Getting rid of fireants in a vegetable garden.

fliptx(Houston 9)March 6, 2006

Every year I end up with fire ants in or near my vegetable garden. I know many, if not most, commercial ant poisons are not safe to use in a vegetable garden. But what can I use?

I've heard about using molasses, but does it really work? I'm pretty allergic to fireant bites (I had to be taken to the ER once) so I don't even want one of those suckers left hanging around, but I also don't want to poison my own vegetables. Any ideas would be appreciated.

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pjtexgirl(7b DFW)

I pour orange oil on them and they go away. It's available at most home improvement stores. I hear that gardening molasses discourages them. Coffee grounds were another.PJ

1 Like    Bookmark   March 6, 2006 at 10:50PM
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I usually just lurk here, but when I saw your post, I had to reply. The best "poison free" way to get rid of ants, is to use instant grits. Just sprinkle them on any mounds or trails you find and usually by the next day, they are gone. Grits expand when they get wet, so when the ants eat them...well they pretty much explode. Make sure that you put the grits down when they are dry and will stay dry, otherwise you are just feeding them. :)

1 Like    Bookmark   March 6, 2006 at 11:46PM
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You know....just for curiousity's sake, now I have to try that myself......sounds like cheap entertainment. :)

    Bookmark   March 6, 2006 at 11:50PM
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mikeandbarb(z8 D/FW)

I'm going to have to give that a try, this year my back yard is full of fire ant's :(
I'm so glad I seen this thread :)

    Bookmark   March 7, 2006 at 4:38AM
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fliptx(Houston 9)

I'll try any and all suggestions. Thanks, everyone :) I don't mind most ants, but fireants... a different story.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2006 at 5:31AM
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diatomaceous (sp?) earth will kill them and keep them away. i use it all the time - you can get it at the feed store. it is completely safe (all it is is very very small seashells - calcium). the sharp edges get between their body joints and they "bleed" to death. works on all bugs that are jointed - or segmented. you can read alot more on the net about this stuff.

1 Like    Bookmark   March 7, 2006 at 10:50AM
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fliptx(Houston 9)

Question about the orange oil... What department in a home improvement store would it be located it? I went to Home Depot and asked for some but the guy asked me if I meant furniture polish, like orange-scented Pledge. I said no, it's orange oil, but we couldn't locate it.

I have some diatomaceous earth already so I'll probably try that first. Thanks :)

    Bookmark   March 8, 2006 at 6:42AM
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sunny43(Z 6 Pa.)

fliptx: go to Lowes and you will find it there. It will be keep in the gardening section inside with other organic products.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2006 at 8:31AM
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fliptx(Houston 9)

Thanks, Sunny! I'll take a look there.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2006 at 12:51PM
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momof6meme2four(8a TX)

Green Light puts out a product called Fire Ant Control With Conserve. I found it at an organic nursery. On the label it says for use in the home garden. I used it last summer and it seem to work. I have tried all the above methods( orange oil, grits, diatomaceous earth), and it seem to move the fire ants from one location to another. Active ingredient: Spinosad

    Bookmark   March 8, 2006 at 2:34PM
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The orange oil can be diluted, btw.

Also in the organic section is Auntie Fuego (or is that Anti fuego)'s soil conditioner. It is a mixture of compost tea, orange oil and molasses. You dilute it too.

I also use the DE - that is the thing if you find them in your a/c or other outdoor electrical boxes. I also put it in the bottom of pots.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2006 at 7:04PM
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Fireants may be different, but I thought that ants raised underground gardens, and then the ants ate the mold that grew in these gardens. So I don't know about the exploding 'grit' eating ants, but I guess it is worth a try.

In my yard, I use several different chemical fireant controls, but in my garden, I only use corn meal. The idea came from the TAMU website, where it stated that corn meal will kill off Cut Ants.

What the corn meal does, is it produces a mold that feeds off of the mold that the cut ants feed on, thus starving them out. It seems to work very well on fireants also. Only on a couple of occasions, have I had to retreat a mound in about a week or so, after the remaining ants tried to make another stand.

