Ants feed on sugars and proteins. In the garden, they are most commonly attracted to the sugary excrement of aphids and other insects that are commonly found on lettuce. Controlling these insects helps eliminate the food supply for ants. In a vegetable garden, be sure to use nontoxic methods as someone will be ingesting what you put in the ground. If you have large populations of fire ants (stinging) it is recommended to call your county agricultural commissioner. Keep in mind that if the ants are not destroying the lettuce, they may actually be helping your garden by eating other insects.
- Skill level:
- Moderately Challenging
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Things you need
- Boiling water
- Neem oil or insecticidal soap
- Spray bottle
- Boric acid
- Cotton balls
- Plastic container with lid (such as peanut butter or margarine container)
Locate the ant hill or hole that leads to the nest. Follow the trail of ants until you find the destination. Pour 1 gallon of boiling water down each hole that you find.
Spray neem oil or insecticidal soap per the manufacturer's recommendations on the lettuce plants being targeted by ants. Alternately, you could mix 1 tsp of nontoxic dish soap in 1 qt. of warm water and spray this mixture on the affected areas.
Reapply neem oil or soap when ants, aphids or other pests appear. Repeat the boiling water step as necessary. Maintaining these practices is vital in reducing the ant population.
Try this remedy as a last resort. Mix 1 cup of hot water, 1/2 cup of sugar and 1 1/2 tsp boric acid. Soak cotton balls in this mixture and place them in a closed container. Cut holes in the container large enough for ants to crawl through. Place this bait trap near infested areas. Ants will take the toxic bait back to their nests.
Tips and warnings
- It is not realistic to completely eradicate ants from the garden. Focus on controlling populations around lettuce plants and keeping damage to a minimum.
- Do not use toxins in areas where food is grown. Boric acid is lethal to ants but harmless to humans unless specifically ingested.
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