Ants in my raised bed

gmanar(7 CLT-NC/ HZ 7)April 21, 2014

Hi All,

I have a lot of ants in a 1' X1' are of the bed - they don't seems to be spreading out - but can't be sure about it.

How do i control this ? I have a 5 year old and these seem to be pretty big red ants - are they fire ants ?

Also they seem to be carrying something - hope they are not eggs (more ants to come ?)

I dont put any chemicals in my yard, so any no-chemical way if possible. if not for this i might use some mild checmicals.

Thanks so much

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shermthewerm(8 PNW)

Following this thread, as I have tons of little black ants in my raised bed that killed all of my broccoli & cabbage starts.
We don't have fire ants here (that I know of). Where are you located?

    Bookmark   April 21, 2014 at 9:45AM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

Ants are generally considered a garden neutral that do no harm with no need to intervene. The exception is fire ants.

But we have no way of knowing if yours are fire ants or not. There are other red ants Fire ants are only found in certain parts of the country and we don't know where you live. You'll have to discover from local sources like your county ag extension office if fire ants are located in your area or post your specific location and perhaps others here in that location will know.

That said if you want to get rid of the nest in your picture you can drown the area in water for several days and they will leave and move to a new location or you can deep shovel out the area and a ring of the soil around it to be sure to get the queen and pitch all that soil away from the garden.


    Bookmark   April 21, 2014 at 10:11AM
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gmanar(7 CLT-NC/ HZ 7)

Thanks for the replies, I am near charlotte NC. I will try to find out as Dave suggested if fire ants are possible. Anyways i would want to get rid of these ants so i can atleast put my hands in the dirt without fear of getting bit :)

I will try to shovel it out into a bag and dispose it off.

Thanks again.

    Bookmark   April 21, 2014 at 10:15AM
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sunnibel7 Md 7(7)

I would add other ants to that exception list, while agreeing that for most people and most situations ants are not an enemy in the garden. You could probably dig up the colony and just put it in a nice hole somewhere not in the garden. If you like reading more about ants, here's my story...

We have a type of ant here that pairs with aphids such that when they leave home to start a new colony, each queen takes a pregnant aphid with her. They then set up shop at the base of a plant and stick the aphids on the roots and ant and aphid are happily protected and coexist. The plant tends to not thrive. Fascinating, and frustrating when they seem to find your garden plants extra alluring. That is, until I figured what made my plants alluring was the large (to an ant) amount of bare soil near the base of a large stem. A bit of mulch covering the ground and voila, many fewer ants on plants! Way easier than the year I spent trying to poison them. The moral I got from all that is sometimes it really is good to put yourself in the other guy's (ant's?) shoes and make a solution based on that. Because it turned out there are a lot more ants than there is me.

    Bookmark   April 21, 2014 at 11:07AM
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I had this epiphany the other day also, but with slugs.

I kept wondering why 2 particular plants/cuttings kept getting eaten. I kept planting a new cutting whenever I noticed that the slugs had eaten through the stem or leaves. Slugs should be everywhere in my garden, right, so why only these 2?

It was because these 2 particular plantings had a slight dip in the ground where the stem is planted, and I had pulled some leaves over them to act as mulch. Perfect spot for slugs and after a day or two, when they're lazy and didn't want to go find food, they'd just start chomping on that big cutting next to them.

I fixed those problems and no more slugs living next to the plants or eating those 2 plants.

    Bookmark   April 21, 2014 at 5:50PM
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Here's a really interesting article about ants in the garden, from FineGardening magazine. Talks about what ants do and how they affect plants, soil, animals.

It's titled, "Ants are not your Enemy."

Here is a link that might be useful: ants

This post was edited by susanzone5 on Tue, Apr 22, 14 at 8:29

    Bookmark   April 21, 2014 at 6:01PM
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gmanar(7 CLT-NC/ HZ 7)

I added some coffee grounds to the beds and suddenly they are all gone. I am looking in the yard if they show up somewhere else - but nothing till date.

So may be i got a little lucky with both coffee grounds and regular watering (just keep it wet).

Keeping fingers crossed.