Be sure and use store bought corn meal such as Aunt Jemima or Quaker Oats brands. If you go to a feed store and have them ground some up for you, which is much cheaper but it doesn't work as well, if at all. I don't know the reason, but it just doesn't work like the cooking varieties. I have been using it for a few years, and apparently it has some type of residual effect since the fireants have become fewer each season.

Sometimes I water it in well, and sometimes I just sprinkle it on top and around the works both ways.

Good Luck


    Bookmark   March 8, 2006 at 10:45PM
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rozanna(z8a TX)

The Antie Fuego soil conditioner will get rid of the ants if you are consistant

Here is a link that might be useful: Where to buy the soil conditioner

    Bookmark   March 9, 2006 at 9:10AM
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fliptx(Houston 9)

Thanks, everyone. I'm going to try mixing up compost tea with orange oil and molasses. For good measure, I'll toss on some corn meal too. :)

    Bookmark   March 9, 2006 at 12:33PM
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FlipTx, Mixing them all together?..., hmmmm......not a bad idea, you may be on to something.


    Bookmark   March 9, 2006 at 8:49PM
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A propane weed torch has worked well for me. I have also used orange oil successfully. I tried molasses, but did not have very good luck with that.

    Bookmark   March 10, 2006 at 1:54PM
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jean001(z8aPortland, OR)

Corn grits and exploding ants is a well-loved theory. One that doesn't work.

1 Like    Bookmark   April 21, 2006 at 11:09PM
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pjtexgirl(7b DFW)

It's not true but I love the exploding ants theory anyway. It's just so cool thinking about those stinging lil !@#$% blowing up!PJ

    Bookmark   April 21, 2006 at 11:42PM
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Wow...something I can actually contribute to...I have used DE powder (diotomaceous earth) as well, in an apartment situation (indoors) for fleas and it worked like a champ. They are actually ground up diatoms (shells) that are so fine yet sharp...that they slice anything small that comes in contact with them. You can use any kind of garden sprayer/blower/pump that can handle dry'll have a white powdery effect everywhere......but if it kills the fire you really care?

I have seen it work and would use it again.

Good luck!

    Bookmark   April 22, 2006 at 1:33AM
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roopooroo(N TX)

How close to your vegetables are you speaking of? Because I use the "pot of boiling water" method to get rid of the ants that are causing problems around my house. I still have several pustules on my right foot thanks to a mound I didn't see until I stepped in it. They were next to my porch and had drifted under the doormat - overnight, as usual. A pot of boiling water later and they're history.

1 Like    Bookmark   April 22, 2006 at 3:43PM
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fliptx(Houston 9)

Would you look at that? Almost exactly a year since I first posted this question! And here I am again, with the same problem. Insert Yosemite Sam style cursing here.

They are everywhere in my veg garden. They didn't even bother to build mounds because the raised beds were already perfect for them. Without distinct mounds, I'm a little stumped as to how to tackle the ants. It's so dewy and humid here that DE turns into a harmless paste. Orange oil mixes seem expensive to use all over the garden as a drench although I may resort to that.

I've laid out spinosad bait, which the ants seem to be eating, but if it's working, it's working very, very slowly. I need to get the little buggers out of there before the dogs or I get bitten up. Grits and/or cornmeal just makes my dogs even more curious about the garden.


    Bookmark   March 1, 2007 at 7:55PM
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Boiling water doesn't work. Tried it. Neither do the grits. Orange oil has worked for me. I'll have to try DE.

    Bookmark   March 1, 2007 at 8:04PM
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fliptx(Houston 9)

Sowngrow, did you use the orange oil on specific mounds or all over the garden?

I'm also considering using a liquid spinosad product.

    Bookmark   March 1, 2007 at 8:28PM
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I've had wonderful luck with 1 ounce of orange oil in a gallon of water, but lately I've heard that plain sugar works wonders:
just sprinkle it over the area, heavily where you see mounds or where you find concentrations of ants or eggs.

