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Lupinus
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Fire Ants...HELLLLP

Hi all. I'm having a slight (ok, I'm in South Carolina zone 7, it's a bit more then slight!) problem with fire ants in the garden bed. As far as I can tell most of them are near to the bed without actually being in the bed itself.

What is the best way to get rid of those ones already in and around the bed? Also, to prevent them being a future problem, any good ideas to keep them away? This will be a vegetable garden, so anything unsafe is out. All the methods I know off hand wouldn't be vegetable friendly.

Also would a few fire ants be likely to damage my gardens fruits and vegetables? I would assume they would but I don't really if a few ants will just bother me or bother me and my plants. If they will just be a pest to me, I likely wont go after them as aggressively, but will go a lot harder on them if messing with my plants.
By cultivating the beautiful we scatter the seeds of heavenly flowers, as by doing good we cultivate those that belong to humanity.
Robert A. Heinlein

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hendi_alex
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Good luck with those pesky fire ants. I'm in Camden, SC and nothing works very well on the fire ants in the garden. Some say that cinnamon will cause the critters to move, but who can afford cinnamon for other than isolated uses. Sometimes I use seven dust, to encourage them to move to another location, but don't like to use seven in the garden very much, only when the plants are not producing. Some say to pour boiling water on a mound. IMO that would be worth a try in a garden area. I also will sometimes use a product that has pyrethrim (sp?) but once again, only to encourage them to change location. The fire ants are a very special pest. In my garden, they will bore in tomatoes and ruin the fruit. They will cut the blossoms from okra, egg plant, and other plants. They move aphids from one area to another, spreading that problem. When the mound is located around and under the base of a plant, the plant will die. They love moving in to my many containers plants. If you find some garden safe product that is not cost prohibitive, please post it.

Alex
Eclectic gardening style, drawing from 45 years of interest and experience. Mostly plant in raised beds and containers primarily using intensive gardening techniques.
Alex

cynthia_h
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We had a good discussion on cinnamon in the thread "Ants in my compost pile" at https://www.helpfulgardener.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=9095 last summer/fall.

I give specific prices and amounts of cinnamon. I remember that I purchased 13 oz. (just over 3/4 lb.) of cinnamon for around $4.00 at my local (East) Indian market.

petalfuzz also had good suggestions on where to buy cinnamon for much less than the extortionate bottled prices.

I also suggest boiling water into ant piles, if they're not everywhere yet.

I personally am *very allergic* to fire ants, whether they're in Texas, Florida, or Georgia (states in which I have lived). Any sign of them would be a declaration of all-out war, to my mind.

So I'd start with the boiling water followed by copious amounts of cinnamon to knock 'em back, then see where you're at.

Cynthia H.
Sunset Zone 17, USDA Zone 9

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Lupinus
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I'm lucky in that I'm not extremely allergic. It's still annoying though, and I don't want them ruining my garden.

I'm assuming cinnamon is fine to use right in the bed to deter ants from moving in? Any ideas how to do it? I'm assuming just a sprinkling of powdered cinnamon would just blow away fairly quickly or am I wrong? Maybe some mixed into mulch? Sticks stuck in the ground?

Are there any other good natural products or commercially available things safe for the veggie garden?
By cultivating the beautiful we scatter the seeds of heavenly flowers, as by doing good we cultivate those that belong to humanity.
Robert A. Heinlein

cynthia_h
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I applied some cinnamon to my compost just yesterday with a definitely heavy hand. I took a plastic shaker can (like some people use for flour) approx. 4" high and maybe 2-1/2" in diameter with a twist-on/off lid for filling it up. It also has a handle.

I just "shakered" the cinnamon onto the heavily-populated ant activities from a height of about 1 or 2 inches. Then I placed the leaves back over the compost, put the lid back on the bin, and went into the house.

I'll check tomorrow, whenever 1) it's daylight and 2) not raining, to see what effect I have wrought.

Cynthia

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Lupinus
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very cool

Just to be sure, is it safe to use on existing plants should they move into the garden? Or is there some better method for dealing with the actual bed/plants?
By cultivating the beautiful we scatter the seeds of heavenly flowers, as by doing good we cultivate those that belong to humanity.
Robert A. Heinlein

Lazieninjafrog
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We had a very large fire ant mound in our yard last year. It was so big we were afraid they'd start taking down out entire garden. But it turned out that they really didn't bother the garden.
(personally I still think it was the chicken food they were stealing that
kept them at bay) They did harvest the aphids, only they rlly did stay on
the marigolds. (Flowers are great for keeping aphids and other bugs off
your real plants) and in the fall they moved the mound and harvest the left over dropped seed from the giant (I think its a pauper?) tree thats standing above the garden.
I don't know, we may've just been lucky, but they usually come back
when winters over. I'm not to worried, our largest garden pests are grasshoppers and squash bugs. -.-;;
~Maive~

Lazieninjafrog
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[duplicate post; edited by admin]
~Maive~

cynthia_h
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Lupinus, when I see ants out in force in the veggie plants, I use Diatomaceous Earth on the ant trails.

