How to get rid of ants in a potted orange tree?

jimigunne(9A)November 28, 2010

I have a dwarf orange tree growing in a pot, and millions of ants have taken up residence in it. They do not seem to be harming the tree, at least so far, but it can't be good for it. Its about a 6-gallon pot and it looks like the whole pot is one big ant nest. I once killed an Italian pine by spraying pesticide into the pot, so it needs to be some organic method. I put a bunch of diatomacous earth into the pot a few days ago.... this did not phase them one bit, there are even more now. I thought it was supposed to kill any/all insects?

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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

'Terro' brand, liquid ant baits, will safely and quickly eliminate the entire colony.

Al

    Bookmark   November 28, 2010 at 1:02PM
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calistoga_al ca 15 usda 9

Terro is a boric acid based bait that works very well, however the ants would not be attracted to your tree, if there was no "honey dew" , the results of Aphids or Scale.It is recommended the tree be taken outside and sprayed thoroughly with a horticultural oil such as "Sunspray". If sprayed three times a week apart you should be free of both your trees pests, as well as your ants. Al

    Bookmark   November 28, 2010 at 4:15PM
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landperson

Hmmmm....which came first the chicken(ants) or the egg(honey dew).

I was under the impression that ants brought aphids to the site in order to milk them for their honey dew. Are you saying that the aphids and scale came first?

    Bookmark   November 28, 2010 at 7:23PM
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calistoga_al ca 15 usda 9

Yes the aphids and scale came first. The ants have been known to move them from one host to another, but they must be SOMEWHERE in order to be moved. Al

    Bookmark   November 29, 2010 at 9:34AM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

calistoga, the ants may be setting up housekeeping in the potting soil....a very common practice amongst certain ants. This has absolutely nothing to do with aphids, scale, or other sucking insects but the nice texture of the potting mix.

So, our original poster has a little bit of homework to do....he/she needs to decide why the ants are there, though it sounds like a 'residence' search, rather than a food source. The Terro bait is an excellent suggestion, and I would place the trap in close proximity to the pot, but not in it.

Our original poster needs to read and follow the directions on the bait. Using it in a manner not according to directions may alter the efficiency of the product.

    Bookmark   November 29, 2010 at 10:29AM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

I usually displace ants with a good watering.

Josh

    Bookmark   November 29, 2010 at 10:37AM
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landperson

About the Terro bait: Is this good for indoor potted plants (I can't tell if the OP's orange tree is indoors or outdoors)? I have noticed that the ants sneak in through cracks and colonize all of the pots on the windowsill.

(sorry for sidetracking this thread)

    Bookmark   November 29, 2010 at 11:00AM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

There are Terro products for inside AND/or outside. The one I've used is manufactured for indoor use, but I have used it outside for this very purpose. Be sure to select a rain-free day, and don't place it where non-target critters can get to it.

The ants, as long as there are a few foragers, will find the trap in a very short time...and will swarm it. Depending upon how many ants, the trap will be emptied in a couple of hours to a day. You'll see the ant numbers dwindle in a short time and then disappear.

landperson, I would not place one of the ant baits inside. Use it outside where ever you see them meandering around.

    Bookmark   November 29, 2010 at 1:35PM
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landperson

Thanks, Rhizo.

Just to clarify, are you saying that even the bait that is designed for indoors probably shouldn't be used indoors? I'm fine with that if so.....I prefer pests to poisons if I have to choose....:-))))

Susan

    Bookmark   November 29, 2010 at 2:02PM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

I'm just thinking that if you are only seeing only a few ants inside, you might not want to attract hoards of them. It might be that placing the bait tree inside is your only option, I don't know.

Terro ant baits are a sweetened boric acid 'gruel'. They can absolutely be used inside. Just be prepared for the swarming that will take place. It can be pretty jaw dropping. That was certainly the case when I used one in my bathroom. (My husband had to take my hand and lead me out of the room.) The pesky things emptied the bait tray, disappeared, and never came back. That was 4 years ago.

