August 15

How to Get Rid of Ants Around Your Trees

Outdoor Living, Tips, Trees


Do you need ​help removing pests or insects from your trees?

Menchhofer Tree Care has been caring for trees in the Indy area for over 40 years.

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Do you need help eliminating pests from your trees?

Call for a free estimate!

They are something you never want to see inside or outside of your home: ants. While they are small, they have the ability to make quite a mess out of anything they touch. When it comes to having ants in or around your trees, it is almost always a sign that something terrible is going on or could be just around the corner. Ants are a common sight in yards, so most people don’t think anything of it. However, they can render your trees, plants, and other foliage useless. They’ll cut off the water supply, eat away the greenery, steal the nutrients, and generally just make a mess of the place.

Even worse, as they make the tree weaker, they get stronger so that more of them come. Eventually, you may have an infestation problem that goes into your house, garage, and other structures on your property. It can even spread to your neighbors.

While ants are one of the pests that don’t typically hurt us physically, they can do quite a bit of damage to our bank accounts and the structures in our homes. Ants are a problem and that problem is something you probably want to solve sooner rather than later. If you believe that ants are starting to colonize in or around your trees, there are a few ways to eliminate them:

5. Petroleum Jelly

Vaseline is a great option for ants.
Credit: John Keane
  • Easy to find in any store
  • Rarely impacts other foliage or greenery
  • Works great when combined with other approaches

Petroleum jelly or Vaseline may seem like an odd way to approach infestations, but it is actually quite a common solution, according to Martha Stewart. You have to use the jelly as a blocking shield to either keep the ants away from their colony, keep them in the colony, or stop them in their tracks. Smearing petroleum jelly around the colony, especially on any concrete path you may have, will stop the ants from moving around. They will get caught in the jelly and you can just eliminate them how you choose.

Using petroleum jelly can also help you to find colonies so that you can attack them with some of the other options on the list. Just make sure you don’t stain your concrete or stone. Do a spot check first to ensure that you won’t ruin anything.

4. Sprinkle Pepper

Pepper keeps ants away too.
Credit: Clifford Rodhe
  • In your spice cabinet
  • Use black or cayenne pepper
  • Great for smaller infestation

Don’t like spicy things? You aren’t alone. Ants are not a fan of spicy things, whether it be black pepper from your table or cayenne pepper. Sprinkling pepper in the soil around your tree can help to reduce the population of ants. Since you likely have this in your cabinet at home, it is a great way to tackle small problems before they can turn into big problems. You do have to ensure that you don’t have any sensitive plants around that could succumb to the pepper as well. Roses and orchids, for example, don’t like pepper.

According to Home Guides, you can either sprinkle pepper or use it when utilizing a flooding method. This will allow you to get the pepper deeper into the soil, keeping the ants at bay.

3. Flood Ant Hills

Ants colonizing on tree.
Credit: Dotun55
  • May need to do it multiple times
  • Beware of underwater hills
  • Easy to do

One of the easiest ways to eliminate ants around your trees is to flood the ant hills or colonies with water. This takes a bit of patience and time, because you may have to do it repeatedly to get it to stick, but it does work. It is better to hit the colonies with water every few days or so, even if it has recently rained, according to Ask an Entomologist. This ensures that they aren’t just burrowing underground and building something bigger.

Wait until you don’t see ants milling around for a few days before you start backing off from the procedure. You may even want to do one of the other options listed here for a few days after you stop flooding the ant hills.

2. Peppermint Oil

Essential oils can help out a lot around the home.
Credit: Honolulu Media
  • Easy to find at any health store
  • Can use peppermint soap in a pinch
  • Smells better than some other options

One of the most simple and effective ways to eliminate ants in your home, yard, and around your trees is peppermint oil. This is a miracle oil of sorts because it naturally deters pests and animals of all kinds, including ants. Per the DIY Natural website, all you have to do is soak a cotton ball or a piece of cloth in the essential oil and put it around the tree. The ants will smell it and stop coming around. This is great for smaller infestations but may not work for bigger ones, who will simply try to eliminate a cotton ball.

If you don’t have peppermint oil handy, there are many other things that have strong peppermint smells that you can use, like teas, soaps, and lotions. Just make sure that whatever you use is all natural so that it doesn’t interfere with the other plants in your yard.

1. Contact a Professional

Ants taking over the bark of a tree.
Credit: mahalie stackpole
  • Any infestation you haven’t cleared up yourself in a few weeks
  • When the infestation grows for a few colonies
  • If the ants have started to attack your trees or plants

Unfortunately, home remedies only work so well. According to the University of Minnesota, once you see more than a few “towers” or hills, it is time to call a professional. Most of the time, seeing more than one hill means that you have an extremely large problem that needs to be handled using chemical solutions that aren’t available to the general public. Some of these are completely safe and natural, but they still aren’t sold at the store.

Do not use chemicals on your own, as they can be extremely dangerous to your children, pets, and other plants. Even worse, they can cause complete devastation in your yard. A professional team that knows how to handle ants and the tools used to eliminate them is the best option for bigger problems.

At Menchhofer Tree Care, our main goal is to keep your trees and yard safe so that you can live in those spaces. We understand that sometimes, something will compete with us and we will have to go to war. Ants are formidable competitors, but they are nothing against our team of experts. We know the gentlest, safest, and most effective ways to handle your ant problems.

Give us a call at 1 (317) 661-4240 so that one of our professionals can come inspect your tree and determine what the next steps should be.

Header photo courtesy of Danilo Rairán on Flickr!


Menchhofer Tree Care

About Steve Menchhofer

Steve Menchhofer has been caring for the trees of the Indianapolis, Indiana metro area for over 40 years. Steve and his team of experienced, certified arborists are members of the International Society of Arboriculture and the Indiana Arborist Association.

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