May 26, 2011 at 8:51 a.m.

How to deal with turf ants

How to deal with turf ants
How to deal with turf ants

When I was working in my orchard the other day I looked along the edge of the woods and I saw what looked like a huge sand pile. A closer look revealed the largest anthill I have ever seen. It was at least six feet across and my grandchildren were very impressed. They all asked how it could get so big and the only thing I could think of was that it was that it had remained undisturbed.

Now that spring has finally sprung, we will be dealing with ants on our lawns. The species commonly found in lawns is the cornfield ant. They construct a small mound that is found in exposed sites in the soil as well as in the cracks of sidewalks, patio bricks, driveways, etc. Many mounds may be present in a lawn. Nests are found especially in places where the grass is thinning or the ground is bare. Their appearance can be unsightly in lawns but except for mounds dulling your lawn mower blades they are not harming the turf.

It is not practical to use chemical control on cornfield ants in a lawn. Even if control is successful, another nest may move back into the area. The best control is to encourage grass in the bare and thinning areas. According to Jeff Hahn, assistant extension entomologist at the U of MN, cornfield ants do not harm garden plants.

Field ants may also be found in lawns. Workers are up to half an inch in size and may be black or black and red. They construct craters that are a foot wide or larger. Also called thatching ants, many workers are active on the outside of the nests. Their nests are frequently found where grass is growing normally. Field ants are not as common in lawns as the cornfield ant. However, when they are found in lawns they are more unsightly due to their high mound.

We are fortunate to not have fire ants in Minnesota and so the risk of bites and stings are minimal. However, it is possible to be attacked by certain ants, such as field ants, which are moderate size, and can bite when defending their nests. Pavement ants are also known to bite and sting if their nests are threatened. These ants would generally not be aggressive towards people otherwise. Also ants that nest in lawns, close to buildings, can enter structures to forage for food and water or to nest.

If it is necessary to attempt to control an ant nest in the lawn, first try pouring soapy water into the nest. Mix any type of soap with water so it is sudsy. You may need to treat nests more than once. If this does not work, try an insecticide. There are a variety of insecticides you can use to treat ant nests. Be sure to select a product that is labeled for treating lawns and also read and follow label directions.


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