Ant Colony Under My Rosebush

onewithnonameSeptember 4, 2009

I need some help with how to get rid of a huge black ant colony that is residing underneath my rosebush. I realize that ants are not harmful in and of themselves on the roses, but my fear is that their huge colony underneath my rosebush will kill it from their seemingly unending tunnels. The rose is an heirloom (I got it from my mother, now deceased, and my grandmother's antique rose is just a few feet away). So my roses are very important to me since they can't simply be replaced. So far I've tried cinnamon, cornmeal, cayenne pepper and taking shovels after shovels of ants and thier eggs and tossing them to another location and even tried drowning the little buggers. The rosebushes have been there for years, and this is the first year I've had the ant problem. I can't move it, since the roots are likely very, very established and I'd have to move other plants nearby. My sister suggested dousing the base of the rosebush with vinegar, but I hesistate to try this because I'm unsure what vinegar does to a rose. While I'd prefer to keep the solution as organic as possible, I'm open to suggestions. CAN ANYONE HELP ME?

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karl_bapst_rosenut(5a, NW Indiana)

Have you considered taking cuttings and rooting them? You'll have a clone(s) of the original plant and not have to deal with the ants.

Here is a link that might be useful: A method for rooting cuttings.

    Bookmark   September 4, 2009 at 10:57PM
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jerijen(Zone 10)

I'm sorry. I am not a user of chemicals, but I think in this case, I might use ant granules.

An own-root rose here was similarly infested. If you touched the plant, ants swarmed everywhere.

After dealing with various organic cures for a couple of years, I got mad one day and dumped ant granules in the middle of it.
Haven't seen an ant since.

A couple of months ago, the electric company replaced a pole next to this plant. Not one ant showed its face, so I guess they're finally gone.

I don't think I'd risk vinegar.

    Bookmark   September 5, 2009 at 12:07AM
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sammy zone 7 Tulsa

I agree with Karl and Jeri.
The cuttings would be a back up measure, but the granules would kill the ants. I have had a horrible time with ant infestation, and in my case the ants were inside the bushes. Sadly I waited too long to address the problem.

I use a bait that is supposed to be taken back to the colony, and kill the queens. It is discouraging to read about how deep into the ground those colonies go. You don't say where you live, but if it is a climate where the winters are not cold for long periods, ants can become a huge problem. (termites too)


    Bookmark   September 5, 2009 at 4:52AM
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Sammy, the ant bait has worked well for us. It is in a little black plastic there are no granules..and it is effective. So I agree with the ant bait.

No name..try the ant bait

    Bookmark   September 5, 2009 at 11:58AM
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allison64(So Cal San Diego 10)

The other thing is a spearmint spray. They sell it everywhere. The ants hate it. They may move. (I am going to try it myself.)

I am trying the baits....jury is out still. I have so many ants everywhere I don't think it's making a dent. I have ants in every rose bush, under and around. It's crazy.

I would think with one colony baits and spearmint spray might just do the job.

    Bookmark   September 5, 2009 at 7:12PM
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jim1961 Zone 6a Central Pa.

I was edging some grass yesterday that was getting to close to our roses and I noticed tons of little red ants and tons of some type of insect that had wings.

Later I noticed more ants and these winged insects in alot of different sections of the yard where I was disturbing the sod.

It's a crazy insect world we live in...LOL

I have used those ant bait traps with success here also.


    Bookmark   September 5, 2009 at 10:56PM
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ingrid_vc(Z10 SoCal)

I use vinegar to kill weeds, which is very effective, so I'd be very hesitant to try that near a rose, especially one that you value.


    Bookmark   September 5, 2009 at 11:12PM
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elks(US5 Can6)

A mixture of sugar and boarax (sp?) in water works. Place a little dish near the colony, and the ants will suck it up and take it back to the colony. I have know idea, though, what the effect of a little boarax on the rose bush will be, but this is what I would do. The cuttings would be insurance.

    Bookmark   September 6, 2009 at 7:04AM
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sammy zone 7 Tulsa

Jim, do you know for sure that those are not termites?

    Bookmark   September 6, 2009 at 8:11AM
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When it comes to ants, I don't mess around with kindness - out comes the Amdro or the Greenlight (if I need them to go immediately). I don't broadcast ant killer but only treat individual beds. It only takes a little bit per bed so you aren't putting poison all over the place. Save your rosebush!


    Bookmark   September 6, 2009 at 9:15AM
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ok, this may be a silly question, but will the ants kill the rosebushes? I'm in Nebraska so it does get cold here during the winters, but I also have huge ant colonies in multiple flower beds.

    Bookmark   September 6, 2009 at 10:35AM
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hoovb zone 9 sunset 23

Here, the ants can form big air spaces around the roots of the plant, drying the roots out. This may not be such a big problem in areas with plenty of year round rain, but it is a problem here.

    Bookmark   September 6, 2009 at 12:41PM
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sammy zone 7 Tulsa

Ants can find a spot in the rose, begin to burrow, and end up going through it. If you see the problem early enough and if they go up, you can handle it. However, if they go down to the roots, they can quickly ruin the entire rose. I just hate ants. We don't get cold enough here to really kill them, and we must use something to control them.


