Ants in butterfly garden

Mariamc1184July 6, 2014

I'm having a lot of trouble with ants in my butterfly garden. Red ones and tiny black ones. They are building mounds in the roots of all my plants. How do get rid of them?

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Boiling water will do it, but it will kill whatever plant you pour it on as well. I had to just make the sacrifice on some of mine. Hopefully, others will chime in with some methods that won't kill the plant. Boiling water is the only method I've tried.

    Bookmark   July 7, 2014 at 10:16AM
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SouthCountryGuy Zone 4b-5 SE BC(Zone 4b-5 SE BC Canada)

While never in a garden I have used borax mixed with icing sugar in my lawns. 50/50 mix and sprinkle it around. I don't think this would hurt flowers as it didn't my lawn. I guess you could also put it on something if worried.


    Bookmark   July 7, 2014 at 10:53AM
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Spiroan, I was wondering if the boiling water would kill the plant. Thank you so much for answering. The Master Gardener at UF told me to try the bait granuals. They seem to be working just slower then I had hoped. But not deterring the butterfly's.

Another question for you, have you noticed a lack of butterfly's this year? Even before I started using the ant granuals I've noticed that there are no where near the amount of butterfly's I had last year.

    Bookmark   July 8, 2014 at 9:10AM
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Hi Mariam,

Yes, boiling water will kill the plant.

As far as lack of butterflies, I'm not sure. This is my first year with a butterfly garden. I've had lots of black swallowtails, sulfurs and cabbage whites. The fritillaries just now seem to be showing up here. I've seen two in the last few days, whereas I hadn't seen any before. I have only seen a couple of monarchs, and neither of them has been in my garden. Not sure what normal is, but that has been my experience so far this year.

    Bookmark   July 8, 2014 at 9:37AM
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Spirants, would you mind telling me what plants you have in your garden?

I have a lot of milkweed. Haven't seen any monarchs but have lots of cats on the milkweed so they must be coming. Also have 6 cacoons on my back porch right now.

Have just started to see the fritillaries. I have pentas, verbena and Zinna and they are using all of them. I have a passion vine full of cats.

I haven't seen any swallowtails and I have a pawpaw for them. Haven't seen any sulphur either and I have a ton of their host plants. I'm not familiar with the cabbage whites.

    Bookmark   July 8, 2014 at 11:52PM
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Mariam, you have some good plants. You didn't mention any plants for the black swallowtails. Do you have fennel or parsley for them? For me the fennel has been the best. It gets bigger than the parsley and does well in the Florida Climate.

By the way, it helps if you say where you are from at the bottom of the message.

I have a lot of paw paw and have never been able to attract a zebra swallowtail. They just seem to be very difficult to attract, and paw paw grows very slowly.

The zebra longwings and the fritillaries will lay eggs on the passion vines, which you have. If you have room for other vines I suggest the Aristolochia tomentosa Pipevine. It will attract the pipevine swallowtails and the goldrims (Polydamas). You can get that online at Mail Order Natives.

By far the best nectar plant I have is the large red penta. Pretty much any butterfly that likes nectar will use it.

I'm having the best year ever for butterflies, but I have a mature garden and where I live in Central Florida we haven't had a hard freeze for over two years, so pretty much everything is growing like crazy.


Central Florida

    Bookmark   July 9, 2014 at 8:54AM
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Hi Tom123, I live in Ocala. Yes, I do have fennel. I just had to cut it back because it was getting very scraggly looking. And yes, the penta does seem to be the plant that attracts the most butterfly's.

My very, very big problem right now is the ants. I can't seem to get rid of them. They are building their homes in the root systems of my plants and killing them. That's really what I need help with. Any suggestions?

From Ocala

    Bookmark   July 9, 2014 at 9:14AM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

I urge you to follow the advice of the master gardener and obtain a BAIT, such as Amdro.

When applied according to label directions, baits are taken into the depths of the ant colonies and fed to all of the inhabitants, including the queen. Control may not be instantaneous, but it is very thorough. The ants do all of the work. Thorough should be your goal.

Borax is a soil contaminant and can kill plants. Of course, boiling water will. It is far more likely that these two methods merely make the ants move elsewhere just as annoying.

Again, follow the label directions for your bait. If the products are not used correctly, you can alarm the ants instead of making them want to forage. They'll move a small distance away instead of die.

    Bookmark   July 9, 2014 at 9:32AM
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Hi Mariam,

I received your email. No worries at all on the spelling of the name.

As far as the plants I have in my garden, they are similar to the ones you have. For nectar plants, I have verbena, pentas, young butterfly bushes, the cut and come again variety of zinnias, some daisies (which seem to withstand our heat quite well), Gregg's Mistflower, Mexican sunflower (which isn't blooming, yet) and several types of lantana. The two that are attracting the most butterflies in my garden BY FAR are the zinnias and the lantana.

As far as host plants, I have dill (which seems to be the most popular by a good margin, particularly earlier in the year), fennel, and rue (which they have only started laying eggs on in the past couple of weeks). I also have swamp milkweed and butterfly weed, but haven't had any monarch eggs. I've been planning to get some tropical milkweed and just haven't done it, yet. I feel confident if I had a couple of passionvines that the fritillaries would have eggs all over them, but I haven't made the plunge on that one, yet. I need to find something they can climb up first. The sulfurs use some of the plants around our neighborhood to lay eggs, and the cabbage whites (which I think are considered invasive) use the arugula and radishes in my vegetable garden (mostly the arugula).

    Bookmark   July 9, 2014 at 9:33AM
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Thank you so much to everyone for your quick attention. I'm so glad I found this site as I've been looking for help for weeks from others who have butterfly gardens.

Again, thank you!!!

    Bookmark   July 9, 2014 at 11:20AM
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Maria, I just contracted my pest control company to spray for ants. It's a six-month policy and I call them back if I see any ants. I've called them back once and I'm getting ready to call them again. I believe it cost me $120. Expensive, but I had at least three types of ants, two of which were getting into my walls and then the house.

Amdro is good, but you need to spread it more than a few hours before it rains and not put it directly on the mound.

There are some plants that are excellent for both hummingbirds and butterflies. The large red pentas are very good for both and the big purple porterweed (Stachytarpheta frantzii)is even better. You might as well garden for both, since they both use flowers.

    Bookmark   July 9, 2014 at 10:19PM
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Tom123, thanks again for all your help. I'm going to pick up the Amdro this weekend.

I've had a pest control for several years but it's gotten so expensive I'm going to try and do it myself. There are so many products available now and my brother-in-law is helping me with what to use.

Thanks again,

    Bookmark   July 10, 2014 at 8:53AM
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For ants - Diatomaceous Earth sprinkled just on top of the ant mound will kill them. It kills by dessication. Only put it exactly where you need it for the ants. It kills good insects, too.

    Bookmark   July 12, 2014 at 11:23AM
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