I *could* use DE in the compost bin as well, but it affects the compost worms (it cuts their little bodies and they die) negatively. Ants dying I don't mind, but the worms work for me and I provide them a "home." Killing them on purpose just doesn't seem right.

So I use cinnamon in the compost and boiling water on anthills in the ground, Diatomaceous Earth on ant trails and ants on my raised beds and near my veggie plants. I haven't used cinnamon in the raised beds b/c the DE does such a good job. It's a one-stroke attack, and the enemy is vanquished.

Just to be complete, when I see ants in the kitchen (which I probably will this weekend due to heavy rains--ants seek higher, dryer ground), I spray the ant trails and the individual ants with Fantastik, the kitchen spray. Non-toxic and it takes care of 'em. I do the initial clean-up, and then I spray Fantastik wherever I can find an entry point. It usually knocks 'em down within a day.

I do NOT like ants in my kitchen....

I think this is my complete "ant attack" program:

-- cinnamon in the compost, maybe DE if worms are not present
-- boiling water and/or DE in the ground
-- DE in the raised beds near veggie plants
-- Fantastik in the kitchen, bathroom, anywhere they invade the house

I hope it works with fire ants. People who haven't experienced fire ants just think they're like regular little Argentine or sugar ants. No. They're bigger, meaner, they bite, and many people are highly allergic to their venom, formic acid.

Ants are of the family Formicidae. Formic acid is what the fire ants inject into your body when they bite you. Yeah, it burns, whence "fire." Nasty little boogers.

Good luck, Lupinus.

Cynthia

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Lupinus
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Thanks Cynthia :)

I assume I can get the DE at my local garden center?
By cultivating the beautiful we scatter the seeds of heavenly flowers, as by doing good we cultivate those that belong to humanity.
Robert A. Heinlein

cynthia_h
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I purchased mine at a small, independent garden-supply store. I didn't look for it at Home Depot, but would be surprised to find it there.

cynthia

cynthia_h
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Update on cinnamon in compost bin (from Friday):

I laid down cinnamon in three separate (but only by inches) locations in my bin the other day.

Today I was able to look into the bin during daylight and only light rain.

One of the locations shows no ant bustlings about. :D

One of the locations shows reduced ant bustlings about. :)

One of the locations shows no reduction of ant bustlings about whatsoever. :!:

Will try again later this week when the rainstorms stop coming through here.

But am in no hurry for the rain to go away, believe me.

Cynthia H.
Sunset Zone 17, USDA Zone 9

glypnirsgirl
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another idea

The best thing that I have found for those pesky and hurtful fire ants is beneficial nematodes. The ground needs to be warm and wet before they are applied. I re-apply every year as soon as I can to keep the fire ants from getting a toe-hold in my yard.

The great thing about the beneficial nematodes is that they also work on thrips and a few other pests.


The downside is having to wait until the soil is warmer to apply them.

Elaine
Dance until the music stops!!!

the Captain
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let them fight it out for you!

I have had plenty of experience fighting fire ants here in southern MS. Mostly from extremely not preferred methods but one that works exceptionally well is to mix piles. Literally, take a shovelful of one pile and exchange it with a shovelful of another pile. This takes two people with quick feet but it can end two hills in hours. Get a friend and two shovels and on the count of three each take the most you can get from two distinctly seperate mounds (preferrably at least 30-40 fet apart) and quickly deposit them on the opposing mound. The ants will imediatly go to war and head for the queen. My sister has three arces and started last year with 27 large mounds. In one day we moved them around and within two days only three showed any signs of life. Using a slightly more agressive method those became smoking craters . . . Now she only has a few random small hills that disapear with a small application of hot ammonia (not near the garden of course).

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Grey
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Re: let them fight it out for you!

the Captain wrote:I have had plenty of experience fighting fire ants here in southern MS. Mostly from extremely not preferred methods but one that works exceptionally well is to mix piles. Literally, take a shovelful of one pile and exchange it with a shovelful of another pile. This takes two people with quick feet but it can end two hills in hours. Get a friend and two shovels and on the count of three each take the most you can get from two distinctly seperate mounds (preferrably at least 30-40 fet apart) and quickly deposit them on the opposing mound. The ants will imediatly go to war and head for the queen. My sister has three arces and started last year with 27 large mounds. In one day we moved them around and within two days only three showed any signs of life. Using a slightly more agressive method those became smoking craters . . . Now she only has a few random small hills that disapear with a small application of hot ammonia (not near the garden of course).
Yup - amazing how simple it is, and it works!

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