    Bookmark   November 29, 2010 at 3:42PM
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landperson

Ah, well....swarming ants are familiar here anyway, so I may try it.
Your story reminds me of the havoc caused by my leaving something sugary and sweet in a bathrobe pocket....sometime before I had learned my lessons about ants. Yuckerooooooo....

Susan

    Bookmark   November 29, 2010 at 4:04PM
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lou_midlothian_tx(z8 DFW, Tx)

I've used orange oil solution with no problem. Same for Ortho Max Home defense (what was used to control Japanese Bettles before shipping across state lines from what I read).

I've used Terro ant bait for inside and ants sure seemed to like it. They swarm it and one day, they're gone entirely.

    Bookmark   November 29, 2010 at 8:19PM
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calistoga_al ca 15 usda 9

I have four ant bait stations around the outside of my house, concentrating outside the kitchen and bath. I make my own Boric acid baits which cost practicably nothing using only boric acid, sugar and water. Baby food jars are about the right size with a hole made with an icepick in the lid. A cotton ball soaked in the bait in each jar, and the jar buried up to the lid in the soil, near the house foundation. A search here of ant baits should turn up recipes and details. Ants that stay in the garden are not a problem and are assumed to be everywhere. Al

    Bookmark   November 30, 2010 at 8:20AM
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landperson

So, Al, where do you get Boric Acid? Do you just use Borax, or do you source the real stuff?
Susan

    Bookmark   November 30, 2010 at 11:25AM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

You should be able to obtain boric acid at the pharmacy. Boric acid is a salt of borax, but is no longer the same element. Use boric acid.

Remember, you must not allow access to boric acid by pets or children. Boric acid should also not be applied to the soil of the ant-y plants. It can be lethal in all instances.

    Bookmark   November 30, 2010 at 1:04PM
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landperson

Thanks rhizo, I'll get some when I go out today. I do have four dogs, but I'm used to having to keep stuff out of their reach, and....they are small/short....:-))))
Susan

    Bookmark   November 30, 2010 at 2:30PM
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landperson

Wow. They sure do love that bait !!!! I mixed it up and put two small containers on the window ledge where the ants have been parading in and through my plants. An hour or two later I could see that the entire quarter-sized puddle of bait was entirely ringed with ants dutifully slurping it down. And the rest of the windowsill was -- as promised -- awash in ants looking for the bounty. This morning they are more reserved and avoiding the bait itself. I can't wait to see what another day or so shows as to its efficacy at getting back to the source.

    Bookmark   December 1, 2010 at 10:57AM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

Now, you need to seal around the windows so that the darned things can't get in anymore.

    Bookmark   December 1, 2010 at 1:17PM
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landperson

This old house will never be sealed. It is just gonna leak here and there forever....It's one of those that should have been torn down when we bought it back in 1979 but....now it's just way too late and it's been patched together every which way. Don't get me wrong; I love this house; but it's definitely not gonna keep any ants out if they are determined:-))))

    Bookmark   December 1, 2010 at 1:35PM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

Seal around water pipes and electrical outlets, if you can.
Those are the main avenues, I find.

Josh

    Bookmark   December 1, 2010 at 4:19PM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

This thread has reminded me of one of my many nightmare stories about fire ants. These ants are simply a part of life in much of the warmer parts of this country.

I was living in S. Carolina at the time. I got into my car, backed down the driveway, and started down the road. After about two or three minutes, I felt a sharp sting on my calf. Immediately, I felt stings all over, including down my blouse. A huge swarm of the ants had entered my car at some point from the time I had driven it earlier in the day till the moment they all tried to sting me at once.

The nurses counted dozens and dozens of stings from my toes to the top of my head. I was bothered by 'phantom' ant stings for months after that, lol.

    Bookmark   December 2, 2010 at 3:53PM
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