The Q&A Archives: Ants in the Vegetable Garden

Question: I just moved into this area from North Dakota and I have never seen so many ants. They are all over the yard and in the house. They destroyed my zucchini by making a home in the stalks so I started it over. I am spraying their hills as I find them and I am using a wider angle sprayer to target the entire garden. I am using a pyrethrin spray. I can't find the "main" hill. They are just everywhere in the yard. I have been spraying pretty agressively with the pyrethrin and the population seems to be declining. My concern is for the seedlings and germinating seeds. I am growing tomatoes, beans, peas, zucchini, canteloupe, cucumbers, bell peppers, lettuce, spinach, carrots, potatoes and onions. Can I O.D. the garden on pyrethrins? I am going to order some Tansy as you recommend. Where can I get diatomaceous earth? Any other suggestions? What about the rest of the yard?

Answer: You can try diatomaceous earth, I have heard success stories in treating ants with it. Diatomaceous earth is available from Gardener's Supply Co. ( or ph# 800-863-1700). I was going to suggest you pour boiling water down the hole of their hill but you mention you can't locate it, so that's a no go. If you do find it, try that. Folks have also had success with boric acid bait. A good "home remedy" is to make a paste out of sweetened condensed milk and boric acid powder. Roll into little balls (shoot for consistency of fudge). Place these about the garden and ants will eat them, share with their pals, and die. Be careful with this remedy if you have pets or children, they could eat the "fudge" as well. There's also an Insect Growth Regulator (IGR) for ants that breaks the reproductive cycle of certain species of ants. Check with manufacturers to see if there is one for the pest species in your yard (Zoecon Corp., 12200 Denton Dr., Dallas TX 75234; ph# 800/527-0512).

The problems with so much spraying of pyrethrins is that it is a broad-spectrum insecticide, and, as with other poisons, the target insects may develop a resistance. I hope a combination of approaches like the ones mentioned above will do the trick! Hang in there!

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