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ants in the garden: how bad?

Posted by novice_2009 zone 6b (My Page) on
Fri, May 22, 09 at 14:23

I've got LOTS of ants in my veggie garden. They make little hills, I water them down, they make more. They are all over the place. I read that they can carry off seeds. Will they eat my seedlings? Is this something I should try to control? Thanks!


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: ants in the garden: how bad?

Really depends. I used to allow ants to do their thing and still do in most areas, but in the veggie garden I no longer do. I had a mound in a raised bed and nothing would grow/live within 2' of it. Not really sure what the ants were doing, but it was obvious after 2 years their presence was killing everything nearby.

I have another mound in an ornamental bed that is going on year 4 and those ants (same ants) have never harmed anything, but they do farm aphids on nearby Asian Pear trees. I just kill the aphids and then go stomp on their mound in retaliation. Seems to keep them busy for awhile ;)


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RE: ants in the garden: how bad?

Because of their prevalance many people think that ants must be a problem when they are not. Ants are part of Ma Natures recylcing machine, those critters that help get rid of the "stuff" we throw away, or that Ma Nature need gotten rid of. Ants harvest Aphids, but if you really look close you will not see and ant take an Aphid from the nest back to a plant. Ants may well clean up seedlings, that did not germinate, but I've not seen a problem with ants carrying off seeds that I put down. While I have seen ants working on a plant something else (cutworm) damaged, along with Pill Bugs, I have not seen them damage an undamaged plant.
There is no real reason to do anything to control ants in your garden.


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RE: ants in the garden: how bad?

Ants sure do a number on my peony flowers. Don't know how to stop them.


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RE: ants in the garden: how bad?

Some people think that ants are necessary on Peony flowers for them to open, which is a myth. So now we have someone that thinks ants on Peony flowers is not good, also a myth. The ants do nothing to either make the flowers open or cause damage to those flowers.


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RE: ants in the garden: how bad?

Kimmsr does not mention the spread of disease-causing fungi and bacterial spores that the ant provides. Our gardens don't need the help that ants provide.

That aside, I doubt that Amdo Pro is an organic solution, but it works. It has recently doubled in price. I've decided to stop using it only because I don't know what affect it has on the leaching into ground water.

Hope someone has some helpful suggestions for you; I'm interested too.
Brass


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RE: ants in the garden: how bad?

The OP doesn't describe any damage, just their fears and the anthills. IMHO there is no reason to kill something out of fear, as kimmsr implies.

Dan


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RE: ants in the garden: how bad?

g'day novice,

for me they are no problem unless they cause a problem ie.,. bring in aphids or mealy bugs and scale insect, then i deal with them and try to move them on.

in past gardens they cleaned up all the dead snails that squished early in the mornings.

len

Here is a link that might be useful: lens garden page


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RE: ants in the garden: how bad?

I will keep an eye out, as being an organic gardener to me means looking at what's going on, at the larger picture and small details. Yes, I fear they will bring in aphids, which can do a number on plants and spread bacterial and other dx. So, in the meantime, if they aren't causing damage, I will gladly let them be. I'm not out to kill anything, and am not one of those women that gets freaked out by bugs. I'm just concerned for my crops, which will help feed family and friends this summer!


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RE: ants in the garden: how bad?

Yes, I fear they will bring in aphids

Fear not. They don't.

Dan


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RE: ants in the garden: how bad?

Dan, aphid farming is something ants do all the time.


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RE: ants in the garden: how bad?

Ants may well "farm" Aphids but this is because they harvest the wee buggers taking them to the nest to feed to the workers in the nest. If you look close enough you will not see ants hauling Aphids from the nest to a plant.


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RE: ants in the garden: how bad?

Ants hauling aphids around, jag, is a myth - farming is not moving about, as kimmsr points out.

Dan


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RE: ants in the garden: how bad?

  • Posted by rdak z5MI (My Page) on
    Mon, May 25, 09 at 14:32

I have never noticed any negative effects form ants in our garden.


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RE: ants in the garden: how bad?

Dan, I have seen ants move aphids into clusters on my asian pear trees. They stay that way and the ants eat their poop, whatever it's called.

