I have ants in my yard and garden. Should I leave them there or try to get rid of them? What good are ants?
Ants are very important and we are glad you asked!
Although ants can spoil our picnics or become unwelcome visitors inside our homes, most ants are actually beneficial to have in our yards. Ants are important to many organisms through their environmental and ecological impacts. There are over 12,000 species of ants that scientists have given names and there are at least double and maybe triple out there waiting to be discovered. Not only do ants turn more soil than earthworms, aid in decomposition, and disperse the seeds of many plants, but they also kill pest species.
Soil Makers: Like earthworms, ants help create healthy soil. By digging tunnels, ants aerate and turn over the dirt, bring nutrients closer to the surface, and allow rainwater to circulate more fully through the soil.
Seed Sowers: Seed-harvesting ants increase the dispersal, survival, and germination rate of seeds. By carrying them to new habitats and storing them in nutrient-rich ant nests, the seeds can sprout in a safe environment, protected from seed predators as well as drought. This helps plants thrive in the wild.
Pest Police: Many ants prey on the eggs and larvae of bothersome household insects such as flies, fleas, silverfish, bed bugs, and even cockroaches. If left to colonize the pe- rimeter of your yard, ants can act as a barrier to termites and help keep pest populations down overall. The diversity of the total ant species in an ecosystem can be an indicator of overall environmental health. Having a diverse community of ants and other insects helps keep the entire ecosystem in balance, which is important for all the plants, fungi, and animals (including us) that share the environment.
So unless the ants are coming into your home, I would suggest that you leave them to preform their important roles in your yard. If you are having problems with ants in your home, then you can try following some of the advice we have given in the past:
So the next time you come across ants in your yard, take a minute to watch them and appreciate the important role they are playing in maintaining a healthy planet.
Enjoy the ants,
Corrie Moreau & the AntAsk Team