Ants in my lemon tree pots.......

MajandraSeptember 7, 2011

Hello citrus lovers. I have 3 questions about my lemon trees that I have had for about 2-3 years now (grew out of seeds)and keep them on my patio.

I noticed ants on my patio few days ago and just today I realized that they might have a nest in one of my lemon tree pots..... i lifted the pot up and there were many of them under there.... i don't know how to get rid of these ant without killing my lemon trees. I also don't want the ants to move into my second lemon tree pot. Past few weeks has been very hot and dry here and after I watered my lemon tress these ants started showing up..

I have heard about some boric acid traps but I was wondering if there are other homemade traps i could use. I also heard that ants dont like baby powder...

Also my smaller lemon tree looks sick..or if something has been eating the leaves. I noticed a small caterpillar under one of the leaves which I removed, but the leaves got more wholes few days later (no sign of another insect this time)

One more question is; I cut the top off my tall lemon tree several months ago and now i have 2 branches growing. do I do anything or just let them grow, or if prune them , then when? i would like these lemon trees to start looking more like trees than a tall thin trunk with some leaves and without branches.

Thank you for all responses!:)

Below you have photos of my little lemon tree (with some eaten leaves) and the top of the bigger lemon tree)

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hoosierquilt USDA 10A Sunset 23 Vista CA

Okay, all easy fixes, Majandra. First off, this is the time of the season for ants to go in search of water here in California. And, potted plants have contained water, so they often attract plants. Purchase ant bait with boric acid. You can get it at any garden center, Lowe's, Home Depot. Set the little ant bait traps in your pot, and on the ground around your pot. The ants will take the bait back to their nest (which is in your pot) and will die.

The chewed leaves could be from a catepillar, but more likely from snails or slugs. Check your little tree in the early morning, or evening to look for snails and slugs. They should appear at that time. Be sure to look under the leaves. Again, easy fix. You can use snail bait sprinkled in your pot. If you have a dog or cat, I would avoid metaldehyde snail bait pellets and use an iron oxide product (like Sluggo). Or, you can use metaldehyde in the form of a liquid (such as Deadline). If you continue to get chewed leaves after applying snail bait, you can apply Bayer Advanced Fruit, Citrus & Vegetable Control. It is a systemic product that contains imidicloprid. Since your trees are not blooming, this will not hurt the bees, and will get rid of whatever is chewing the leaves (including slugs and snails, btw.)

Lastly, the branching is what you want. If you look at citrus trees sold at nurseries, you'll see every single one of them was topped as a whip (single stem) to encourage branching and a fuller form. So, that was a good thing to do :-)

Patty S.

    Bookmark   September 8, 2011 at 10:12AM
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Majandra

Thank you Patty for great advises and tips! Can't wait to get rid of these ants:)

Another questions about the branches is: will new ones start growing eventually or it will require some of my action? Glad to hear everything looks well now:)

    Bookmark   September 8, 2011 at 2:15PM
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hoosierquilt USDA 10A Sunset 23 Vista CA

You might need to tip prune the two main branches back to continue to get more branching. Seedlings tend to be more vertical in nature, so further pruning may be necessary to get a fuller canopy.

Patty S.

    Bookmark   September 8, 2011 at 3:43PM
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justfigured(6)

One caution that I would make about Patty's recommendation: Boron nutrient levels and toxicity levels are very close. If the nest is in your container, you may not want your ants bringing their ill advised bounty there.

Barb

    Bookmark   September 9, 2011 at 12:52PM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

That imidicloprid insecticides would be used to control slugs and snails is news to me. I can't find any supporting information on that, Patty; can you share where you discovered this?

    Bookmark   September 9, 2011 at 2:43PM
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hoosierquilt USDA 10A Sunset 23 Vista CA

I read a study that was conducted in India, Rhizo. I was specifically to see if there was any protection against snails and slugs from imidicloprid. It's not on the label, but here where I live, I have a really huge issue with snails and slugs. Since I mulch to keep weeds down, and conserve water, I get snails and especially slugs. With my larger citrus trees, it's been really hard picking them out of the tree canopy, so I was curious if imidicloprid was also effective against them. This study did confirm that it was reasonably effective. Not that I would necessarily use this as a frontline defense against snails and slugs, but it was good to know I might be able to use this if I could not get the population under control using Sluggo or copper tape on the trunks. If I can find the study again, I'll post the link to it.