Ant's farming aphids is too well understood and recognized for me to bother debating it.


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RE: ants in the garden: how bad?

I don't think that Dan is rejecting the fact that SOME ant species 'farm' aphids...just that ants create a real problem by hauling ants from plant to plant. Some species farm (tend to the aphids like dairy cows)the aphids in order to glean the honeydew.


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RE: ants in the garden: how bad?

  • Posted by paulns NS zone 6a (My Page) on
    Tue, May 26, 09 at 17:48

Drowning them - pouring a watering can of water on the ant hill, twice if necessary - gets rid of them, in my experience. I'm not sure where they go, but their hills disappear. They're a problem when they nest under perennials, including strawberries, heaving and killing them.

I don't worry about very small hills.


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RE: ants in the garden: how bad?

Ants on peonies are normal. It doesn't hurt the peonies; they apparently have some sort of sweet nectar on them that the ants are going for. Just flick the ants off the peony flowers if you are cutting them for indoor bouquets.


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RE: ants in the garden: how bad?

I did have trouble with ants eating my peanut seeds this year. A few days after planting I found a dozen or more surfaced and being eaten by swarms of [tiny] ants. I leave the small hills that pop up all over, but my problem is that I have fire ants- one massive colony that I keep disturbing, but they refuse to leave....they started at my peas, moved to my tomatoes, then to the corn, now they are in the herbs. I have tried physically removing some of the nest (we usually have a hill over by a tree near the garden and along our back fence/forest row). But they won't go. So far they aren't hurting anything- plant wise...we have had a few bite. Is there a way to get rid of them? A few years back I allowed my husband to non-organically get rid of them in our front yard after they swarmed my toddler....but haven;t looked into organic control until now since they are in my garden.

Sarah


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RE: ants in the garden: how bad?

The bottom line is that there is no really good reason to harm ants. Personal prejudice and myths do not constitute good reasons.


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RE: ants in the garden: how bad?

Amen, bruddah.

Dan


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RE: ants in the garden: how bad?

Dan and kimmser, thanks for your ecological advice. I respect all creatures. However......these little red and large black ants are eating my bean plants. Like I said, they are EVERYWHERE in my garden. Two bush beans in particular are their favorites. Watched closely, as they made their way throgh garden. On plants effected, it's ants eating them.....I've been watching closely. I planted tansy, but am afraid it's too late. So, being pro-ants, what should I do? Let them eat veggie plants- very important to feeding of family, or do nothing? Let me know your opinion. Also, anyone else dealt with this? What was the solution?


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RE: ants in the garden: how bad?

The ants are there cleaning up after what ever else is doing the real damage. Determine what that is, solve that problem, and then the ants will not need to come in and clean up.


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RE: ants in the garden: how bad?

I had a nest in one of my potted peppers, and I know for a fact they can kill a healthy plant. Their nest tatally surrounded the poor thing's roots. Now I'm at war! Nutrasweet, Equal, or maybe sugar and Borax.


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RE: ants in the garden: how bad?

They will definitely completely consume the healthy roots and lower stem of watermelon plants. So far the infiltration of small black ants has claimed the lives of 6 otherwise healthy and happy watermelon plants planted from seed about 8 weeks ago. Am thinking of introducing mint and lavender, to compliment the garlic and onion already planted. Any other advice on how to minimize future damage would certainly be welcome.


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RE: ants in the garden: how bad?

I put a slow running water hose over an ant nest for several days. They get the message and move to where they are not actually inside the garden but off to the side. They are beneficial predators of most pests. Unfortunately, they do protect aphids and mealy bugs. They do herd them. But I have never seen any evidence that ants are the primary means of transport. There are many means of transport: birds, wind, squirrels, etc. As far as spreading fungus, the wind is the primary transmission of spores. Good luck on putting a bubble around your garden to keep everything out.


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RE: ants in the garden: how bad?

My garden has become infested with ants. The only other bugs I can find are spiders and mosquitos. I'm noticing a lot of holes in various plants....something is definitely eating leaves of pole beans and bush beans. If not the ants, ok. But I have no way of finding out what is actually doing this. I stalk my garden but never see anything else on them but ants...ants all over them. I planted eggplant seedlings a few days ago and now the ants are all over them as well...and my okra. I flick them off, come back and hour later and they are all over them again.

