Although leaf cutter ants are not relatively wide-spread pests when it comes to residential areas, they are becoming a larger problem than ever before.
Typically seen as agriculture pests, leaf cutter ants are slowly making their way into our communities where they can wreak havoc on a variety of foliage.
Are you dealing with leaf cutter ants? If so, chances are you’re looking for a good way to manage them. Because these types of ants are unique in the way they work and the damage they can cause, getting rid of them is going to take a strategy.
This strategy will require patience, consistency, and some quality pest control products. But don’t worry – you’re not alone when it comes to how to get rid of leaf cutter ants.
We are here to help you with our step-by-step guide, including home remedies for how to get rid of leaf cutter ants, quality products recommended by experts, and tips on how to prevent these pests in the future.
But before we get started, let’s first take a moment to talk about leaf cutter ants.
What Are Leaf Cutter Ants?
Leaf cutter ants are quite fascinating. Unfortunately, they can also be quite damaging.
When looking into how to get rid of leaf cutter ants, you may not realize you’re actually dealing with a good variety of different species that fall under that general categorization.
In fact, there are nearly 47 different species of leaf cutter ants throughout the world, with most of them endemic to South America, Central America, and the Southern United States. There are two genera of leaf cutter ants, including the Atta and the Acromyrmex.
What is the difference between the two? Most experts can’t give a clear answer, but they do point out that the Atta genera have three promesonotal spines while the Atta has only two.
The two species of leaf cutter ants in the United States are most commonly found in southern regions like Texas, Louisiana, Southern California, and Arizona.
Leaf cutter ants are named for their propensity for cutting leaves from trees. They do not eat these leaves, but instead carry them to their nests where the leaves develop fungi that their offspring feed on.
While there are just two species of leaf cutter ants found throughout the United States, they can still cause big problems. This is because these pests carry on generationally, with some colonies surviving upwards of 60 years or more.
Furthermore, they reproduce rapidly, with many leaf cutter ants growing to house more than a million ants at a time.
Of all the different ant species in the world, leaf cutter ants are famous for building the most intricate and complex nests. In fact, leaf cutter ant nests can consist of up to 8,000 different chambers. Their nests have also been known to go as deep as twelve feet below ground.
Though fascinating, these insects are an incredible agricultural pest and, as we mentioned above, they are becoming more problematic in residential areas as well. They not only forage leaves, but are also known to remove flowers, buds, fruits, and other types of vegetation rapidly. This can lead to the destruction and even death of certain types of plants.
Leaf cutter ants are not the best travelers, however, as they often only travel up to 600 feet from their nest in search of leaves and food. And speaking of food, leaf cutter ants have a very interesting diet.
According to experts, these pests commonly dine on caterpillar feces, coffee grounds, oats, wheat, bread, sugar, grains, corn, and even chicken feed.
When looking into how to get rid of leaf cutter ants, the good news is that these insects don’t typically invade houses. While it is possible for a few worker ants to enter your home accidentally, they are not interested in staying and will often leave quickly.
Leaf cutter ants are most active during the evenings, and they tend to remain in their nests during the hottest points throughout the day. Still, they prefer warmer climates, often being most mobile in weather that is above 40 degrees and below 90 degrees.
The below video talks more about leaf cutter ants.
Are Leaf Cutter Ants Dangerous?
Though they spend much of their time cutting leaves, leaf cutter ants don’t eat them.
Leaf cutter ants can vary in size, and like most ant species they do have a structure within their colony. This structure includes the queen, which can grow to be up to two inches in length.
Other ants in the colony range in size as well and perform different jobs, with the soldier ant being the next largest. Then you have the foragers, guards, nurses, and excavators.
Of all these ants, the type you are most likely to come across when out in your garden is goingto be soldier ants. They can be a frightening sight, as soldier ants have very large mandibles that can draw blood if they get a hold of a human finger or toe.
But don’t worry – leaf cutter ants are not venomous, and are therefore not considered particularly dangerous to people or pets.
Furthermore, leaf cutter ants are not destructive to households or structures. Many destructive pets like termites, for example, could be considered dangerous to humans because they can lead to building instability and other problems in homes.