& sugar in the soil makes food crops grow bigger & sweeter:

A WWII veteran told me that his grandmother taught him to fill a jar or bottle with sugar water, insert a rag in the mouth for a "wick", & lay it on its side near a watermelon or cantaloupe where the sugar water would seep out & water the plant.

He said the kids (so poignant to hear this elderly man say "all of us kids") loved it when they got to pick the fruit, put it in the rain barrel to cool overnight, & eat it the next day.

    Bookmark   March 1, 2007 at 8:40PM
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Have you tried used coffee grinds? I have had luck with these, get mine from Starbucks. Another forum/thread on this same problem. Others report success with coffee grinds and fire ants plus some other info. Good luck.

Fire ants in compost

Here is a link that might be useful: Fireants in compost

    Bookmark   March 2, 2007 at 1:53AM
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fliptx-I use the proportions Sylvia mentioned, 1 oz in a gallon of water, poured on the mound itself. Really big mounds sometimes require another application. Try to get the mound treated before it gets too large and it's easier to eradicate.

    Bookmark   March 2, 2007 at 7:54AM
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fliptx(Houston 9)

I'm going to get some orange oil today. Unfortunately there doesn't seem to be a specific mound at all. My raised beds ARE their mounds! On the one hand, I can't blame the fire ants for thinking, "Hey, free housing and no work on our part!" On the other hand, I want them all to die horribly from having their carapaces melted. Other ants I don't mind, but fire ants have got to go.

    Bookmark   March 2, 2007 at 8:24AM
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Greetings occasional lurker here. Had to chime in on one of my most despised garden pests.
I've had success with pots of hot coffee in my veggie & herb beds. I run a second pot of water through my grounds in the morning . There's something sooo satisfying about waking up to pouring the hot brew over those evil little buggers. It may take a couple of mornings to eradicate them from the beds, but it's worked for me.
(Who doesn't visit here often but, always comes away with a golden tidbit...thanks!)

    Bookmark   March 2, 2007 at 8:52AM
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lindseyrose(8b/9 Texas)

I just went out and treated my raised-bed fireants with cornmeal and a dash of cinnamon after reading this thread. I'm going to try the orange oil maybe next week, when I can get my hands on some (I have 2 cleaning products with orange oil in them but I don't believe they are pure orange oil and not also additional chemicals).

Anyway, I had a thought: if cinnamon irritates fire ants, I wonder what chili powder would do to them?! Why not fight fire with fire? LOL

    Bookmark   March 2, 2007 at 1:01PM
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A few years back, my son did his science project on ways to kill fire ants.
He had ants from the same mound seperated into jars, under the exact same conditions.
He used grits, DE, white sugar, corn meal, and nothing.
The ants that died first were in the plain white sugar jar.
Three out of three trials!

Nope, I haven't tried it in the yard, but it was interesting!
I can vouch for the Green Light product with Spinosad - it worked great in the Houston area.

2 Likes    Bookmark   March 2, 2007 at 6:43PM
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fliptx(Houston 9)

"I can vouch for the Green Light product with Spinosad - it worked great in the Houston area."

Is that the dry bait or the liquid? I've been using the bait for a couple of days and I just got some of the liquid today.

    Bookmark   March 2, 2007 at 6:54PM
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fliptx(Houston 9)

Well I just watered the beds with molasses and sprinkled some cinnamon for good measure.

I don't know if it's doing anything to the fire ants but it's making me crave oatmeal cookies like nobody's business.

    Bookmark   March 3, 2007 at 12:06PM
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WORM CASTINGS! Fresh worm castings repells ants,..... and provides fertilizer. It last about two weeks then the effect wears off.....Sorry folks, but GEE WHIZ!, are ya'll in a kitchen or a garden??? sounds like ya'll have some happy-well fed ants... but the exploding ant thing was a realy good laugh...

