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Carpenter ants love wood, and the amount of wood that you have around your property can encourage or discourage these destructive insects. Unlike termites, the ants don’t eat wood, but they build their nests in wooden structures, including garden sheds, decking, and even in mulch.
So, how do you prevent carpenter ants from colonizing your garden mulch, and what do you do if the worst happens and the pests invade your garden?
Can cedar mulch repel carpenter ants?
Cedar mulch can be used to suppress weeds, prevent soil erosion, maintain soil temperature and retain moisture, as well as keeping your garden looking tidy. Cedarwood contains chemicals that can repel termites, cockroaches, moths, and some ant species, as well as preventing rot. Cedar mulch has the same repellent qualities.
Unfortunately, cedar mulch does not repel carpenter ants, who are quite happy to make a home within it.
If carpenter ants are common in your area, the best policy is to use crushed stone as mulch, rather than wood.
How to get rid of carpenter ants in mulch
If you do decide to use wood mulch, you can discourage carpenter ants by keeping the layer of mulch to a maximum of two to three inches in depth. If the mulch is shallow, the ants will find it difficult to create a deep, secure nest and will most likely choose to build their colony elsewhere.
Throughout the season, stir the mulch, using a hoe or similar garden implement, to discourage nest-building activities and destroy any building work that’s already underway. Ensure that the mulch is set at least three inches away from trees, and do not use mulch directly adjacent to wooden structures.
You can use chemical treatments, including desiccating dust and pyrethroid sprays applied directly onto the nest to kill the colony of carpenter ants. However, it is best to hire a professional exterminator who is licensed to handle toxic insecticides to deal with the pests.
Although using a professional pest controller to deal with carpenter ants is the best way forward, there are a few DIY treatments that you could try.
What you’ll need:
- ½ cup icing sugar
- 1½ box borax powder (sold in laundry aisles in most grocery stores)
- 2 cups of water
- Empty jar with lid
- Cotton balls
How to do it:
- Boil the water and pour it into the empty jar.
- Add the borax and sugar to the hot water and stir it until completely dissolved.
- Soak the cotton balls with the mixture and put them on a small piece of tin foil.
- Place a few cotton balls on top of the mulch.
The carpenter ants take the mixture back to the nest where the colony eats the sugary food. The borax mixes with the formic acid inside the ants where it explodes, killing the ants.
Wood mulch looks very attractive when used to suppress weeds and keeps the soil beneath the mulch moist, which is important for your plants. However, the mulch can be an attractant for carpenter ants who then build colonies within it.
Although the DIY treatment above does work, it’s still the best policy to use a professional ant exterminator to get rid of carpenter ants for you.