Though a single leaf cutter ant may accidentally wander into your house in search of food, it is not interested in staying inside your home and will quickly leave.
Leaf cutter ants are also not known to spread bacteria or cause illness to people or pets through food contamination.
However, they can strip trees and other types of vegetation in a matter of hours, which means it’s important to have a game plan for how to get rid of leaf cutter ants quickly and effectively before they destroy your entire garden.
Keep reading to learn more.
The Most Common Signs Of Leaf Cutter Ants
Leaf cutter ants can be quite problematic and cause plenty of damage to agriculture.
Before you choose your method of control for how to get rid of leaf cutter ants, it’s important to make sure you’re indeed dealing with these unique pests.
Leaf cutter ants are red and are often mistaken for a variety of other types of ant species common in the United States.
However, there are a few tell-tale signs you can look for when trying to identify leaf cutter ants that can help you be sure of what you’re dealing with.
On average, the leaf cutter ants that you will see will be around 1/16th to ½ of an inch in length. Though the queen can grow much larger, you’re not very likely to see her out and about.
As we mentioned above, leaf cutter ants are a brilliant red in color. Signs of them in your yard or on your property include trees or plants that are missing leaves. These trees and plants will often be within 600 feet of an anthill.
You may also notice bits of leaves left behind near ant hills or near trails where these ants have been.
While leaf cutter ants are most active at night, it’s not uncommon to see a few during the day. You may also notice trails of leaf cutter ants during dusk carrying leaves. This is a sure sign you need to look at how to get rid of leaf cutter ants.
How To Get Rid Of Leaf Cutter Ants – Best Methods
Getting rid of leaf cutter ants takes strategy and patience.
As with all pests, there are different methods you can use when it comes to how to get rid of leaf cutter ants. These methods include but are not limited to:
Using Chemical Pesticides and Insecticides
Chemical pesticides and insecticides are some of the most common products used for how to get rid of leaf cutter ants. Though somewhat controversial, chemical pesticides and insecticides are known to be effective against ants and many other pests like spiders, roaches, fleas, ticks, bed bugs, and more.
However, insecticides and pesticides can contain harsh chemical ingredients that may be harmful to people or pets, as well as the environment. When using insecticides or pesticides for how to get rid of leaf cutter ants, it’s important to do so only as directed and to keep these products out of reach of children.
Using Natural Products
If you’re passionate about organic forms of pest control or you’re just worried about using pesticides around children or pets, you do have the option of using natural pest control products and insecticides. Many natural insecticides are made using plant-based ingredients that can work well for how to get rid of leaf cutter ants.
With that being said, there are pros and cons to using natural products, which we will cover in more detail further down.
Using Home Remedies
If you’re in a pinch, you also have the option of using home remedies for how to get rid of leaf cutter ants. Many household ingredients can be effective in not only killing these pests but also repelling them in the future.
For ideas on home remedies for how to get rid of leaf cutter ants, skip down to the bottom of this article.
Implementing Routine Pest Prevention Techniques
One of the most important factors you should include in your pest control regiment is a strategic pest prevention tactic. We recommend investing in pest control that helps prevent a wide variety of pests, focusing as well on specific pests that are especially problematic in your region.
In your case, you may want to work first on how to get rid of leaf cutter ants, and then you would work next on preventing them from returning in the future.
We will cover tips and tricks on prevention at the bottom of this article, but for now, let’s talk more about how to get rid of leaf cutter ants and the best products you can use to get the job done efficiently.
Products For How To Get Rid Of Leaf Cutter Ants
The best products to get rid of leaf cutter ants will target the entire colony.
While there are many different methods for how to get rid of leaf cutter ants, many of these methods require the use of insecticides or pesticides. Insecticides and pesticides can come in both chemical and natural forms, and we are listing a few different options for you here.
When Using Chemical Insecticides For How To Get Rid Of Leaf Cutter Ants:
Keep in mind that chemical insecticides may contain ingredients that could be toxic to people, pets and the environment. It’s important to use chemical pesticides and insecticides only as directed and to store them as instructed.
As with all pest control products, it’s important to also keep chemical insecticides out of reach of children and pets.
