Ants, Millions!, outside, in potted plants - HELP!

mimulus(z 10/24 SoCal)January 1, 2009

First let me state that I am an organic gardener and familiar with IPM principles and they had always worked in a regular house and yard situation. However, now I live at the edge of a 5 acre open property and started out with thousands (no exageration) of ants. It's been increasing until now I have millions and millions (again, not an exageration) and they have become a serious problem. They are farming aphids, scale, mealy bug, etc on the plants faster than I can keep up with. They form nests in my larger potted plants (I do some growing and have hundreds of potted plants), under the pots, around the pots, in the raised veggie beds and everywhere else that you can think of. They are now all Argentine ants and form one huge colony - they don't fight over territory or kill each other. There are hundreds/thousands of nests and it is often impossible to track down the nests because of extensive gopher tunnels.

I have tried diatomaceous earth, boric acid and sugar water solution, regular store-bought traps (at least half a dozen different brands and types), flushing them out with water, worm tea, cinnamon, cayenne, etc. Nothing seems to do more that put a small dent in the population in that area for a very short time.

I never before had much of a pest problem because of good organic principles but now I seem to be constantly having to fight the ants and the pests they're farming. I can manage to shoo them out of the house (at least once a month) with orange oil or Simple Green and boric acid, but nothing seems to be working outside.

One of the main problems is how to keep them out of the pots. Haven't found anything that I can soil soak with that keeps them out. It's not just a nuisance - they harm or kill the plants. They displace the soil and the roots are exposed to air and are gradually killed off (eaten or chewed also). I have to keep repotting and replacing the soil.

Also, they congregate on the strawberries during the summer. The crowns will be completely covered with ants and small black specks (poop?).

HELP! This is not your normal little ant problem - this is major. I hate to use chemicals but am desperate at this point.

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Native ants are important parts of your environment, but imported ants can be pests. You may want to talk with the people at your local office of the University of California USDA Cooperative Extension Service about which ants you have and what needs to be done to control the invasive species.

Here is a link that might be useful: UC CES

    Bookmark   January 2, 2009 at 8:00AM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

You can use Amdro fire ant bait in your non-edible garden areas with great success. A VERY small amount broadcast over large areas does the trick, as does a gentle application on a mound per mound basis. Follow the directions on the container or from your extension service.

Also, many companies are making an organic ant bait with Spinosad as the active ingredient. It can be used anywhere, including vegetable gardens, etc.

Baits need to be applied carefully, so that you don't create a panic in the ant population. The product needs to be taken into the depths of the colony, where it will eventually be passed around to all, including the young and queen.

    Bookmark   January 4, 2009 at 2:40PM
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nicole1133(z7 Chester County, PA)

One word...TERRO! I use the pre-baited ones for inside and they work like a charm!

    Bookmark   January 13, 2009 at 2:28PM
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