    Bookmark   August 10, 2007 at 6:04PM
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I mix some beneficial nematodes right in as I am adding compost and peat moss to our raised beds every spring and late summer, then just water the gardens as usual. It doesn't get them all, but it's nothing like it was when I first started gardening in raised beds. The nematodes will head toward shadier spots eventually, but they eat plenty along the way. If you make it part of your gardening routine, you'll notice a difference.

I'm not sure if the ants explode or not with this one, but my grandfather told me to dissolve some yeast in diluted warm molasses and pour a thin circle around fire ant mounds. Not sure what happens, but the mounds will disappear overnight. Nematodes work best for us with fire ants in the yard. I just go around the perimeter of the house and the property, then criss cross the property until I've pour them all out. We might still get a few small mounds after a lot of rain, but nothing like we see up and down the street.

Will DE take care of some of the roly polies? I normally don't mind them, but I have a hard time growing beans and peas with so many in the gardens.

    Bookmark   August 10, 2007 at 11:24PM
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prairiepaintbrush(RedOak, TX z7/8)

Well, molasass worked best for me in my experiments. I tried diatomacious earth. Nothin. Orange Oil, perhaps not done properly, but it only works on contact far as I can tell. Dry molassas: them thangs vacate. My question is WHY??? Seems to me they would welcome the extra food. I scattered the molasass over the area and the next day they were gone. Dry molasass appears to be some kind of grain covered with molassas. Anyone know?

    Bookmark   August 11, 2007 at 1:18AM
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grains and grits go rancid which the ants find unpleasant. This just makes them relocate. It won't kill them. They don't explode. (BTW this also means that if you try to use an ant bait that smells like it has gone bad the ants will not eat it.)

Spinosid is the best organic fire ant killer by far and more potent than most inorganic options. Some would say it is too powerful because the ants die before it can get into the colony's internal food chain and so it often doesn't kill the colony it just cripples them for several weeks.

For outside the garden, the best is "over 'n' out" (Amdro). it works as a broadcast treatment for a year as advertised. it is like a bait that poisons to colony over time. By the time they realize they are being poisoned it's too late. The active ingredient (Fipronil) is the same as what's in the frontline treatment for pets, but in a far smaller concentration. It is not approved for veggie garden use but if you spread it on your lawn and a safe distance around your garden the ants will still find it. Don't forget to READ THE LABEL!

My recommendation would be to use the spinosid and the over 'n' out for the 2 step method. The Over'n'Out as an annual treatment and the spinosid as a spot treatment. However it all depends on your situation. If fireants only are a problem in the garden then just use spinosid there.

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

    Bookmark   September 7, 2007 at 4:23PM
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unautre(8B San Antonio TX)

One of the key functions of ant beds is to maintain a very stable temperature for the queen and eggs.

I boil a big pot of water and pour slowly over/around the ant bed. Let it soak in, and pour again. No need to add poison to the water. The heat suffices.

I've never seen an ant bed come back from my totally eco-friendly treatment. There will be some escapees but the bed itself is finito.

Another eco-friendly killer, on roaches, is to use Clorox Clean-up from a squirt bottle, rather than those nasty roach/ant aerosol sprays, which is probably as bad for us as it is for the bugs, and aggressively stinks the room horribly with what some chemist thinks is "perfume".

    Bookmark   September 7, 2007 at 4:49PM
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Oooo.. This thread made me belly laugh!

Boiling Water sure works, but what a pain in the butt! Shuffling across the yard with a boiling pot of water... and, most of my mounds are UNDER my plants roots... and boiling water can't be good for those...

I am thinking of trying the sugar or Dry molassas... I kept seeing that in the store, and thought... what the heck is that for? Ah ha!

Just good to know that we ALL fight these little %$#@!!!

    Bookmark   September 7, 2007 at 6:00PM
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west_texas_peg(8a West Cen TX)

Diatomacious Earth has been working for me. We have red ant beds that we have battled since we moved in 2004. I had one that I worked on last week and thought it was a goner but today have more ants so I go out with my bag of DE and do it again.


    Bookmark   September 8, 2007 at 6:39PM
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On the radio this morning, Howard Garett said to get artifical sweetner with aspertane to kill all kinds of ants.

