Ants in Soil - Knowledgebase Question

Question by tanasavant
February 22, 2009
I have a climbing rose(I planted last year in a container)the leaves are pretty and I don't see antz climbing the bush but the soil is full on ants. What can I do to kill the ants without killing the rose bush?

Answer from NGA
February 22, 2009


Usually, ants are attracted to the growing tips of plants that have been attacked by aphids. Aphids are soft bodied sucking insects and they release plant juices the ants like. You may also see mold growing on the plant juices leaking at damaged areas. You can knock the aphids away with a strong spray from the garden hose or you can use insecticidal soap according to the label instructions. If however ladybugs are present they will do the job for you in a remarkably short time. Aphids are often attracted to plants that have been oversupplied with nitrogen and thus have excessively tender new growth, so be sure you are not overfertilizing the vine. Otherwise, aphid problems are usually more severe in early summer and then taper off on their own.

For the most part, ants do not cause any serious problems in yard and garden. 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.

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