Due to their small size, ants are the perfect prey for various insects, reptiles, birds, and even bigger animals such as mammals. As you can see from our latest article, some of the ants’ natural predators include, among others, bears and coyotes, fish and lizards, sparrows and starlings, snakes, spiders, caterpillars, flies, and snails.
Ants, just like any other insects on this planet, have a very specific role in the ecosystem. They serve as nutritious food for a wide array of animals, birds, insects, reptiles, and even fish, due to their small dimensions. However, this isn’t the only way they contribute to the wellbeing of our planet. Let’s take a closer look at these interesting insects and find out more about them, and how to get rid of them once they become pests.
Ants are small insects that work and live in large colonies, usually underground in dirt anthills. According to specialists, there are over 11,000 different species of ants known by now and they are spread everywhere in the world.
Similar to bee colonies, the ant ones will have female worker ants, male ants, and queens. One of the purposes of worker ants is to protect the nest at all costs and cast away predators before the entire colony is killed.
One of the most interesting and intriguing facts about these small creatures is that they can lift up to 20 times their own body weight, a lot more than the most willing weightlifter on this planet.
And, even though they can easily become pests to humans, ants are, in fact, a delicious and nutritious meal to numerous other species of insects, reptiles, fish, birds, and even mammals.
What’s even more interesting is that ants are cannibals in some way. There are plenty of species of ants that prey on other ants, especially when food is scarce.
For instance, fire ants will usually raid the nests of other species of ants that are smaller. In time, the latter have developed successful defense mechanisms that allow them to kill the fire ant scouts or simply abandon their nests before the fire ants reach them.
Natural ant killers
Being spread all over the world, ants have become the preferred prey of thousands of animals, birds, reptiles, and other insects.
The most common natural ant predator is the anteater. As its name suggests, this animal feeds on small insects. A giant anteater will visit more than 200 different ant nests daily to be able to satisfy its dietary needs, eating thousands of ants. The animal’s tongue comes with thousands of small hooks that are used to keep the insects together with the help of saliva.
Ants are also a common meal for many spider species, including the Lynx spider, the Jumping spider, and the (in)famous Black Widow. These arachnids will mainly use their spider-silk webs to trap smaller ants, while others will simply lay in, waiting for the ants to come near them, and then jumping on top of them.
A species of flies named the phorid fly is known for laying its larvae inside the bodies of fire ants. After they hatch, the larvae eat the ants. Fire ants can easily turn into nasty pests, and this is why the flies are often used to eliminate them.
Why are ants important?
Ants represent a crucial component of the ecosystem. They are mainly cleaners, meaning they eat and help decompose the organic matter in the soil, turning it into fertile ground, perfect for crops. In addition, these insects can also improve soil aeration, which helps the plant roots grow stronger and have enough nutrients.
Unfortunately, they can easily turn into pests when their population increases too much, feeding on young plants, and endangering your crops.
How can we get rid of ants?
When ants become a problem around your household, there are plenty of ways to remove them. Ants can turn into garden pests because they will eat both living plants and dying plants, cultivating colonies of other insect pests such as mealybugs, scale insects, and aphids.
Luckily, apart from other living organisms that feed on ants, they can be repelled in other ways. Here is everything you need to know about them.
They are repelled by strong smells
One easy and 100% organic way to remove ants from your property is to make sure you grow plants with a strong natural scent. Some of these plants release volatile oils that won’t welcome pests around your property, including ants, yellowjackets, wasps, and mosquitoes.
You can grow anything from peppermint, spearmint, pennyroyal, garlic, tansy, rhubarb or sweet fern which will not only help you create delicious and flavored meals but will also keep annoying insects away.
Ants don’t like acidic substances either
There are hundreds of online DIY ant repellers that use 100% natural and organic ingredients and swear by removing ants from your property once and for all.
One of the most common mixtures used include lemons, garlic or hot peppers with water. Put all the ingredients in a blender for about 20 seconds and pour the solution in a spray bottle. Apply the substance all over the house, especially around the corners, the doors, and in the kitchen. Make sure to reapply the solution often, until ants decide to leave your house for good.
You can also use other plant-based products such as chili powder, cayenne pepper extract or cinnamon powder to deter ants.
Learn to be smart
Understanding how ants work will give you strong insights into how to actually get rid of them for good. Keep in mind that ants are covered with pheromones. It is these chemical substances that allow other ants to follow the scouts and find a good place to colonize.
If you disrupt the pheromone trail, you can easily prevent an ant invasion. You can do this by observing the trail of a scout ant and applying a mixture of garlic and water, vinegar and water or soap and water on it. This way, the rest of the ants will be confused and repelled by the strong smells, and won’t want to follow the scout anymore.
Other natural solutions that can help you get rid of ants
If you’re not keen on growing strong-scented plants or bringing other animals to deal with your ant problem, there are other ways to prevent an ant infestation. Instead of opting for chemical substances and pesticides that are dangerous to you and the environment, you can choose boric acid, boiling water or diatomaceous earth.
The latter consists of crushed sea life fossils, and represents a common method to get rid of all sorts of pests, including ants, spiders, bed bugs, and ticks.
Boric acid is another substance that is highly used in repelling pests such as roaches and ants. This sweet substance won’t harm humans, unless used in high quantities, but is dangerous to insects.
You can dissolve 1 teaspoon of powdered boric acid and 10 teaspoons of sugar into 2 cups of water. Put the mixture in a spray bottle or place it in a bait station near the ants’ nest. Remember that the purpose of this home repellent is not to kill as many ants as possible but to remove the insect scout and prevent other insects from following it.
What if everything else fails?
Getting rid of ants is not always easy, especially if you live in rural areas. Although there are hundreds of natural, organic, and safe ways to remove ants or prevent them from colonizing your house, not all of them are strong enough.
If everything else fails and you fear a heavy ant infestation, the best solution is to ask for help from a professional company. Most of these companies will use insecticides or strong chemicals to remove ants once and for all but you should be careful about where they spray these pesticides.
Make sure they only apply the substances inside the house and won’t go near your crops or backyard to harm your plants. It would be best to allow the substances to work for 24-48 hours but stay away from the house, meanwhile. The safest way would be to sleep somewhere else.