Keeping Ants Off Trees and Shrubs

Gold Post Medal for All Time! 858 Posts
March 30, 2006
Ants herding aphids on a tree branch.


We have "a lot" of little ants in the yard. Many of them are at the base of my trees, shrubs, and plants. I am looking for something that will get rid of them and not harm my plants. We also don't want to use anything that will harm our dog or cat, deer, or other little animals. Thank you for any help you send.

Hardiness Zone: 8a

Jodi From Gary Texas


Texas is home to hundreds of species of ants. Some of them like to feast on sugar, while others prefer eating protein and fat. Most ants are harmless in the garden. Certain species will defoliate and damage plants, others have a stinging bite, and still others are beneficial and keep harmful insects like termites from taking up residence near your home.

There are several different ways to control ants in the yard, while still keeping pets and kids safe. Keep in mind that you may have to do a little experimenting to figure out what method works best for the kind living in your yard.

  1. Certain ants are attracted to the sweet honeydew left behind by aphids on trees, shrubs and plants in the garden. These species will even go as far as "keeping" aphids, defending them from other insect predators, protecting their eggs over winter and actually transporting adult aphids from plant to plant in order to keep them fat and happy (and secreting honeydew).

    Check the plants in your yard and garden for infestations of aphids, scale and mealy bugs-these insects all secrete sugar that some ants feed on. A good spray with the hose is often enough to dislodge these insects. Getting rid of them will often get rid of your ants.

  2. Frequently flooding ant hills with the garden hose (boiling water is not necessary) will encourage ants to relocate. This takes a little patience (and water), but is effective if you only have a few big ant hills in your yard.
  3. Certain products sprinkled around trees and shrubs seem to keep ants at bay: scented baby powder, cinnamon and black pepper. Ants navigate by scent and these strong smelling deterrents are said to confuse them.
  4. Applying Vaseline or another sticky substance around the base of the trees and plants they seem to be favoring will prevent them from climbing.

  5. Boric acid is very effective at killing ants. Although considered a relatively safe chemical when used correctly (diluted boric acid is used in some ointments and salves and Boron occurs naturally in the environment), it is not safe for children, pets or the environment in higher concentrations or when used incorrectly. You can get around this by making a homemade trap.

    Homemade Boric Acid Ant Trap

    Wear gloves and mix 3 cups of water, one cup of sugar and 4 teaspoons of boric acid. Fill several glass jars with cotton batting soaked in this mixture.

    Cap the jars with lids that contain holes punched in the top to let the ants in. Mark the jars as containing poison (skull and cross bones) to be safe.

    Leave them in areas of your yard where ants are a problem. They will enter the jars, suck up the mixture and take the bait back to share it with the colony where others will eat it and die.


    For protein-eating ants, substitute dog or cat food or peanut butter for the sugar. For carpenter ants, substitute wood soaked in a mixture of water and boric acid instead of cotton batting. Do not let pets or children near the jars.

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August 15, 2005

I wrap duct tape with the sticky side out around all my trees. Keeps any little critters like ants off of my trees.

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6 Questions

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July 31, 2008

Will soap and water spray help keep small ants from eating new leaves on a snowball bush? Anything else to try?

Hardiness Zone: 3a


By Pat (Guest Post)
July 31, 20082 found this helpful
Best Answer

I use diatomaceous earth for control of crawling pests. It is organic, does not harm humans or pets. It kills by scratching the outer shell of pests so they dehydrate and die. Buy garden grade, not that for swimming pools. I made a shaker for it by punching holes in the cap of a plastic can with an ice pick.


I use this in my house to control fleas and ticks as well as in the garden.
Check out for more organic solutions.

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By Oberhund. (Guest Post)
August 1, 20081 found this helpful
Best Answer

I've been able to get rid of ants in the past by putting out little saucers of borax mixed with icing sugar. The ants ingest the borax as they eat the sugar and it kills them -- I believe it can kill most in a nest when they bring the food home. This wouldn't be safe if you have pets or children around, methinks. And rain or watering will ruin the bait, I suspect, so they'll have to be replaced. I've never sprinkled on a plant before, but I think the borax would be a problem for the soil.

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August 6, 20080 found this helpful
Best Answer

You can also smear a ring of vaseline around the base of the bush to keep the ants from climbing up, assuming they don't have access from neighboring plants. This works for me. Good luck!

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June 20, 2010

I would like to know how to get rid of ants in our trees.

Hardiness Zone: 6a

By Vi from Texas Panhandle


March 20, 20160 found this helpful

Use d.e. dietematious earth. No insects can walk through it without dying and it's not very expensive. Just put it around the tree trunk and see what happens! Works great.

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October 26, 20170 found this helpful

Yeah....until it rains! Then what?

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July 22, 2009

Help. I have a loaded fig tree, but the ants seem to get into them. I was told this was good for pollination, not so good for my eating pleasure. Any suggestions?

Hardiness Zone: 10a

By Dale from Palm Springs,CA


Bronze Feedback Medal for All Time! 147 Feedbacks
July 22, 20090 found this helpful

Powder a few sticks of chalk & shake around the tree. Ants cannot stand chalk, I even draw a line at the bottom of my steps & they will not go near it!


Good luck or search for your question, good luck.

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July 24, 20090 found this helpful

Here in Winnipeg, Canada, we have a problem with small ant-sized worms (cankerworms). We have a product here called "Tanglefoot" that we get from our local hardware stores and plant nurseries. It is a sticky band that you wrap around your tree trunk. The bugs cannot crawl over it without getting caught. This works for ants, also....I love figs. Unfortunately we cannot grow them here due to the cold! Enjoy yours!

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September 13, 20170 found this helpful

I've found really cheap cinnamon powder works wonders, too.

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August 15, 2011

How do I rid a willow tree of fire ants?

By Kim


August 19, 20110 found this helpful

Go to the gardening center of Lowe's or Home Depot and purchase Amdro, then sprinkle around the base of the tree. Your problem should be solved within a couple of days. You might want to sprinkle it all over your yard to keep the ants from building new nests. Amdro has worked great for us for the past 7 years.

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April 23, 20180 found this helpful

Hydramethylnon is banned in the UK

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