Nothing ruins a relaxing dip in the pool quite like finding clumps of ants floating in the water. Although any variety could be floating there, you're most likely to encounter flying, carpenter, or fire ants in your pool. The ants may ultimately drown, but they clump together in an effort to avoid doing so by coming together to make little rafts. Keeping ants out of your pool requires some knowledge of how and why they end up there in the first place.
Why You Have Ants in Your Pool
There are a few reasons you might find ants in your pool, the simplest of which is that they need water to survive. Sometimes, thirsty ants are attracted to the pool water and end up falling in the pool. The more insects you have in your yard or garden, the more likely you are to find them floating in your pool.
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You may find more ants in your pool during ant mating season or rainy weather. Ants tend to mate during the spring and summer, and many species sprout wings when they reach sexual maturity. Once this happens, the ants become flying ants, and flying ants are attracted to light. As such, they're drawn to the shimmering reflections on the surface of the water in your pool.
Weather also plays a part. During periods of heavy rain, ants living in your lawn or garden are more likely to be swept away and washed into your swimming pool. For some strange reason, ants are also attracted to the magnetic fields generated by electrical equipment, including pool pumps. Sometimes, colonies establish themselves in and around your pool equipment for this reason and then find their way into the pool.
Why Ants Are a Problem
Finding ants in the pool is disgusting, but it's also potentially harmful. For one, it can take ants several days to die in the pool, so any fire ants you find there may still be able to inflict painful bites. You also need to worry about ants getting into your pool equipment and then distributing themselves throughout your entire pool system. You can remove a few floating ants with your pool skimmer, but it usually takes a professional exterminator to get rid of ants that have infested a pool's entire filtration system.
Ants can also damage your pool equipment. One way they can do so is by getting where they don't belong and causing a short circuit in your pool pump motor. Ants under the influence of a pool pump's electromagnetic field like to chew on things, including the pool filter and wire coatings. Ants also like to build anthills and mounds up against pool equipment. Made of dirt and other organic materials, these mounds tend to stay moist and can hold enough moisture to start corroding your pool equipment.
How to Get Rid of Ants in the Pool
One of the most effective ways to keep ants out of your pool is to keep them out of your lawn and garden. You can treat the yard with a granular pest control product, like Talstar, to kill unwanted ants in your lawn. Talstar is safe for use around pets and children, as is food-grade diatomaceous earth if you prefer to use that. Be sure to remove potted plants from the area around your pool as well. They may look nice, but ants can live in the soil where you don't want them.
After treating the yard, check out your pool equipment. If you find an anthill near your pump, apply an insecticide to the ant mound and then take the pump apart and clean it. If you find ants, suck them out with a vacuum or blast them with the garden hose. If you find ants in the pool pump, check the return jets and pool filter too. Replace any damaged or chewed items and clear away any ants you find. If you find large quantities of ants, consider having a professional exterminator take a look at the pool.
Your next step is to reduce the attractiveness of your pool. The best way to do so is to get a nonreflective pool cover. This will keep flying ants from being attracted to the light reflecting off your pool. Another method is through the use of natural peppermint oil. Combine some water and peppermint oil in a spray bottle and spray the mixture around your pool. Then, add about 15 drops to the pool water itself.
Another easy method for getting rid of ants is to float a few tennis balls in your swimming pool. Ants are poor swimmers and will cling to the tennis balls to stay afloat. When they do, you can simply scoop up the balls and throw them into a bucket of soapy water to kill the ants on them.