Thanks and regards

    Bookmark   April 28, 2014 at 10:45AM
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While I agree that ants truly are a neutral in the garden, they are intrusive in ways other than disturbing plant life. For starters...well...they're ants. They're pests when it comes to garden tending, for obvious reasons. But, even overlooking that detail, certain varieties farm aphids, and aphids are a nuisance. They also farm various types of scale.
From experience, I've found the absolute root cause for my aphids infestation is ants, and while it is a very indirect cause, I believe that if you control ants, you control aphids.
Without using chemicals, however, they're difficult to control. What I've used in the past to control them is both DE dustings, and "traps", which are formulated using Boric Acid and sugar or peanut butter. Ants, depending on season and other conditions, seek sugars at certain times, and proteins at others. Choose accordingly.
If you set boric acid traps, absolutely do not allow any pets consume the sugar/peanut butter, as it will poison them. Otherwise, boric acid is very safe to use.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2014 at 12:07PM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

From experience, I've found the absolute root cause for my aphids infestation is ants, and while it is a very indirect cause, I believe that if you control ants, you control aphids.

Interesting as IME I have found just the opposite to be true. Get rid of the aphids and the ants depart. The aphids are usually there first, drawn to the high nitrogen levels and moisture in the plants. Eliminate the excess N attraction and treat for the aphids and the ants disappear.

Since it is the aphids that do the damage not the ants, I prefer to treat the source of the problem rather than the secondary symptom.


    Bookmark   April 28, 2014 at 2:23PM
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yolos - z 7b/8a Ga.

Last year I finally got tired of being bit by tiny black ants. Found a nest and dumped boiling water on it. Had to do that twice but they eventually died or left the area.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2014 at 8:38PM
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My opinion is that, while aphids are far easier to control than ants, it will always be an uphill battle, while ant colonies are present around the garden. This is because farming ants collect and raise aphids in their own mounding colonies. There will always be a reserve of aphids, which the ants bring back into the garden. Get rid of the farmers who raise and protect the aphids, then you can easily get rid of the aphids, even by use of beneficial insects who will not be "fought off" by protective ants.

    Bookmark   April 29, 2014 at 12:47PM
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DE sort of works for the ants and does help a lot with other pests. Spraying plants helps a great deal with aphids, allowing predators to come in. I think one of the organic sprays I have, a natural bacteria, also kills ants.
For fire ants, I would use beneficial nematodes twice a year. This will also help with fleas, ticks and chiggers.
Finally, consider trap plants, like sunflowers, Nastaturiums and radishes. The radish flowers also attract a lot of good guys. I always plent these three in and around the garden. Sunflowers are good for hot summer protection. Also, I've found cowpeas and yard longs tolerate some aphids and will attract a whole slew of predators in the heat of summer. I once had a "science experiment" with a bunch of cowpeas. Nasty aphid infestations but I had every imaginable predator from syrphids, rare desert lady bugs ( more heat tolerant than regular Asian type) and praying mantis.
For cool season gardens radishes are perfect. Also, the nastiturtiums will work well.
My ants are vivacious desert fire ants and I do end using a little amdro outside the edges of my raised beds now and then.

    Bookmark   April 29, 2014 at 9:19PM
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I tried a potato tower this year, the plants seem to be doing great, unfortunately, a colony of ants has taken up residence in the soil. I live in northwest Georgia and ants have been crazy this year, normally I just leave them alone, but I'm worried about them ruining or making it extremely hard to harvest my potatoes, any ideas that wont harm my potatoes would be appreciated

    Bookmark   July 14, 2014 at 9:23AM
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gmanar(7 CLT-NC/ HZ 7)

Try some coffee grounds... I am sure how good or bad they are for potatoes - but since they are so less potent - it might be ok. I am not saying that it will work ... but it seems to have worked for me. Just sprinkle a good 1/4th inch layer of coffee grounds - and water it well. For the next few days water it almost every day to keep it moist.
This is what i did and they are no where to be seen :)

    Bookmark   July 14, 2014 at 10:09AM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

I guess I keep aiming to just allow the ecology of my garden to balance itself out and I try not to step in at all, unless it's out of balance to the point of making major damage. What do I know about ants and aphids and what their role in the ecosystem needs to be? If I am experiencing major damage, I may need to nudge the balance a little in another direction.

I like the idea of the watering and coffee grounds because it nudges the ants to move to another location where they won't be in your way. Just as I leave the aphids to multiply to the point that they draw in lady bugs looking for a meal. If there aren't enough lady bugs and there's more damage than is acceptable to me, then I'd hose them off the plants. Which I haven't had to do in years.

    Bookmark   July 14, 2014 at 4:03PM
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