Ants are necessary inhabitants of the great outdoors, but are seldom welcome wherever humans dwell. In fact, ants actually help remove organic debris from your lawn and garden areas, namely dead bugs and fecal matter. They also prey on many common garden pests and help improve soil conditions. Still, ants can be bothersome, especially when they take up residence between patio bricks. Fortunately, it's fairly easy to persuade them to move on.
Common Ant-Deterring Myths Dispelled
A common fix to get rid of ants between patio bricks is to douse them with boiling water. However, this isn't the best idea for several reasons. For one thing, only the ants congregating on the soil's surface will be affected. Even if you manage to pour enough water into an opening of the mound to reach some of the ants underground, the majority of the nest and its queen are likely to survive to enjoy your patio for another day. In fact, ants have been known to deal with this temporary interruption by simply building a new mound between another set of patio bricks a few feet away.
Another popular method of eradicating ants is to put down a layer of powdered borax in their path. The theory is that worker ants will carry the material back to the nest to feed the queen while ingesting some on the way. Borax is toxic to ants, both internally and externally. Unfortunately, it's also poisonous to domestic pets, small children, and many of the backyard ant-eating birds living near your home.
Solutions That Really Work
One of the keys to success lies in knowing which species of ant you're dealing with. If you have ants building mounds between patio bricks, then you're up against the pavement ant (Tetramorium caespitum). These ants feed on sweet and greasy food scraps, bread, and even meat. The connection is that these are the kinds of food remnants often found on a patio since this is where backyard grilling and summer dining typically take place. Taking particular care to remove any possible food sources is often an effective way to get these ants to seek better accommodations elsewhere.
Try giving the ants some additional food for thought. A homemade ants-be-gone spray consists of whole garlic cloves simmered until softened in a large pot of water. The liquid is then cooled and strained, and made into a spicy cocktail by adding liberal doses of cayenne pepper, Tabasco sauce, and a few squirts of liquid dish soap.
Treat infested areas with 1 tbsp of orange oil diluted in a gallon of water. Ants seem to react strongly to d-limonene, the primary constituent of orange oil. In fact, it quickly sends them scattering.
Consider consulting with a professional exterminator, if all else fails to get rid of ants between patio bricks. Many exterminators now use organic and non-toxic materials that can effectively get rid of ants without risking harm to humans or wildlife.