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Old July 11, 2015   #1
Join Date: Apr 2008
Location: California Central Valley
Posts: 2,474
Default ants!

This is an organic gardening question, not a pest question, which is why it's in the Gardening in the Green forum.

I didn't plant anything at one of my community garden plots over the winter, and now every time I water it's overrun with ants (I'm assuming it's because the soil got very dry). Usually I don't mind ants, but at this plot, it's impossible to plant anything or work in the garden beds without zillions of ants crawling all over. They're not fire ants, but I do get a bite now and then.

Is there a benign way to persuade the ants to go somewhere else when i want to work in the garden?
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Old July 12, 2015   #2
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I have a lot of ants, but just leave them be. I think they help promote soil health. However, if you are overrun, that would be annoying. I too notice they like things dry. Tilling would probably get rid of them.
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Old July 12, 2015   #3
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Location: NJ, zone 7
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I learned recently that not all ant are good for my garden. And I am not talking about fire ants.

from this website:

"Ants feed on the sugary honeydew left behind by aphids. In exchange, the ants protect the aphids from predators and parasites. In fact, honey ants will go to unusual lengths to ensure the health of the aphids in their care.

Aphid-herding ants make sure their "cattle" stay well-fed and safe. When the host plant is depleted of nutrients, the ants carry their aphids to a new food source. If predatory insects or parasites attempt to harm their wards, the ants will defend them aggressively. Some honey ants even go so far as to destroy the eggs of known aphid predators like lady beetles.

Some species of honey ants continue to care for their aphids during winter.

The ants carry the aphid eggs home, and tuck them away in their nests for the winter months. They store the precious aphids where temperatures and humidity are optimal, and move them as needed when conditions in the nest change. In spring, when the aphids hatch, the ants carry them to a host plant to feed."

I saw ants and aphids on my okra in BIG quantity on few leafs recently. I wish I took pictures. Some leafs and flowers were completely covered with ants and aphids.
Two years in a row my peony bulbs were covered with ants and eventually most dryed out instead of blooming. I sprayed peonies with soap this year, it helped. I guess, I spooked ants and they moved to my tomatoes. Sprayed tomatoes with diatomaceous earth. They moved to okra.
I was spraying aphids, not ants. Just noticed ants, many ants. I did not put two and two together. I was under impression that ants were helping. After googling both names I was shocked to discover what this ants were doing.

God comes along and says, "I think I'm going to create THE tomato!”

Last edited by efisakov; July 12, 2015 at 04:57 AM.
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Old July 12, 2015   #4
Join Date: Jan 2015
Location: AL
Posts: 1,994

Grits! I buy boxes of the Sunflower Quick Grits. I bought the 5 minute box by mistake one time and it didn't work, so now I make sure I have the right stuff.

You can sprinkle the grits on top of mounds if you follow the ant trail back to the main nest. Also you can put around the base of plants and on top of the soil of containers. The ants will go for the grits .

They tak the grits back to the nest and as soon as they eat something with any type of moisture in it, they blow up and die.

I go out and just sprinkle all around and let the ants go to work. If the weather is really really hot and dry, later I will water the heck out of the mounds. Usually the grits will get them from the first application, but sometimes if the nest is big a second application is necessary.

Grits are cheap and organic. I been using grits for years . Usually takes a good 24 hours for it to work. That's how long I usually give them to eat before I will than apply water to make sure no other ants come out of the nests.

Now there are some flowering plants that need the ants for pollination and so I leave those ants be, but around the veggie plants or any place else, it's grit time.

I'm out of batteries at the moment or I would show you how it looks and works.

added ... Peonies are one of those plants that need ants to open properly . Once the ants have eaten all the coating on the buds and out of the blooms they will move on. I leave my ants alone on Peonies.

Last edited by Starlight; July 12, 2015 at 09:34 AM. Reason: additional words
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Old July 12, 2015   #5
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Location: Near Reno, NV
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I'm not sure how organic it is, but I use borax or boric acid mixed with either sugar water or peanut butter or beef baby food. Some ants like it sweet and others like fat. This is what works for me. I realize that not everybody is going to be okay with this as a solution. I have also heard that orange oil or clove oil will work.

I took some dead ants (I dropped them into containers with rubbing alcohol) down to our local coop extension office and left them. A couple of weeks later an entomologist said that they were non-wood-eating carpenter ants. They really, really ended up liking the beef baby food!

So, if what you try doesn't work on the ants you have, try finding out exactly what kind of ant it is. Try to bring in several ants from the same mound. I was told that some species are so similar to each other that they need a male and a female to ID them.
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Old April 29, 2016   #6
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Location: SE MO
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one thing I've been doing is disturbing the nest (not fire ants) when I see them I just take my finger stick into the nest and dig it out and after a couple of time of rebuilding they move on.
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Old April 29, 2016   #7
Uncle Doss
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I want to say, tell your uncles to take them home....
but that would be the smart @$$ side of me, so I won't say it
Anything in life worth doing is worth over-doing. Moderation is for cowards.
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Old April 29, 2016   #8
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Location: Newfoundland, Canada
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Sounds like there's a nest right in the bed. Drown em out is one way to get them to leave. Ants don't like water a bit, it will ruin their hotel. That's why they're running out and biting when you water. But you need to water a lot, really soak it, to make it unfit for them.

Hot water is another thing, that will kill some of the young they're protecting, and no more reason to stay with the nest.

Another thing is to till it. That will destroy the ant galleries below. You may see them running away carrying the little ones to a new site.

I have heard that they can't stand molasses. But haven't tried it myself.
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