can't rid rid of ants, budworms - Knowledgebase Question

barnegat, nj
Avatar for candldoll
Question by candldoll
July 25, 2010
I am having a problem with small black ants in my garden, both vegetable& flower. I tried coffee grounds, it seemed to work at first, but they are back. I am looking for an organic way to get rid of them.
I am also having a difficult time trying to get rid of budworms on my petunias.
Thanks in advance for your help.

Answer from NGA
July 25, 2010
For the most part, ants do not cause any serious problems in gardens. Exceptions to this are the species that bite or protect aphids. Ant hills in flowerbeds and lawn areas can become a nuisance, however, as can ants that come indoors when foraging for food, returning to outdoor nests. If you have ant colonies that you wish to control, there are several things you can do. A good least-toxic method is the use of boric acid baits. Boric acid baits can eliminate some ant colonies in about one week. The trick is to not kill the ants at the bait station, but to get the ants to carry the boric acid back to the nest, poisoning the members of the colony that never leave the nest. Most ants feed either on sugars or on protein, fats, or oils. To see which type you have, place small dabs of jelly and peanut butter (not mixed) where ants are seen and watch which food they are attracted to. If they are attracted to the jelly, you can make a boric acid bait by mixing one-half cup jelly, such as apple jelly, with 1 1/4 tsp boric acid powder. Punch several holes in the lid of the jar, then screw the lid on tightly and seal with tape. The holes should be large enough for the ants to pass through to reach the bait. Place the bait jar on its side where the ants will come in contact with it. If the ants are unable to gain footing on the jar lid, you might want to scratch the surface with sandpaper or a pebble. If the ants are attracted to peanut butter, use that for your bait rather than jelly. If you find many dead ants around the bait station, which ever bait you use, lower the amount of boric acid in the mixture. If you are still finding live ants after a week to 10 days, increase the amount of boric acid. Although boric acid is of very low toxicity, it is best to place bait jars where children and pets cannot reach them.

Budworms are difficult to control. The adult is a fly or wasp and she sticks around long enought to lay an egg by piercing a hole in the unopened flower bud. The egg hatches into a worm which feeds on the insides of the bud and is therefore protected against sprays. About the only chance you have of controlling them is when they exit the buds and spin a little web down to the soil to pupate. You can cultivate the soil beneath your petunias to expose them to the elements and predacious insects and you can squish any suspect flower buds to squish the budworms and stop the next generation. You might also have some success with Bt (bacillus thuringensis) which is sold as Dipel or Thuricide. It is a bacterium which acts as a stomach poison, targeting only caterpillars.

Good luck with your garden.

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