Organic controls for ants on okra?

esthermgrAugust 3, 2010

One of my okra beds is plagued by ants. They kill the flowers, stunt the fruits,and eat what's left. Not to mention that they bite me when I try to harvest the remains. Any organic suggestions for getting rid of them? Any environmental reasons for this? (Too dry, etc.?)


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girlgroupgirl(8 ATL)

Ants are plaguging me too. Check the underside of your leaves (if you have not) and see if you have tiny aphids under there or residue on the leaf. They may be farming for aphids on or around the plants. They were farming on my eggplants and driving me nuts. I used several applications of soap (killed aphids) but nothing worked for the ants. They were coming from the ground so I tried some diamotaceous earth and it didn't work.
Neem will, however kill them. Do you have neem oil? A few drops in a hand sprayer of water will work however neem is non-selective, which means it will kill everything it touches so they advise spraying early in the AM before the bees are up and at 'em!

    Bookmark   August 3, 2010 at 11:29PM
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Guys -- I have tons of black ants on my eggplants as well. I have a stone wall dividing our property from the neighbor's. Her lot is about 4 feet above ours, so the wall is like a terrace, open rock on my side, covered in earth on hers. THere is a HUMONGOUS black ant colony that lives behind the wall. From what I can tell, they are active in an area at least 7 feet long. They are a part of nature, and they aren't ridiculously aggressive, like fire ants, so I don't want to hurt them. But that many ants is a little disconcerting at times. I was also wondering if there is an environmental reason for there being so many. (There is also another huge colony down near the bottom of my back lawn.) I wonder if we've messed up the food chain somewhere -- what eats ants? I sure haven't seen any frogs and toads for the last few years.

    Bookmark   August 4, 2010 at 11:01AM
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If you would like to have more toads in your yard build a small water garden and they will come. We have one that is the size of 1/2 whiskey barrel, black plastic insert. It is buried in the ground with some flat rocks around it and a small pump, a few Walmart goldfish and 3 plants. It came about because we are in the process of scaling down everything in our yard to lower maintenance-we are both getting slower and creakier. We had filled in the big pond but I missed the sounds of water in the garden and my fish babies.

    Bookmark   August 4, 2010 at 2:28PM
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We've found cornmeal on dry days to be extremely effective (and cheap). Ants will eat the cornmeal, drink water, and burst. Make sure you apply when you have at least 12 hours before rain or heavy dew. You don't want the cornmeal damp before the ants eat it.

We have to reapply no more than once a month.

    Bookmark   August 13, 2010 at 1:04PM
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Spray the plants with the hose?

    Bookmark   August 13, 2010 at 3:24PM
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To Girlgroupgirl's point. It's usually the aphids the ants are after, or farming the aphids for dew. The aphids would be the ones damaging the plants. If you can get rid of the aphids the okra will grow so tall the ants will simply get tired of going up and down! ;-)

    Bookmark   August 22, 2010 at 11:11PM
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This is something I have found to work very well on the aphids. Therefore, less ants...

Tomato Leaf Spray

Tomato plants, as members of the nightshade family, contain toxic compounds called alkaloids in their leaves. When the leaves of tomato plants are chopped, they release their alkaloids. When the alkaloids are suspended and diluted with water, they make an easy to use spray that is toxic to aphids, but still safe around plants and humans.

What You'll Need:

One to two cups of tomato leaves
Two cups of water
A strainer or cheesecloth
Spray bottle
To make tomato leaf spray, simply soak one to two cups of chopped tomato leaves in two cups of water. Let it steep overnight. To make the spray, strain the leaves out of the liquid using cheesecloth or a fine strainer. Add another one to two cups of water to the liquid and add it to a spray bottle.

To use the tomato leaf spray in your battle against aphids, spray the stems and foliage of the infested plant with the spray, paying special attention to the undersides of leaves, since that is where aphids most commonly congregate.

Caution: While this spray is very safe for humans, some people are allergic to members of the nightshade family. If you are one of them, use care in making and applying this spray.

Garlic Oil Spray

Organic gardeners have long relied on garlic as part of their pest-fighting arsenal. Garlic contains sulfur, which, besides being toxic to pests, is also an antibacterial and antifungal agent. The dish soap in this mixture also breaks down the bodies of soft-bodied pests, such as aphids.

What You'll Need:

Three to four cloves of garlic
Mineral oil
Strainer or cheesecloth
Liquid dish soap
Spray bottle
To make garlic oil spray, mince or finely chop three to four cloves of garlic, and add them to two teaspoons of mineral oil. Let this mixture sit for 24 hours. Strain out the garlic pieces, and add the remaining liquid to one pint of water. Add one teaspoon of liquid dish soap. This mixture can be stored and diluted as needed. When you need to spray, use two tablespoons of the mixture added to one pint of water in a spray bottle.