When Using Natural Insecticides For How To Get Rid of Leaf Cutter Ants:
Natural insecticides often work using plant-based ingredients and essential oils. While these products are often considered safer for the environment, people and pets, they are still considered pest control products and should be used only as directed.
Remember that there are pros and cons to using both natural insecticides and chemical insecticides for how to get rid of leaf cutter ants. What is right for you will depend on your situation and the severity of your infestation.
So, without further ado, let’s take a look at some of the best products we recommend for how to get rid of leaf cutter ants.
Amdro Ant Block Granules
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Granule repellents and insecticides make wonderful deterrents for crawling insects like ants, and they work well for leaf cutter ants as well. The above ant block granules are specifically designed to kill over 25 different ant species and also targets the colony’s queen.
The product works by creating a barrier around areas you are wanting to protect. This can help protect your home from other pests as well, but to protect trees and foliage we recommend creating a barrier with this product instead of using it as home protection.
While effective, this product does contain chemical ingredients that could be toxic to people and pets. It is for outdoor use only and should be kept out of reach of children.
Wondercide Outdoor Pest Control Concentrate
If you’re looking for a natural form of pest control for how to get rid of leaf cutter ants, we recommend using Wondercide Outdoor Pest Control Concentrate. This product comes designed to be combined with water and works using plant-based ingredients like peppermint oil, rosemary oil and other natural products.
It is safe to use around children and pets and it is even safe for the environment. Best of all, this product will not harm beneficial insects like butterflies, bees or ladybugs.
Wondercide also includes a spray product that comes ready to use and can kill leaf cutter ants and other pests on contact.
Diatomaceous Earth Crawling Insect Killer
Diatomaceous Earth, also known as DE, is a natural compound made from fossilized algae. It works by penetrating the exoskeleton of hard-bodied insects like leaf cutter ants, which then dehydrates and kills them.
We like Diatomaceous Earth because it is completely safe for people and pets and harmless for the environment. However, it works best when dry and will need to be replaced if it gets wet. You can use DE both indoors and out and it also works against other pests like bed bugs, fleas, earwigs, and more.
Home Remedies For How To Get Rid Of Leaf Cutter Ants
Pure neem oil is a non-toxic and effective household ingredient you can use to get rid of ants.
As we mentioned above, there are a few methods, tips and tricks you can use at home for how to get rid of leaf cutter ants in a pinch.
In fact, many ingredients used in the natural pest control products above could be common household ingredients you already have in your kitchen or medicine cabinet.
Here are a few of our favorite do it yourself pest control recipes and remedies you can use for how to get rid of leaf cutter ants:
Use Essential Oils
Essential oils are some commonly used ingredients in natural pest control products and are known to work against a number of pests including ants, rodents, lizards, frogs and even raccoons.
However, not all essential oils work for all types of pests, and it’s important you use the right essential oils for how to get rid of leaf cutter ants.
The best essential oils to repel leaf cutter ants include:
- Peppermint Oil
- Citrus Oil
- Tea Tree Oil
- Cinnamon Oil
- And Lemongrass Oil
To use essential oils for how to get rid of leaf cutter ants, you have two options. First, you can use the cotton ball option. This is a simple method that requires you to saturate cotton balls in the essential oil of your choice and place it in areas you know leaf cutter ants often occupy.
These cotton balls will need to be replaced with freshly soaked cotton balls at least once every three days.
You can also make your own ant repellent spray by mixing 15 to 20 drops of the essential oil of your choice with 2 cups of water in a spray bottle. Spray surrounding trees and foliage, as well as around your property to repel ants and help keep them at bay.
Neem Oil and Dish Soap
Neem oil mixed with dish soap can actually kill leaf cutter ants on contact. To make this deadly ant spray, combine one tablespoon of neem oil with one tablespoon of liquid dish soap and add this to 10 ounces of water. Mix the solution into a spray bottle and spray areas where you have seen ant activity.
The neem oil and soap solution will kill ants on contact, and will also work against other annoying pests like earwigs, spiders, fleas, gnats, mosquitoes, and wasps.