    Bookmark   September 8, 2007 at 8:02PM
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I can vouch for dry spinosad baits for fire ants.

Just sprinkle it aroundand over the mound without disturbing it. The ants will come out and begin hauling the bait into the mound to feed the community. The mound will be lifeless in a day or two.

Note, The spinosad bait works best when it is dry, it it rains before the bait is taken in, you may have to reapply onced it drys out again.

I also use the Anti Fuego formula of Mollasses and orange oil for bed soaks, but do not use it often since the baits seem to be so effective at controlling the fire ant population.
I do not wish to eradicate all fire ants on my property, they do serve a purpose and there are native species. They attack grubs, catapillars and termites and when they build beds they do aerate the soil and they are decomposers. They do not belong in the yard where I, my wife or my dogs walk and stand, or in the veggie and flower beds So I control the population with the bait. Total eradication is not possible, since they are oppurtunistiic migrators. But with good cultural practices they are more of an anomaly than an invasion.

    Bookmark   September 9, 2007 at 12:27PM
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I saw a garden show that said they used dry mollasses on a 4 acre site that was full of fire ant beds everywhere and the next day they were all gone. They said it repells them and they move to another area.

    Bookmark   September 10, 2007 at 10:34PM
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dallasbill(z8a - Dallas, TX)

Fire ants a NOT a native species, nor are they beneficial. They drive off all other beneficial ant species. They were introduced sometime in the 1930s via cargo ships from South America.

1 Like    Bookmark   September 11, 2007 at 11:20AM
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RE Native Fire ants..
ThThere are native ants that are fire ants that are less aggressive. Please read this link

"Texas has more than 260 species of ants, only a few of which are household or garden
pests (see FAPFS010 for identification of non-fire ant pest ants). Many native ants, including
native fire ant species and some harmless introduced ant species, are potential or known
competitors of the red imported fire ant, Solenopsis invicta Buren (Hymenoptera: Formicidae).
Fire ant mounds or nests differ from many native/competitor ant species because they have no
central openings. Worker fire ants leave the colony using underground tunnels that open to the
surface away from the mound."
"There are six known species of fire ants (Solenopsis species of the geminata group) in the
United States, five of which are found in Texas. Of these, four are native species and the fifth is
the accidentally introduced red imported fire ant. Another imported species, the black imported
fire ant (Solenopsis richteri) does not live in Texas. Although the four native species are called
fire ants, they are much less aggressive and numerous than the imported species."

    Bookmark   September 11, 2007 at 6:22PM
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treelover(z8b SoCtrlTX)

More about fire ants at the link below. Don't miss question's even funnier than exploding ants:

"...if you can see four tiny teeth on the mandible or jaw of a fire ant, it is S. invicta. Native species possess three teeth."

Anyone know how to count an ant's teeth?

Here is a link that might be useful: Fire ant FAQs

    Bookmark   September 11, 2007 at 10:49PM
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Beneficial nematodes every 2 years has worked wonders!

    Bookmark   September 13, 2007 at 3:55PM
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Boiling water and orange oil work best for me--but both can hurt young plants.
Green Light with Spinosad works--but you need to reapply it after a rain. I'm also in Houston--trust me, the bait just floats away.

unatre: "Another eco-friendly killer, on roaches, is to use Clorox Clean-up from a squirt bottle"
Sorry, there's nothing eco-friendly about Clorox--read the label.

    Bookmark   September 14, 2007 at 4:57PM
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prairiepaintbrush(RedOak, TX z7/8)

Hey, yeah, beneficial nematodes are supposed to work well. I'm afraid of what they do to fireflies, but we don't have those here anyway.

I don't care what any publication says, there were no fire ants until they came here on a boat from Brazil or wherever. Perhaps they used to call the big red ants, the primary food for the endangered horny toad, fire ants, but now fire ants are the interlopers and they are BADBADBAD. Black and red, numerous, and boiling out of their mounds at the slightest provocation just dying to cover up your feet and bite the #$^%^& out of you. Evil, bad fireants.

