Black garden ants are often misunderstood by humans and quickly targeted as being pests that need to be eliminated. The reality is that ants have many beneficial functions in our gardens and in our environment. While some species or large masses of ants can be a concern, these hardworking arthropods can be quite an unsung hero in our ecosystem. From tasks such as soil aeration, pollination, and seed dispersement, ants are efficient and useful workers that add biodiversity to the environment as well as your garden.
Although ants may pose a nuisance at times, the 12,000 species of ants in the world are hardworking insects. Black garden ants don’t traditionally cause problems on their own, but it is helpful to understand the advantages and disadvantages of ants’ presence in your garden. Check out our robust list of benefits and drawbacks of ants to help you discern whether black garden ants are friends or foes.
Benefits of Black Garden Ants
Ants are our partners in the garden and are often unrecognized for everything they do behind the scenes to aid in the success of a healthy garden. It might be surprising to discover just how much they assist in making our environments and gardens functional. Here are just a handful of benefits of having black garden ants in the garden.
Ants are drawn to the delectable nectar on buds and the bases of many flowers. You may have seen ants sprawling all over the buds of peony plants. While it is true that the ants are feasting on the plant’s sweet nectar, they are also protecting the plant against destructive insects that may damage the plant. They tend to attack herbivores and seed seeking insects, causing them to drop off plants, interrupt their feeding and egg-laying, thereby controlling the pest population.
Black garden ants distribute seeds from place to place, propagating new growth. Some species of wildflowers solely rely on ants to distribute their seeds.
Protection from Pests
Some ant varieties are predatory in nature and actually seek out and devour garden pests such as aphids, fly larvae, and fleas. Much like the garden-friendly ladybugs, black garden ants do the same job but don’t have the same reputation for garden goodness.
Black garden ants help spread pollen from flower to flower, much like the bees do. Usually, this happens as garden ants are foraging food, spreading pollen from food source to food source along the way.
Ants tunnel through the ground, moving large amounts of dirt underground, hauling twenty times their weight as they work. Their work aerates the soil and oxygenates the soil, which helps roots plunge their shoots more easily.
Black Garden Ants are Food for Other Animals
As part of the food chain and our functioning ecosystem, black garden ants are actually an essential food source for birds, spiders, fish, frogs, lizards, other insects, and even some mammals. Eliminating them would negatively impact on predators.
Many species of ants eat dead insects and funguses. They consume lots of organic matter and break it down and release the nutrients into the garden soil and improving it as they tunnel along.
When Black Garden Ants Become a Nuisance
Even the most beneficial things in life can have some drawbacks, and the same is true of black garden ants and other ant species. You may not be able to tell the difference between helpful black garden ants and other ants.
Damage to Structures
The carpenter ant is a black ant that eats wood and can cause significant damage to wooden structures such as homes, sheds, wooden garden boxes, and fences. They do little to no damage to garden plants, however.
Cause a Painful Sting
Some ants in certain regions of the United States are invasive and pack quite a sting when they bite, leaving painful blisters on human skin. While they are excellent at aerating the soil, and doing other beneficial work, having a garden full of these ants would likely be an unpleasant place to spend a lot of time.
Disruption in Masses
Even ants with the best of intentions can be a nuisance in the garden if there are hoards of them present. There is such a thing as too much of a good thing.
Controlling Black Garden Ants
Overall, ants have a ton of benefits for gardeners and the biodiversity of our ecosystem. While we can’t stress the benefits of black garden ants enough, there are rare occasions when ants can pose a significant problem on your property. If the ants in your garden fall more on the invasive or destructive side, there are a few things that you can do to control ants naturally and organically.
- Hot Water: Pouring boiling water onto the ants’ nest will eliminate that colony.
- Diatomaceous Earth (DE): Sprinkling nuisance ants with the fine powder made from ground-up shells of microscopic creatures can damage the body of the ants. It is recommended to use it directly on the ants so as not to harm other beneficial insects in your garden.
- Organic Insecticidal Soap: Spray the problem ants with natural insecticidal soap to eliminate or disorient them.