ants nematodes Organic Pest Control

Nematodes – Do They Work?

Long years ago (maybe 30 or 35 ) Bill and I drove over to a cow pasture that was nearby and collected old “cow pies” to use in our garden. We lined the back of our truck with plastic and collected what amounted to a pile of “poop” about 4 feet tall and just as wide when we dumped it close to the garden.

A month or so later when I shoveled into it I was horrified to find it was literally alive with grubs. I was concerned not only because I didn’t want to transfer any of those grubs to the garden, but because I didn’t want to have to go through that pile of stuff and kill the thousands of grubs that would later turn into an adult something or other.

(From what I understand there are several species of grubs that can be in manure, including the Japanese beetle grub.)

My Solution for the Grubs

I ordered nematodes.

It took some doing to wet the pile, but I did it. (Nematodes need moist conditions in order to move through the soil — or in this case the manure.  Then I put the nematodes in a 5 gallon bucket of water, mixed well and applied to the pile.

Next day I shoveled into the pile and couldn’t find one grub! I was flabbergasted AND delighted!

Another Story  – Termites and Ants

This past spring I noticed a lot of “flying” ants inside my house and especially in the sun room where I work. They brought back memories of termites at our previous place. Waking up to thousands of termites at the window was not something I wanted to experience again.

A combo pack of 3 types of nematodes which is recommended for best control of termites is what I ordered. Cost was $80 for the garden size which will cover 3200 sq feet.

It was close to the end of May when I applied the nematodes. They arrived when I was busy with other things, so I stored the package in the refrigerator for a few days until I had time to apply them.

After a rain, I mixed the combo pack into a 5 gallon bucket of water and using the bottom half of a jug as a dipper I applied the nematode-water all around the foundation of my house. Had just enough to make it all the way around the house.

(I stirred the water every few “dips” to make sure the nematodes were distributed throughout the water evenly.)

Nematodes can’t move through the soil if it’s dry. The rains this springs kept the soil conditions just about perfect for the nematodes without much help from me. I did, however, use the hose to wet the ground again around the foundation before and the day after I applied them.


After 3 or 4 days I only saw a few of the “flying ants”.  (I assumed them to be termites.  When I saw pictures online it seemed easy to tell the difference in a flying ant and a termite. But when it came to identifying the small dead specs that lay before me on a paper, I had trouble telling the difference.)

After a week,  there were none.

The Added Bonus

The added bonus that I never stopped to think about when ordering, was the total and complete elimination of ants from our home.

This is the first time in 17 years that I’ve been totally free from ants parading on kitchen cabinets, counters, the bathroom, and window sills inside the house. And it’s been almost 4 months now. Even the ants that were long established in the cracks in the cement side walk outside my back door are gone!

Will it last forever?

I doubt it.  There are lots of ants out there.  And termites are always around.  So sooner later if conditions are right they’ll find you.  It’s easy to live with the ants by using methods I described in my last post; but termites are a different story.  They can do major damage to your home.  And I definitely want to prevent that.  It’s nice knowing there’s a natural product that I can use to stop them.

Do You Really Want to Get Rid of Ants in the Garden?

Nature assigned lots of tasks to the ant.

Ants even feed on fleas, caterpillars, dead insects, and termites!  (I can’t help but wonder if that’s why I haven’t had a termite problem around my house in 17 years.)

They turn and aerate the soil; aid in pollination and even help in decomposing raw organic materials in the soil.

Probably the most common problem that ants get the blame for is aphids.

Aphids usually attack plants that get too much nitrogen.  The ants then herd them where they want them because the ants feed on the honeydew the aphids deposit on the stem and leaves.  (Honeydew is a sweet sticky substance excreted by aphids.)

Getting rid of the ants won’t necessarily get rid of the aphids.

Always address the cause of a problem rather than the symptom.

What Are Nematodes?

Nematodes are microscopic round worms found throughout the earth.  Hundreds of thousands of different types exist.  Some are detrimental to your garden and some are beneficial.  The ones you’ll be ordering are the beneficial ones: deadly to the pest insect and totally safe for you, your children and your pets.


There are numerous places you can order nematodes online.  Even Amazon offers them.

Where I Buy Them and Why

I get mine from Arbico Organics.

Their information helps  to determine what type of nematode is needed and then allows you to purchase just that specific one. This way you get MORE of the kind you need rather than paying for some of what you don’t need.

Even if you don’t order from them, be sure to check out their website because it offers all the  information you need to be successful with nematodes.

So, Do Nematodes Work?

I’ll say they do!

