How to Get Rid of Ant Hills From Lawns, Backyards, and Paths

Although the last place you want ants in is the kitchen, they can cause quite a problem in open spaces too. Ants will often build mounds in lawns and yards, destroying grass, making it difficult to mow the lawn, and overall deteriorating the quality of the yard you worked so hard on.

To really learn how to get rid of ant hills, you first need to understand how ants live and work, what ants exactly are you dealing with, and what methods are effective in preventing them.

How To Get Rid of Ant Hills Naturally

These methods are often more than enough to get an ant infestation out of your yard. Ants will evacuate their nests at the first sign of trouble, so it might be enough just to destroy a part of the nest!

1. Flooding an Ant Hill with Water

This method is self-explanatory. Most ants can swim (or at least float), and the soil will gradually drink the water up, so chances are that you won’t drown the ants.

However, the flash flood should be enough for them to evacuate the nest. 

First of all, water causes a massive disruption to the temperature within the nest and they need the temperature to stay perfect for the queen to keep doing her job.

Secondly, water can destroy tunnels and all stored food, and that kind of destruction is a sign that they should move to another spot. Otherwise, they’ll have to keep rebuilding their nest again and again.

Lastly, although they can swim and hang on without oxygen longer than people, ants are still in danger of drowning.

If you want to go for the option that will actually kill ants, pour boiling water down the hole. It will fry the ants (although the correct term would be ‘cook the ants’) in a millisecond, so it’s a quick and (mostly) painless death for them.

2. Pouring White Vinegar on Ant Hills

White vinegar is seemingly the go-to solution for many house emergencies. When it comes to ants, vinegar isn’t any more harmful to them than water. However, it has a powerful smell that they’ll hate and vacate the premises because of.

Since it doesn’t harm ants but annoys the life out of them, vinegar is the best natural solution to your ant problem.

Ants communicate with pheromones – when they’re foraging food from a source, they leave the pheromones on the ground so other ants will know that there’s food to forage. 

Once the source is depleted – they stop releasing the pheromones. The same communication principle applies to every other aspect of ant life.

If you cover their nest with vinegar, all the pheromones are suddenly masked and ants become completely lost. Since the scent of vinegar will remain even after the soil soaks it up, ants have no other choice but to leave the nest.

To apply it effectively, mix vinegar and dish soap in an equal ratio and pour it down the nest hole.

3. Sprinkling Spices and Aromatics

Ants really do dislike spices. Whether they dislike them to the point that they’ll evacuate the nest because of them is something to experiment with. 

Just like vinegar, spices disrupt the natural ability of ants to communicate with pheromones.

Since this is their main method of communication, they’ll leave the area if they can’t share information like that anymore.

4. Spraying Essential Oils

Essential oils function on the same principle as vinegar and spices – their scent is so powerful that it completely overshadows the natural pheromones ants use to communicate.

They erase the chemical trail ants use to guide one another toward food. Some essential oils have slightly toxic properties for ants (and other insects too). Peppermint, rosemary, thyme, and clove oils are all very effective against ants.

Another example is citrus oil, which can deter ants (animals in general dislike citrus and lemon as they’re too bitter) if they come in contact with it. This makes citrus essential oils more effective than other essential oils.

However, if you have a large hill in your yard, chances are that essential oils won’t be enough. They’re applicable if you have a small infestation in your home – but you would need copious amounts of essential oils to take out an entire nest.

5. Digging Out an Ant Colony

This method, however aggressive it may sound, is very effective, but rarely applicable. Unfortunately, it can only work if the colony in question is very small.

Most ant colonies build nests that are deeper than 3 feet – and a 6-foot-deep colony isn’t particularly large for ant standards. So, if you have a small colony in your yard, you could just dig it up and put the soil back into the hole.

The sudden displacement will shock the ants and they’ll move as the site of the nest isn’t safe anymore.

When it comes to deeper nests, digging out the colony isn’t an option. Even if you have an excavator or another tool that makes digging easier, digging out a massive hole in your yard will only ruin the lawn.

In a nutshell, digging out a nest is very effective, but very detrimental to landscaping.

Opting for any previously mentioned method or any method below is a much better choice for your yard.

Other Ant Hill Removal Methods

These methods are very effective as they kill the ants. Let’s see how to get rid of ant hills by use of lethal methods.

1. Using Ant Killer Products

Ant-killer products are basically insecticides with active ingredients that kill ants. The most popular forms are bait, indoor insecticides, and outdoor insecticides.