    Bookmark   September 6, 2009 at 8:08PM
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jim1961 Zone 6a Central Pa.

Sammy, i'll have to capture one and see if they are termites or not. Hopefully there not termites.


    Bookmark   September 6, 2009 at 11:51PM
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dan_keil_cr Keil(Illinois z5)

Do you know the difference between an ant and a termite?
The ant has a three part body and a bent antenna. Termites antenna are straight
If ants are too big of a problem use Merit granules and water them in.
I see small ants in my mulch, but they don't affect the roses.

Another thing about ants, they don't eat fresh wood like a termite. They go after damaged wood.

    Bookmark   September 7, 2009 at 8:53PM
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jim1961 Zone 6a Central Pa.

When I moved the sod there were small red ants AND winged insects.


    Bookmark   September 8, 2009 at 12:38AM
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jim1961 Zone 6a Central Pa.

Forgot to add: They were not termites. Just little red ants which are always around here and a larger insect with wings.
Not sure what the winged insects were. Not worried about the ants or the winged insect.


    Bookmark   September 8, 2009 at 12:46AM
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I just discovered a massive ant colony around the base of one of my rose bushes.

This is my first time caring for roses as I just moved into this house. I noticed yesterday that this rose bush (see pic) looks sparse and wilted (we just had lots of rain the previous night), while the other two bushes look great. Today I bought Bayer fertilizer/bug/disease treatment that you apply to the ground around the roots. When I moved the mulch out away from the root, I discovered a gazillion brown ants under the mulch/on the ground. The other two rose bushes did not have ants and are fine.

Tomorrow I am going to buy some ant granules to kill them. Do you think this rose bush will come back, or is it a goner??? =(

    Bookmark   May 22, 2013 at 5:00PM
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Ants and poisonous snakes are in the same category for me. I will leave them alone in a pasture but they come in my yard and they are mine. We don't have ant hills here, we have ant mountains. I have seen them 2 feet in diameter in my own yard knowing they weren't there three days ago. I'm not taking the chance on a child or animal getting in them. Less than a teaspoon of ant poison, water it in and they are history.

    Bookmark   May 22, 2013 at 6:16PM
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jim1961 Zone 6a Central Pa.


I do not recommend using that Bayer 3 in 1 product.
Nasty stuff!
If that rose has any dead wood in it I'd cut that all out.
That rose bush may have Blackspot which causes leaves to yellow then fall off...
If that's the case the leaves will grow back...

    Bookmark   May 22, 2013 at 9:01PM
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hoovb zone 9 sunset 23

It looks okay, not great but okay. Get rid of the ants, cut the rose back by 25% and give it a good hit of fertilizer (if you have not this spring) and it should bounce back. You will probably have to deal with black spot soon, but that's a different story.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2013 at 11:19AM
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predfern(z5 Chicago)

Don't use borax in gardens! It has been suggested for creeping charlie but can result in a hot spot because borax is immoble in the soil. See link

Here is a link that might be useful: USING BORAX TO CONTROL CREEPING CHARLIE

    Bookmark   May 23, 2013 at 11:59PM
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Disclaimer I use boric acid, however predfern is right. It should not be used in your garden as it could kill your plants with too much Boron.
You can use diatomaceous earth but must be reapplied when it gets wet.

This post was edited by mori1 on Fri, May 24, 13 at 15:22

    Bookmark   May 24, 2013 at 2:23PM
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Isn't cornmeal supposed to kill ants? Or is that just a myth?

    Bookmark   May 24, 2013 at 3:52PM
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jim1961 Zone 6a Central Pa.

Article on Cornmeal & ants...

Cornmeal doesn't kill ants for one simple reason: ants don't eat solid foods. Ants carry solid food back to their nest. The food is then fed to the larvae. The larvae digest the food and regurgitate it to the worker ants. Worker ants then pass this food along through the colony. Ant larvae have no trouble digesting cornmeal, nor does it cause them to explode or starve.

Why Cornmeal Might Appear to Work
Cornmeal appears to work for a couple reasons. When sprinkled around areas where ants have been active, it disrupts their scent trails. Ants use scent trails to find food and water sources. Disrupting the scent trails stops ant activity for a short time --- at least until they get new trails laid down. Also, since many ants eat cornmeal, the ants have no need to travel past the line in search of food. So, the cornmeal seems like an efficient barrier but only because ants have no desire to go any farther. Pouring cornmeal on or around the nest also disrupts the nest, which causes ants to move, according to Kelly Loftin and John Hopkins, entomologists with the University of Arkansas. This seems like a good thing, but the ants are probably only a few feet away.

Read more: Does Corn Meal Really Kill Ants? : eHow

    Bookmark   May 24, 2013 at 4:00PM
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bart_2010(8/9 Italy)

You could try Neem oil diluted in water; pour it on the ant colony. I sometimes have intense ant problems, too,and pouring vinegar on them seems to work, but I agree that this might not be a good idea for a colony right near a plant. I think using a poison in this case could be the best solution,if Neem oil doesn't work; after all, it would not be sprayed around or anything. I would try to get rid of them ASAP; they don't do rose roots any good...bart

    Bookmark   May 25, 2013 at 5:46AM
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