ants typically avoid open areas, and instead, they build shallow mounds next to sidewalks, under rocks, or under fallen logs. That’s because these natural structures provide a defense against a wide variety of predators.
A Final Word About Ant Hills
While it’s true that having an ant problem outside is much better than dealing with an ant infestation indoors, it still poses a risk. For example, ant bites and stings create health problems for those allergic to insect venom.
Also, it’s hard to ignore the extensive damage ant hills create to your lawn and garden. So, it’s vital to familiarize yourself with the types of ants you may encounter around your home, and hopefully, we’ve helped you do that here.