    Bookmark   September 15, 2007 at 9:16PM
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Go to the dollar store and get the cheapest dishwashing liguid they have. Pour it around the base of the mound
and then the center. Works everytime. I'v used it in
South Texas and in the Dallas area.

    Bookmark   May 21, 2008 at 10:13AM
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I have a raised bed and have vidalia onions planted and just discovered that almost the entire area is nothing but ants. Can't do the hot water thing cause I don't want to ruin the plants. I also don't want to poison myself by using pesticides. I wonder what would happen if I just left them alone until I harvested the they destroy the plants themselves?

    Bookmark   May 21, 2008 at 10:34AM
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I heard Neil Sperry on the radio the other day & he said Green Light has a new organic fire ant killer that is safe to use in the vegetable garden. It sounds like Logic or something similar, ant birth control.

I've been using beneficial nematodes but can't tell it's working.

    Bookmark   May 21, 2008 at 11:01AM
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Personally I kind of like the aeration but I noticed some time ago that I never get a colony where there is coarse mulch. Perhaps because it's such a chore to move through the stuff.



    Bookmark   May 21, 2008 at 12:10PM
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O.K. I tried the white sugar bit on the massive ant bed I have under my onions in my raised bed. Yesterday just sprinkling the sugar on the bed brought them out in droves all over everything. Today they are much much more sluggish and much less of them than before. I am shocked because I thought I would just have fat ants.

1 Like    Bookmark   May 22, 2008 at 10:45AM
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Ann_in_Houston(z9 Houston)

I have had consistent good luck with the bait traps that you can buy in the grocery store. I've used Combat and Raid, and Ortho. You can put them wherever you see the ants. It doesn't have to be at the bed. They aren't marked on the package for outdoor use, but I've never had them fail in the outdoors or inside. The poison is contained, so it doesn't hurt your veggies and it kills the whole colony, in my experience. I also haven't noticed the mound just being moved over, either. Even if you have lots and lots of ants, you don't have to put some proportional number of them out, so it won't break the bank. The ants that visit the trap bring the bait to the queen, so it kills the whole mound. They aren't cheap, but they aren't prohibitively expensive if you don't have to use a ton of them.
They are also safe to use around dogs and cats, as there doesn't seem to be anything in them that draws pets to try to eat them.

    Bookmark   May 22, 2008 at 7:53PM
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beneficial nematodes work great for me!

    Bookmark   May 22, 2008 at 8:15PM
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Gardener972(7b-8a DFW)

I'd be careful about putting orange oil in your garden as it may leave you with a dead spot for future years. What about Amdro in a lid and they come get it and take it to the queen. That way, you're not putting it in the garden. It's also very low toxicity and a super short half-life. It will sterilize the queen.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2008 at 11:29PM
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White sugar works!!!! 3 days after I put it around my onions on a massive ant bed they are gone g-o-n-e- gone!!! No trace and I am shocked. Who'd of thunk it.....sugar of all things...thanks jackie.

1 Like    Bookmark   May 24, 2008 at 2:22PM
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I am shocked because I thought I would just have fat ants. ROFLOL

Hey, if it worked for you, I'm going to try it right now!

    Bookmark   June 28, 2008 at 4:29PM
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coffee grinds gets rid of ants for me

    Bookmark   June 28, 2008 at 9:54PM
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White sugar worked for me too, I poured about a cup over a 3'x2' area. It took about 3 days for them to go. I don't know if they died or just relocated... but they aren't in my veggie garden anymore!

1 Like    Bookmark   June 30, 2008 at 2:53PM
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roxy_girl(7b Weatherford TX)

I waged a unholy war on the little buggers for the last 2 years and what I found that has finally worked best for me is the "Amdro Fire Strike"! I added a whole bag to my grass seed (I have a huge yard so I had to use 4 bags of the stuff which is $20 a pop but worth every penny!!!) this spring and spread it over my entire yard and I do believe I have won the war! Of course my neighbors who do nothing to their yards are no help so I still have to spot treat the ants that wonder in from their yards....*grrrrrrrr* I have raised veggie beds and I spread it all around them and thus far no ants of any kind in my beds.