And Barb, the amount of boric acid in the ant traps are miniscule. The traps and very small, about the size of a silver dollar. Plus, these seedling trees are many years from being able to bear fruit, so I cannot imagine any boric acid from a small ant trap today, would have any impact on absorbed boric acid in a fruit 3 or 4 years from now.

Patty S.

    Bookmark   September 10, 2011 at 11:28AM
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hoosierquilt USDA 10A Sunset 23 Vista CA

Rhizo, here's a link to the abstract I read:

http://www.isrj.net/July/2011/Zoology_Evaluation_of_toxicity.html

Patty S.

    Bookmark   September 10, 2011 at 11:30AM
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justfigured(6)

Patty, I meant toxicity to the tree itself, so it being a seedling would be even more dangerous for the life of the tree. It is a thin line between love and hate for boron. I do not know how much is in the traps, but it is the bait, so there must be more than miniscule amounts. It is a caution and something to consider. A silver dollar amount of boron is significant; I personally would not take the risk. An ant population can bring a lot of bounty to its nest, and if that nest is in the container and the material is poisonous to the tree, the tree will die. Personally I would submerge the entire container in water for a few hours to overnight, assuming it is in the proper soil and can drain out properly. I would then take measures to isolate the tree from future ant infiltration.

Barb

    Bookmark   September 10, 2011 at 3:07PM
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hoosierquilt USDA 10A Sunset 23 Vista CA

Yes, in the bait, but yes, miniscule amounts. The bait station itself, is the size of a silver dollar. The bait is not pure boric acid. It has SOME boric acid mixed in with a sugar substance to attract the ants, and make the ants carry the bait back to the next. I cannot imagine this teeny, tiny amount of boric acid would harm a plant, as once the ants take back the bait to the nest, all the ants die. Not all the bait is utilized, either. Doesn't take much to kill a small ant colony in a pot. So, it's not a continual issue. Then Majandra can place bait stations outside the pot to prevent another ant colony setting up housekeeping in the pot :-) This was recommended by Vince Lazaneo, who is the head of the Master Gardeners Program in San Diego county, so I feel pretty confident of the information. Another option if the pot is small enough, is to submerge it in a bigger pot of water that has a few drops of liquid dishwashing soap in it for about 20 minutes. Can't see how large these pots are, but this is another option. I've placed bait stations inside pots before, Barb, and nothing has died, yet.

Patty S.

    Bookmark   September 10, 2011 at 9:59PM
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justfigured(6)

Patty, my interest is not in an argument, so I will make one further comment and then yield to your expertise. I agree with and enjoy most of your postings, I just do not agree with this one...

You recommended that the original poster:

quote: "Set the little ant bait traps in your pot, and on the ground around your pot. The ants will take the bait back to their nest (which is in your pot) and will die."

The entire amount of the miniscule amount (that has the ability to wipe out a nest, so say you), if laying on the surface of the soil in the container, has the potential to enter the soil. I have never read anything written by Vince Lazaneo, and doing a brief search on the subject with his name and the issue of using ant bait in and around container citrus, I came up empty. Certainly not an exhaustive search, but I would be interested in reading it if you have the reference or a link to the article. Looking at the boron concentrations in fertilizers with minors and in liquid minor additives, I note that the rate of boron is miniscule before dilution. Miniscule before dilution is indeed extremely miniscule after proper dilution.

I will end with saying that my caution still stands, and I would not recommend it. I would say especially with a young seedling, however that might imply that my recommendation would be lax for anything more mature, which is not the case. My assumption is that the original poster, who cares enough for this little seedling to seek advice from this forum, wants to save this little tree from ants. I am sure that he/she does not want to risk killing it with the cure.