Bait

Bait products are extremely effective because they attract ants. They usually combine the active ant-killing ingredient with food for worker ants. As ants travel to the bait, they leave a chemical trail behind, informing other ants there’s food ahead.

There are two types of baits; slow-acting and quick-acting. Quick-acting bait kills the ants that eat it or touch it so quickly that they don’t even get back to the nest with it. Slow-acting bait is much better for infestations, though.

With slow-acting bait, worker ants take portions of the poisoned food back to the nest. There, other ants, including the queen, eat the poisoned food, and suddenly, the entire colony dies.

The bait comes in different forms – there’s liquid and solid bait, with the solid option often preferred. You can often buy bait stations, some of which can be installed into the ground.

These stations have small holes that allow the ants to pass through and get to the bait, but thankfully, pets and children can’t get to the poisoned bait. Because they’re so easy to use, bait products are the most common solution for ant infestations in residential areas.

It’s best to set the bait outdoors – if you set it indoors, you’ll likely attract ants to your home (even though they’ll die, you still want to avoid that), and it won’t be as effective.

Indoor Insecticides

It’s always recommended to avoid the use of indoor insecticides. These products can harm both adults and children if they aren’t used properly. In many areas around the world, indoor insecticides can’t even be bought without a license (except for the basic bug spray).

There are natural insecticides, some of which we already mentioned. Window cleaning products are toxic to ants and will kill them on contact, while plant-based essential oils (especially peppermint, orange, clove, and rosemary) have the same effect.

A highly-recommended indoor insecticide, one that is 100% safe for children, is soapy water. Combining soap with water and sponging it over the floor will definitely remove the pheromone trail, and if you clean the entry points too, ants won’t be returning to your home.

Outdoor Insecticides

A very effective way of preventing ants from invading your home is establishing a perimeter around the home. Insecticides used for this mostly contain cypermethrin and bifenthrin and are often available to buy from retailers.

More effective insecticides are only sold to professionals.

There are several drawbacks to this strategy, though. Establishing a perimeter will only kill the foraging ants that come out of the nest to find food. This will not kill the queen or the rest of the ant colony.

The insecticides will disappear with time too, so you’ll have to apply them again and again if you want the line to hold. It can also happen that you trap the ants inside the perimeter, instead of keeping them outside the perimeter.

So, outdoor insecticides that establish a perimeter are temporary solutions. They can only keep the ants out for a limited amount of time, and they work best when they’re combined with bait, as bait-based insecticides can kill an entire colony.

2. Calling In Professionals

Although it’s always recommended to try solving a house emergency without calling the pros (most ant infestations can, in fact, be solved by pouring boiling water or a vinegar solution down the nest), sometimes a problem is out of our hands.

The two most obvious advantages a professional has are experienced and ant-killing products. Professionals have licenses for highly dangerous, but highly-effective ant-killing insecticides that you couldn’t get your hands on.

They also have enough experience to know which ones to use – different insecticides affect different ant species in different ways. That’s because different ant species are also attracted to different things.

For example, the argentine ant is mostly attracted to sweets, while the pharaoh ant is attracted to fats and proteins – this means that you can’t attract both species with the same bait. This kind of information is clear to professionals, but not to amateurs.

Professionals are also trained to recognize entry and exit points in case of home invasions, which is rarely obvious to an amateur. They also understand that the only way to ensure the colony stays away for good is by killing the queen.

Hiring a professional insect extermination service is, all in all, the quickest and the most effective way of ending an ant invasion. It is, however, the most expensive option too, which is why a lot of people avoid it.

Before the professionals come knocking at your door, there are a few things you can do to help them out.

Cleaning the home, especially from any food that ants would see as resources, will make the baits more attractive to ants. Vacuuming and wiping down shelves and counters, as well as emptying the trash (the scent of which can be attractive to ants) will definitely help.

Also, remember or mark the spots where you found ants to speed things up.

Best Way to Permanently Get Rid of an Ant Hill

After you ended the ant infestation in your home, be it through DIY natural methods or by hiring professionals, you have to prevent any new ant colony formations.

1. Keep Outdoor Surfaces and Floors Clean

Very simply – ants will not stay in a place with no food. If you keep your yard clean, ants won’t have any reason to form a colony in your yard.

The problem arises with the differences between how we use food and how ants view our food. You most likely don’t eat bread crumbs on the ground, but ants certainly do. If you have a lunch table in the yard and bits of food keep falling, you’ll definitely have an ant infestation at some point.

Ants are also attracted to sugar, so spilling juice on the floor will also attract them.

Keeping your lawn, yard, terraces, and gazebos clean will ensure that no ant colonies develop.