Use Lemon Juice
One of the reasons essential oils are so effective when it comes to how to get rid of leaf cutter ants is because of their strong odor. Lemon juice can be equally powerful and repulsive to leaf cutter ants.
Simply grab a bottle of lemon juice and drizzle it around vulnerable foliage. You can also drizzle lemon juice near any areas you have seen leaf cutter ants help repel them.
Sprinkle Ground Cinnamon Or Chalk Around Trees
Ants have a waxy exoskeleton that helps hold water and keep them hydrated. Chalky substances like ground cinnamon or powdery chalk breakthrough that waxy barrier and actually leads to dehydration of the insect. For this reason, ants will often avoid walking through powdery substances like this.
If you want to protect your foliage naturally and keep leafcutter ants at bay, you can surround trees and other vulnerable foliage with a ring of chalk or ground cinnamon.
Preventing Leaf Cutter Ants – Tips And Tricks From Experts
It’s often easier to prevent leaf cutter ants than it is to remove them.
While we always point out that prevention is key when it comes to a successful pest control routine, some pests are more tricky to control and prevent than others.
This is, unfortunately, the case when it comes to leaf cutter ants.
These pests can be difficult to control for a number of reasons, but mostly because they are resilient, procreate so rapidly, and work so efficiently in large numbers.
The good news is that you can be vigilant and protect trees and foliage before leaf cutter ants become a problem, and this can help keep leaf cutter ants from becoming an out of control issue for you in the future.
Let’s take a look now at our expert tips and tricks for leaf cutter ant prevention.
Know The Signs Of Leaf Cutter Ants And Remove Mounds As They Begin To Form
The first sign you might see if you’re about to deal with leaf cutter ants is going to be sightings of the ants themselves as well as the beginnings of ant mounds.
Although leaf cutter ants are often mistaken for other types of ants, including red ants and fire ants, you can often identify them by their larger size and the fact that they often march in lines carrying leaves.
If you notice early signs of leaf cutter ants, do your best to remove the beginnings of the mound immediately and implement an effective form of pest control right away to get rid of them.
Protect Vulnerable Trees and Foliage
If you live in a region where leaf cutter ants are prevalent, it’s important to protect vulnerable trees and foliage.
You can protect these trees with common insecticide sprays, natural insecticides, and of course powder or granular insecticides.
Use Companion Planting To Your Advantage
Leaf cutter ants are repelled by certain plants, and you can use this to your advantage. To help keep them away from vulnerable trees and foliage, try using companion planting with plants they hate to keep them at bay.
Some of the best plants to help repel leaf cutter ants include:
- And Lavender
Invite The Predators
Plants have a good, long list of natural predators, although some of these predators are also considered pests. When choosing how to get rid of leaf cutter ants, be cautious not to invite other insects to your property that could lead to a different form of pest issue.
With that noted, here is a list of some of the most common predators of leaf cutter ants for you to consider:
- Larger Insects Including Caterpillars and Beetles
- And Especially Other Ants
Keep Up With Routine Landscaping
Leaf cutter ants prefer soil that moves easily, especially dry, sandy soil. They are often found building mounds along roadsides and in fields for this very reason, and you can take this knowledge to help you combat these pests and keep them from finding your yard hospitable.
Routine landscaping will help deter leaf cutter ants. Keep your yard and property mowed and tidy, and keep plants and trees as healthy as possible.
Ensuring you keep up with a routine landscaping regiment will also ensure you are keeping a consistent eye on your property and will allow you to be more vigilant when it comes to discovering leaf cutter ants early before they get out of control.
Use A Pest Control Product Year-Round
And of course, we cannot forget to advise you to use a year-round pest control routine. This routine could include all the preventative measures listed above in conjunction with a product of your choice to help keep leaf cutter ants under control.
While these pests can be tricky to manage and though they can cause serious damage to trees and foliage in a short period of time, we know that with diligence, patience and education you will be able to manage them and protect your yard and garden.
Best of luck, and thanks for reading!
Jack founded our blog after two decades of working in the pest control industry. His vast experience dealing with a wide array of pests allows him to diagnose issues quickly and get to the heart of pest problems quickly and effectively. He has serviced more than 2,000 homes over his career and there is hardly any pest situation that he has not seen before.