Barb

    Bookmark   September 11, 2011 at 1:46PM
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Majandra

I didn't think that my ant question would start such an interesting discussion:)

I wanted to say that of course I would not want anything happen to my lemon trees. As they matter quite a lot to me - ideally I would put them in a yard once I buy a home someday:)

Speaking of the ants, it looks like they moved out on their own, after the soil dried a bit (I didn't water my lemons for couple of days). So I am relieved to see that.

The problem is these little ants moved into my bathroom instead....so I put 2 ant baits behind the toilet. I don't know if 2 are enough to get rid of the nest? And how long does it take for the baits to kill the ants?

thank you

Magdalena

Majandra

p.s.
Below you can see my lemon trees in full (picture taken about a year ago, before i cut the tip if the taller tree)

    Bookmark   September 11, 2011 at 2:19PM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

IF they are a species of ant that is attracted to the boric acid baits (which are sweet), then one bait us what is recommended to start with. The ants will literally swarm the bait trap as the workers 'spread the word' amongst the colony members.

Do not move the trap, and do not spray anything on the ants when you begin to see them. Just let them go about their business of taking the toxic bait back and feeding it to all of the inhabitants. If they completely deplete one bait tray, put out another. I am assuming that you used the liquid bait trays, but that may not be the case. That's the only product I've used (made by Terro).

I had some ants in my bathroom one year, too. Not much fun. The ant bait took care of the problem in about 5 hours or so. I was horrified when the ants began to swarm it. That only lasted a little while. ;-) No more ants.

Something else you can try is food/horticultural grade DE (diatomaceous earth), found in most garden centers. I'd suggest DE for the ants, not the slugs. Slugs appear to be only mildly affected by DE.

    Bookmark   September 11, 2011 at 3:55PM
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Majandra

i am using AMDRO ant baits. I put 2 ant baits and ants seem to be more attracted to one of them. It's been about 24 hours now and there seems to be still quite a lot of ants crawling there and swarming it so I don't know..... wish they were gone by now. DO I put more baits or just wait??

The ant baits I am using are:
http://www.walmart.com/ip/AMDRO-Ant-Killing-Bait-Stations-6ct/17179755

Here is a link that might be useful: Ant baits

    Bookmark   September 11, 2011 at 4:03PM
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hoosierquilt USDA 10A Sunset 23 Vista CA

It can take a while, Majandra. If the pot isn't too big, you can immerse the entire pot in a larger tub of water, and add a few drops of liquid dishwashing soap. Let the pot soak for about 20 mins. Then, just run plain water in to flush out the pot. That will help to get rid of the majority of the ants. Be sure to do this outside, of course, which is where I assume your plants are located. Then, put the bait traps back in the pots, as well as around the pots on the ground (so new ants don't try moving back in).

Patty S.

    Bookmark   September 11, 2011 at 7:36PM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

Patty, our original poster said that the ants are no longer in the container but seem to have taken to prowling around in the bathroom. So the plants are a non-issue at present.

Majandra, don't add another bait station. Let the ants feed on what is already there. If you keep putting down more stations, you will confuse the ants, who are very programmed to follow scent paths.

I've never used the Amdro stations, preferring the 'friendlier' boric acid baits inside the home.

    Bookmark   September 11, 2011 at 10:39PM
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Majandra

Thank you Rhizo for a post. It seems like there is less ants now than few hours ago so the bait might be actually finally working. I bought this one as it was the only one I found at the store and I am not familiar with what is/is not toxic... but as long as I get red of these ants soon I will be happy:) especially that I don't have children or pets so I don't need to worry about any poisoning incidents... And, I am very glad these ants left the container. One less thing to worry about:)

My question is when do I prune the two top branches of my lemon tree? Below you have a photo of the top of the tree:

    Bookmark   September 12, 2011 at 1:24AM
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Majandra

here are two newest pics of my lemon trees. What do I do with these 2 branches of the taller tree? I would like it to have more branches.
Thanks

Magda

    Bookmark   September 12, 2011 at 6:03PM
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