2. Remove Food Waste

This refers to indoor food as much as outdoor food. Since ants are attracted to most foods, you need to dispose of it quickly. A food disposal unit does a great job at this, but you can also just empty your trashcans on a more regular basis.

Ants can be attracted to trash because of the smell of food, but tying the trash bags tight and keeping the trash can lid closed can minimize the smell.

3. Prevent Ants from Entering Your Home

Ants can make their way through tiny holes, which is why window caulking, among other strategies, is important for ant management. If you close down all the tiny holes, ants physically won’t be able to invade your home.

Identifying Ants and Ant Hills

Believe it or not, not all ants use the same type of hill. Ants create mounds, which can be several feet tall (albeit these cases are extreme), while smaller mounds often disappear after some time.

Ant Species That Create Any Holes

The actual number of ant species isn’t yet clear – it’s estimated that there are more than 22,000 species of ants. The most common little black ants we see in our everyday lives are harvester ants, Texas leaf cutter ants, fire ants, and pyramid ants.

All of these ants build mounds by digging holes.

Why Do Ants Create Ant Hills?

Something that many people don’t know is that ant hills are only the byproduct of the actual digging. The ant hill in your yard isn’t home to the ants – it’s the roof of their home.

Ants create hills by digging downwards – their complex tunnel systems can reach staggering sizes, but more on that later. As they’re digging, they push the excess soil upwards and that is why it comes to rest in your yard or on your lawn. Therefore, ant hills are, at first glance, useless piles of soil. However, there are uses to it. Firstly, the hill is a sort of protective dome above the nest – it prevents larger predators from destroying the nest and eating the ants.

Of course, that doesn’t stop giant anteaters and pangolins from doing just that in the wild, but you, unfortunately, can’t use them to get rid of the hill in your yard.

Secondly, the ant hill you’re so desperate to get rid of helps the ants regulate the temperature within the nest, while it also serves as an entrance.

So, the hill is only a byproduct, but it can serve a useful purpose.

What Do Ant Hills Look Like?

This question isn’t easy to answer as it greatly depends on the species of ant building it. There are ants that use plant matter and ants that explicitly avoid using plant matter. There are ants that build beneath logs and ants that like to build out in the open.

When you’re wondering how to get rid of ant hills, you might think that it’s just a soil hill. And while it looks like that from the outside, the inside is everything but simple.

When it comes to the nest itself, is located directly below the ‘ant hill’ or mound of earth and comprises a network of complex tunnels and chambers that are used for food storage.

ant hill
Ant Mound

The ant inhabitants are capable of regulating the temperature of the nest and keeping it at a desirable level (usually about 80 degrees Fahrenheit).

The ant queen usually remains in the middle of the nest, only moving location as the temperature changes. 

Older ants are moved to the outside of the ant nest, while younger ants are moved inside to surround the queen and protect her better.

Depending on the species building it and the materials used, hills can be non-existent (there could just be a hole in the ground), or they can reach incredible heights. For example, the Scottish wood ant can build 8-foot-tall ant hills. These nests can contain tens of thousands of ants at a time.

The rest of Europe isn’t safe either, as a subspecies of the European redwood ant (Formica polyctena, to be precise) can build 65-foot-tall mounds. Of course, this can’t happen in anyone’s backyard as there wouldn’t be enough building material, but even a 3-foot-tall hill is too large.

If you could somehow take the ant nest in your yard and pull it out of the soil, it would likely be as tall as you, possibly even taller, and it would have a very similar branching system that we see in trees.

Where Do Ants Create Ant Holes

Ants will always build a hill near a food source – these insects are partly a nomadic species and they’ll quickly evacuate and move their camp if there’s no more food or if the nest is in danger (usually from flooding or predators).

Nests are often built under logs or bushes to provide some cover, but ants will readily set up camp in the middle of a clear field if food is there. A behavior contrasting this is their pickiness regarding dead ants – some species refuse to build nests near sites with dead ants.

Ants will often invade empty nests and take them as their own.

Some ant species aren’t only capable of building nests on trees, but they actually insist on doing it, and they won’t build nests in the soil. 

FAQ How to Get Rid of Ant Hills

Final Thoughts on How to Get Rid of Ant Hills

Ants are attracted to sustainable food resources, so it’s best to keep your yard and home clean, as they won’t be attracted to an environment with no food supply. 

To get an established colony out of your yard, you can use water, a vinegar-water solution, essential oils, and spices.

If you want to kill the ants, you can use insecticides, or you can call professionals and have them do it for you.