How to keep fire ants out of my garden

PatmarkJuly 18, 2011

Hello everyone, I hope someone can help me figure out how to control fire ants organically. I live in S. Fla. and the fire ants are a real problem here. You can really never get rid of them they just seem to move from one yard to another.

I haven't planted anything in the garden yet as I have been summerizing it, also known as baking the soil. I have my soil prepared, weed mat in, drainage ditches dug and will be installing my irrigation tomorrow. Then I will be preparing my mounds for planting the 1rst of August. I have worked my butt off on this garden and it would really wrangle my you know what if after all this the fire ants destroy all my plants.

So far everything I have done has been 100% organic and I would really like to keep it that way. While I don't have any problem with spreading ant kill around the yard, I sure don't want it in my garden. So any ideas from you all that would organically keep these little critters out of my garden would be greatly appreciated. I will check back to look for any responses. If you need any more info I will be quite happy to provide it for you. Thank you so very much in advance, and if you are interested the link below of my garden will show you my indoor starts and my progress of the garden. I will add some picts of the irrigation later in the week.

Patmark

Here is a link that might be useful: My Garden progress so far

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Kimmsr(4a/5b-MI)

For these wee beasties there is no truely organic means of control, if you have them use the best means. The people at Texas A & M have done the best research about control which is available on this we site.
How is the solarizing of your garden going?

Here is a link that might be useful: Fire Ant Control

    Bookmark   July 19, 2011 at 6:19AM
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Patmark

Hi Kim, Thanks for the link thats exactly what I needed. This is my first year doing the solarization, but it's worked beautifully. You know the sun is so strong and hot down here that after a month theres not one bug or weed in the entire garden which really suprised me as the weeds here are just terrible. I also thought I would find it full of fire ants when I uncovered it but so far so good in that reguard.

The one thing I did learn this year about this process though, is to use much stronger plastic next time. I used a 3 mil thick clear plastic, which is pretty thick. The sun has completely destroyed it. It did its job and kept everything really dry, but when I started to take it off it just fell apart in my hands, LOL. Anyhow Kim, thanks again for the link and I hope to talk to you soon.

Patmark

    Bookmark   July 19, 2011 at 8:38AM
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dogwind(Z8a TX)

There most certainly are organic controls for fire ants. Fire ants in general hate biodiversity. So one way to control them is to have soil that is alive. Haealthy alive compost will do the trick. In my state, molasses, applied dry or wet, works wonders in driving the ants off of the property. In addition, diatomaceous earth and orange oil, has also been reported to work by killing them. Texas A&M has been testing natural predator controls across my state, but I don't have the link to that information handy.

    Bookmark   July 19, 2011 at 9:21AM
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Patmark

Thanks Dogwind. I've spead dry molasses throughout the garden soil today because I had plenty of that in the pantry. There aren't any ants in the garden yet so let's hope that that will keep it that way, lol. I'm trying very hard to be proactive about this to keep from having problems with it later. So hopefully that will keep those buggers out and won't hurt all the good bugs that have been mixed into the soil with the manure. I will keep you posted as to how well it works if you are interested by updating this post as the season progresses. Thanks again buddy.

    Bookmark   July 19, 2011 at 12:39PM
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terowan(8a--NC)

I just posted this in another thread but it is relevant here.
This is a quote from the Texas A&M website referenced above:
"Spinosad (0.5% liquid) - considered all natural or "organic." Has a fire ant mound drench statement on label. Available from Green Light or FertiLome. Green Light product is certified organic by OMRI meaning it is approved for use in organic gardens. Spinosad is a biopesticide produced through commercial culture of a soil-born microbe that produces metabolites toxic to certain insects. These metabolites are harvested and formulated as an insecticide, so the final product contains no living microbes."
I have used both brands with great success. Green Light was better but I don't see it for sale any more. By the way, I have tried many other organic remedies and none of them worked great. It does take a little practice to use these but if you apply them when it is above 65F and in the morning with clouds is best. Evening works too but sometimes it needs to be applied more than once. My experience is if it worked they are gone in less than 4 days.

    Bookmark   July 19, 2011 at 12:52PM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

Fire ants can be remarkably predictable in their behavior. I'll wager that the very first living thing you see taking up residence in your newly solarized beds (besides weeds) are....FIRE ANTS! You just haven't waited long enough yet, lol.

Careful use of Amdro in the non veggie areas of your yard will keep major colonies at bay, but there are also ant bait products on the market for organic vegetable and fruit growers, even Certified Organic growers, Look for the active ingredient "spinosad" often labeled as 'Conserve' on the label, and be sure that it is labeled as a BAIT. I've seen several products on the shelves under different brand names.

    Bookmark   July 19, 2011 at 12:53PM
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Patmark

Hi Terowan and Rhizo, thank you very much for the info. I will follow up on both of your suggestions and let you know how it goes. Now that the soil is weatherized I'm in the process of installing my irrigation, and then preparing my mounds for planting the 1rst of Aug. As I said I've sprinkled dry malasses right on the top of the soil in the garden, so I will watch it until it's ready for plants and see if those darn little critters are going to colonize my garden or use the neighbors yard instead, LOL. One can only hope. I use Andro in the yard and it works great, however the fruit and veggie garden is quite another matter. Anyhow, thanks again and I will keep you posted.

    Bookmark   July 19, 2011 at 4:45PM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

Should they move in on those areas, be sure to visit one of the big box stores to find the organic fire ant baits. I believe that I saw a couple of brands with spinosad (conserve) in one of those one or two years ago.

    Bookmark   July 19, 2011 at 11:05PM
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albert_135(Sunset 2 or 3)

Some few might be interested in School of Ants.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2011 at 3:34PM
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zzackey(8b GA)

What is dry molasses? I have an old bottle of molasses I was going to use im my worm tea and I didn't because I thought it would attract fire ants.

    Bookmark   July 29, 2011 at 2:14PM
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urbangardenfarmer

Dry molasses is used as a sweet feed for livestock. You can buy it at your local feed store for around $15 for 50lbs.
It works great to repel fire ants.
You can also use diatomaceous earth.

Google "fire ants and dry molasses" and see what comes up.

    Bookmark   July 31, 2011 at 4:28PM
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grovespirit(Zone 9)

There are also some biological controls: phorid flies and some fungi that eat fire ants. See here.

Here is a link that might be useful: biological controls of fire ants

    Bookmark   January 21, 2013 at 6:22PM
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