To use your garlic oil spray, first test by spraying an inconspicuous part of the plant to see if your mixture harms it at all. If there are no signs of yellowing or other leaf damage after a day or two, it is safe to use. If there is leaf damage, dilute the mixture with more water and try the test again. Once you have determined that it won't harm your plant, spray the entire plant, paying special attention to the undersides of leaves.

Warning: Garlic oil is a non-selective insecticide, which means that it will kill beneficial insects (such as lady bugs, who are natural predators of aphids) just as easily as it kills the bad guys. It's best to keep as many beneficials around as possible. This spray should only be used if you haven't seen any beneficial bugs in your garden. The tomato leaf recipe, above, won't harm beneficials, so you should use that if you're lucky enough to have some beneficials in your garden.

These sprays are easy to use, inexpensive, and effective. As you can see, even organic home remedies require care and attention to their effects. In general, use each spray as little as possible, and use it responsibly. You'll win the battle against aphids, and still have a healthy garden after they're gone.

    Bookmark   August 17, 2012 at 8:08AM
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yolos - z 7b/8a Ga.

I also have ants on my Okra. There are no aphids involved. Only ants. They are all over the blooms and the actual Okra. I have tried insecticidal soap (which kill the ants present) but does not keep others from coming back. Tried DE, no luck there. Have finally given up on organic methods and am now trying Spectricide (I know that is a no no but you gotta do what you gotta do). Next time I will try the cornmeal.

    Bookmark   August 31, 2012 at 8:01PM
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yolos - z 7b/8a Ga.

Still have ants. Tried insecticidal soap, DE, Spectricide. None of these have worked yet. Had hundreds of ants on the Okra this morning. Used esh's suggestion and hosed them off with a hard spray. I am now trying cornmeal.. I have an old pack that I will try this morning. Maybe I should be waiting longer after each application to see if each thing may work. But put DE and then Spectricide around the base of each plant and the ants just crawled across that and up the stems.

    Bookmark   September 1, 2012 at 11:19AM
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yolos - z 7b/8a Ga.

I finally got rid of the ants on the Okra. The final solution I found somewhere on the web. 9 tsp sweet corn syrup, 1 tsp boric acid (or borax). Mix well and put in a small plastic container (like a small butter tub) Put top on the container. Punch holes (big enough for ants to get into the container) around the sides on the container just above the level of the syrup mix.

Within two days all the ants were gone and have not come back.

I don't know if the boric acid mixture eliminated the ants, or maybe somethin I applied earlier that took time to work.

    Bookmark   September 13, 2012 at 9:24PM
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I'm trying the corn syrup and and boric acid. Thanks for the tip. Will post if it works or doesn't work for me.

I'd been dusting with DE to no lasting effect. Something that kills the ants immediately, and it's great in your kitchen, is a solution of hydrogen peroxide in a spray bottle. I was spraying it on the ants as they dined on my okra fruit but it would only kill the ants it touched and in a few hours there were more.

    Bookmark   September 2, 2014 at 10:34AM
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Corn meal does NOT kill ants! I work at Clemson University and asked an entomologist that specializes in ants about this several years ago. They have a digestive system. They eat like we do. They digest corn meal if they eat it. I don't know why they'd eat it. But it will NOT kill them.

It's not like feeding alka-seltzer to seagulls. They swallow them whole and then they... well... not a good idea.

This post was edited by chrisb_sc_z7 on Wed, Sep 3, 14 at 15:37

    Bookmark   September 3, 2014 at 3:34PM
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opal52(z7b GA)

Bagsmom "what eats ants?"

I saw my first Armadillo (road kill) this past week in Conyers. I don't know if it is the kind that eats ants or not. I read some years ago they were advancing into north Georgia, but this is the first one we have seen. I grew Okra for a couple of years, and the ants were terrible on them. The only thing that helped was neem oil. The strange thing to me was that we grew lots of okra every year in the vegetable garden when I was growing up in Whitfield County. I often harvested it, and I have no memory of having problems with ants. I am very sensitive to ant bites, and would never have gone close to the Okra if it had been a problem. There seem to be more ant colonies than there were even 30 years ago when we moved to Conyers. That said, I do not want to run into an Armadillo in my gardens or back yard :~) Creepy looking creatures.

    Bookmark   September 14, 2014 at 10:34AM
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