I don't know how much is to be expected. My cucumber leaves are having some kind of issues but I have not seen ants on them. They are getting white spots and look almost burnt in areas. I can't figure out what is causing this either however I don't see ants on them so I can eliminate that possibility.


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eRE: ants in the garden: how bad?

Oh and I had to laugh at the mint suggestion that I kept finding in googling how to get rid of ants. My mint is INFESTED with ants....thousands of them. They literally live inside the pot, right inside the mint.


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RE: ants in the garden: how bad?

If you watch the movie Microcosms, there is a great scene, where you can clearly see how ants fight off beneficial insects like ladybugs when they try to eat farmed aphids. I've been trying to control the aphids on my okra and red ripper peas. As soon as I started to get the ants under control with boric acid bait placed on plates around the garden, the syrphid fly larva started showing up and I had aphid skeletons everywhere, nearly overnight.
I think anyone who has dealt with the imported fire ants in the south has an appreciation for how incredibly devastating ants can truly be. Not nearly as benign as northerners believe. They will kill chickens and even young livestock, completely destroy whole pastures if grass.


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RE: ants in the garden: how bad?

Ants in my garden are a disaster.
They do farm yellow aphids on my cucumbers ,okra, eggplants and several flowers as well .I wash them twice a day with a strong stream of water, and they are back right away. The water hose is not strong enough to dislodge them on the cucumbers under leaves...and it ruins my beautiful flowers ..I am at my wit's end!They are small black ants... they are everywhere...
Any suggestion Please!!


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RE: ants in the garden: how bad?

Another vote for "pest" here - I too am now at war with the black ants in the garden. They destroyed my sweet corn last year with the aphid farming and almost took down an artichoke plant entirely. Its just gross trying to enjoy an artichoke that is embedded with black aphids!

Today I spotted a new horror previously unseen in my veggies - a tomato plant I was removing was host to hoards of triangular green creatures and what looked like spiny mutant slow moving dinosaur ants! A google search revealed that the industrious aphid farmers now they have broadened their herd to include the keeled treehoppers as well which jeopardizes my cherry tomatoes and my peppers to boot. Also read that my watermelons may also be threatened and I promise you if they move on my treasured new sapling fuyu persimmon I will break out the chemicals ruthlessly without remorse or hesitation.

The only thing that seems safe and is really thriving is the bloody mint and catnip that I planted all over to help keep the ants at bay - apparently in vain. These "harmless" ants are making my vegetable garden a constant chore with little reward and I want them OUT ASAP, but they seem unstoppable. It's gotten bad enough that I actually delight in watching them grab their larvae and scurry whenever I water. I am ready for some drastic means because they are doing much more harm than good at this point...

What does the sugar and borax remedy involve? I have both of those on hand atm. Is there something that preys on them that can keep the colony at bay a bit? I've had it with them!


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RE: ants in the garden: how bad?

If Aphids, and therefore ants, are real problems in a garden there is a reason and that usually is related to the nutrient imbalances in the soil. Plants with lush green growth, ie. an excess of Nitrogen available, are usually those that have the most problem with Aphids.
People that want to be organic gardeners/farmers need to shed the concepts of "conventional" gardeners that insect pests and plant diseases are "normal" because they are not.
The link below has an excellent article about Aphids that I have posted many times before but that a number of not so organic gardeners pooh pooh.

Here is a link that might be useful: Apids


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RE: ants in the garden: how bad?

Ants are your friends. They may farm Aphids but Aphids are pretty easy to kill. While they are not aphid farming they are killing a myriad of other pests, and the Ant hills are aerating your soil. Most, if not all, predators have their draw backs. Many predators feed on plants in their adult stage and insects in the juvenile stage, and a few the other way around. Predators eat other predators. The hallowed Praying Mantis takes the occasional humming bird, snake or goldfish, and spiders leave webs but I will take all of them in my garden, even if I do loose the occasional Humming bird. It's all a balance and Ants are your friends as overall the good that you don't see outweighs the little bad that you do.


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RE: ants in the garden: how bad?