Information You’ll Need to be Successful

But in order for them to do the job you have to do a bit of planning and have the necessary information on the target pest and know a little about nematode requirements.

  • Determine what insect you are targeting.
  • Know their life cycle.  Do some figuring about when their larvae might be in the soil so you’ll know when to apply the nematodes. (They can’t destroy something not there.)
  • Then determine the nematode you need.  (Arbico-Organic website lists the target insects for each type of nematode.)
  • Order when your nighttime temperatures are no lower than 40º F.
  • Soil temperatures (2 inches below the surface) should be no lower than 42ºF and no higher than 90º F.

Once you order, be prepared to use the nematodes with a week or two at the very most.  That’s how long they’ll store in refrigerator at  37º to 42º F.

Know ahead of time that nematodes probably won’t maintain a long term presence.  They’ll remain alive only while they have food and moisture.

Final Thoughts

In all the years I’ve gardened I’ve only used nematodes in my garden once.  I don’t find them necessary on a regular basis.

At this point in time I’m using them every second or third yer around my house and shed to get rid of any termites and/or ants.

They’re safe to use and when compared to what most folks do — call an exterminator –  they’re inexpensive.


Related Posts:

Organic Pest Control – Disease Management – Working on the Cause Rather Than The Symptom

Bugs and/or Diseases in Your Organic Garden Got You Down?

Flea Beetles – Possible Quick Fix Solutions and Addressing the Real Problem


All content including pictures is copyrighted by  All Rights Reserved.


  • No Kate they don’t. If you go on the Arbico-Organic website, it will tell you what pest each type of nematode attacks.
    Hard bodied insects are not usually targeted, at least by the nematodes available to us.

  • I am so glad they seem to be working for you! I have been reading little bits along the years about nematodes without gaining enough knowledge to feel like I could use them. So I thank you greatly for explaining how they worked for you, how to determine what the problem is, how and where we could order them.

  • Toni, you are absolutely correct to want to have enough enough knowledge before using them. That’s why I like the Arbico-Organic website. They educate. Nematodes don’t just “seem” to work — they do work. BUT you have to know what insects they’ll destroy — usually the larval stage — and that info is on that website. Without enough information you’d be fishing blind so to speak.

  • Theresa,
    Thanks, I have a Japanese beetle problem with my apple trees. Glad to know you have had success with nematodes.
    Do you need to import nematodes or does all ground have nematodes? If all ground has nematodes how do you encourage multiplication?

  • Steve,
    There are thousands of kinds of nematodes. And since nematodes are all over the earth I would assume they’re in our gardens as well, although they may not be the specific ones we need for control of a specific pest.
    You could do a google search on how to raise them. You’ll need special stuff like a microscope etc., Also, even with a lot of research and equipment you need — it still takes time to become proficient at anything.

    Let us know how you do.

  • Been thinking about Steve’s problem.
    The best way I know to improve any situation with soil is to consistently add organic materials.
    As far as Japanese beetles — I have them too. They’re a nuisance and especially when they make a rose bush look awful, but most of the time it’s not so bad I can’t live with it.
    Like anything they have cycles; thus, some years are much worse then others.
    I’ve never done anything to try to get rid of them. I just live with nature taking its course.
    I think if I had Steve’s problem, I’d get nematodes at the appropriate time to kill the grubs. That would get the numbers down.
    After that I would start hand picking until the numbers were such that I could live with them.
    If I had the money, I might treat with nematodes the second year, but after that I probably would either hand pick or nothing.

  • I have used nematodes in the past to eliminate fleas – worked beautifully. I loved not having to put poison on my puppy dogs. I did buy a kid’s microscope to check if the nematodes were alive before I put them out. I didn’t have Amazon back then!

  • Theresa, thanks so much for the last post on ants & this one also. I sure would like to hear more about how Harriett got rid of fleas on her pets using nematodes.

    I don’t have any pets now, but I hated having to put products on my dog that I felt couldn’t be healthy for her if it killed fleas & ticks.

    My daughter has so many pets that her house is like a zoo! One puppy is allergic to something & is scratching her skin raw. Maybe the flea collar?
    Thanks again,

  • Betty, you could contact Arbico-organics and ask, but I’m pretty sure the nematodes are applied to the soil and kill the eggs/larvae/pupae of the fleas. I don’t think they’re applied to the animal.
    Your daughter might want to research the dangers of flea collars. I’ve had lots of animals over the years and I’d never use a flea collar.

  • Thanks, Theresa. I’ve been having Wi-Fi issues & just got my internet back. I’ll check on that.

Leave a Comment