IpmMan, unless they are FIRE ANTS! Then you do everything in your power whether organic or not to move them away from your area! There is no killing them all...just moving them.


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RE: ants in the garden: how bad?

Many of us in warmer climates deal with ant species that may have troubling behaviors. I've never associated fire ants, for example, with aphids, though I know that they will protect them and other honeydew producing insects. I tried to collect some nice magnolia scale for a class I was teaching, and suffered plenty of ant stings in the process.

I know that fire ants will show up in gardens, newly installed landscapes, tree plantings, fields and pastures. They will undermine the root systems of plants, damage seedlings, and eat fruits and vegetables. They will attack and kill baby birds in nests, dogs in their kennels, and any other animal that is caught unaware or that cannot get away. They can short out electrical and irrigation boxes.

They have a dastardly habit of waiting until a large number of ants have climbed onto their victim before they start stinging. Ask me how I know that. Their stings aren't quite as painful as a bee sting, but the burning sensation afterwards is reeeeaaaalllly uncomfortable. Most people end up with a large pustule that itches intensely for several days.

We keep our yard fire ant free, but there are still plenty of other species running around all over the place. Karen, I haven't found it impossible or even difficult to get rid of fire ants. Email me!

As far as (hallowed???) Praying Mantids go.....I cannot get them to cooperate in my yard, lol. At ALL! I guess I don't have enough pests for them to munch on, because all I ever catch them eating is butterflies, bees of various kinds, assassin bugs, and other beneficials. I've even plucked one from my echinacea and re-homed him on my tomatoes where the caterpillars live. I SAW it fly back to the echinacea. Hilarious. They are truly beautiful creatures, though. I just wish that I would stop finding piles of butterfly wings on ground under my perennials.


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RE: ants in the garden: how bad?

OH yes Fire ants. Definitely an exception. Forgot about these as I don't have them around me, though I have experienced the bite when in Atlanta. Ouch. Still they are good predators even though they hurt. Someday maybe we can find a way to control these things to bite and eat only what we want them too. That would be something, but would take all the challenge out of gardening.


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RE: ants in the garden: how bad?

Hey IPM Man...what do you hear about the European 'Fire Ant' that is said to have invaded New England? Seems like we started hearing about them a while back (a few years) but nothing in a while.


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RE: ants in the garden: how bad?

Rhizo. Thanks for wasting another couple of hours of my time.
I was unfamiliar with this Ant. So to the web I went. I am not an Ant expert and it appears that the Red Ant that I always thought of as just a native Red Ant is actually a European Red Ant. Or are there other biting/stinging Red Ants that are native to New England? Anyway Red Ants if bothered have always given a nip, but this year I disturbed some that seemed particularly painful, but not like the sting of the southern Fire Ant. So I guess I have a lot more to learn about Ants. As for what I think, I don't like introduced species, even if they are predators unless they are introduced to solve a problem we created. Some reading I did on this European Fire Ant seems to have researchers worried about their effect on native fauna. Anyone know more about Red Ants that are native and European Fire Ants?
(Yes, I know European Honey Bees are introduced, so their are some exceptions)


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Tiny ants and spiders in garden. Good or bad?

I think my house is built on a ginormous ant farm. They get in my outdoor potted plants, and everything I plant, seeds, which never sprout, new plants, end up being a new ant infestation. I don't mind ants & know they do good things too, but when I go to water, they come up from the seeded area or new plant in hords, running every which way with their eggs in their mouths/pinchers. They just don't seem to be doing the plants/seeds any good and attack me when I garden.

Also, my shrubs are contiously covered with tiny spider webs, like tiny blankets drapped all over the place. I hose them down, but they're back the next day. They don't seem to be harming the bushes, but they aren't very attractive....Suggestions?


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RE: ants in the garden: how bad?

It seems the more microbial life we have in the soil, the less we see fire ants. I have worked for years with this dry, clay "hardpan" poor soil here in South Texas and my yard is pretty much free of fire ants at this point. Mulch, compost, organic fertilizer, even some watering occasionally with molasses and other amendments to build the microbial life. (Although I would not mind a few smaller fire ant mounds against my house because they eat termites).


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