    Bookmark   July 8, 2008 at 2:35PM
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Well, I never had good luck with the boiling water and sure gave it my best try. I'd find the dead bodies neatly piled up on top of the hive and the hive back in business the next day.

If you have them in the garden, no doubt you keep it fairly well watered. The nemotodes are probably your best line of long-term defense along with diotomaceous earth on the outside of the hive. The special nemotodes attack only the baby ants but as long as they are getting some moisture in the soil, they can continue to do their job. They don't like dry conditions. The diatomaceous earth should work on eliminating the adults. Dia earth takes a while, must be reapplied after rains or watering, but I am a strong believer in it.

    Bookmark   July 8, 2008 at 6:26PM
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I put used coffee grinds in the vegetable garden. Works just fine.


    Bookmark   July 10, 2008 at 1:39AM
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I just started a veggie garden my child and I was pulling out the weeds and we was eat up by fire ants.I have read all this good advice on how to kill fire ants,we are going to try diatomaceous wish us luck and thank you.

Trish M

    Bookmark   June 4, 2009 at 4:41PM
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Someone here posted to put a 5 gal bucket over the mound, let it build up inside, carefully remove the bucket and then drench with molasses. I had dh cut the bottom off a 5 gal bucket and am going to try that, with the lid on. Then I don't have to disturb them any by removing the bucket, just take off the lid & fill with the molasses stuff.

    Bookmark   June 4, 2009 at 6:02PM
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On impulse, I put a thick layer of spearmint trimmings on top of a mound the other day.

By the time the spearmint shriveled & turned brown, the mound was gone.

    Bookmark   June 5, 2009 at 2:00PM
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Coffee grinds are my weapon as well. Nothing is easier in my opinion.


    Bookmark   June 7, 2009 at 8:41PM
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I have a similar problem I can't seem to get them to leave. However, a good cure for the bites is a paste made from apple cider vinegar and baking soda. You won't even know you been biten. Just apply it knock it off when dry and reapply.

    Bookmark   June 8, 2009 at 6:15PM
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How would I use the white sugar? Just sprinkle it on the garden?

This is my first vegetable garden and I go out every morning (and afternoon and evening) to look at my garden. This morning I went out and these ants started stinging my feet. I was just standing there and they attacked.

I realized they must be fireants. I've never seen them before being from another part of the country where they aren't common. And I have to concur that they are really evil little things.

I am really panicked that they are going to get in my house so I'd like to try sprinkling the sugar on the garden tonight. Will it hurt my veggies at all and how much sugar do I use?

    Bookmark   May 20, 2010 at 7:55PM
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Welcome to Texas! I too was welcomed here by a fire ant mound which attacked my 3 year old (who just froze in place and screamed as they covered her legs). By the time I figured out why she was screaming, she had hundreds of welts and I had no idea how to treat them. I put her in a cold bath with ice cubes and called the doctor. For the next 10 years we all wore cowboy boots to go outside :-).

I've never tried sugar but I plan to after reading this! I imagine you just sprinkle it around like you are sowing grass seed and I doubt it could do any harm to your veggies.

A word of caution for anyone using Diatomaceous earth, please be very careful to not breath any in (imagine millions of tiny razor blades entering your lungs). Likewise, keep it away from children.

    Bookmark   May 21, 2010 at 8:35AM
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I did have a lot of fire ants in my vegetable garden, but not since I used Diatomaceous earth and white sugar. I don't know which one worked, but we have no more fire ant problems. These ants had been eating our peas and okra. We would get ant stings picking the peas. Several months ago I bought 250 pounds of Diatomaceous earth for our scorpion problem. It is the food grade type in 50 pound bags. It kills scorpions when they walk through it and I noticed it kill just about all insects sooner or later. I did use a lot on the peas and okra since we have a lot. I have about 30 okra plants and 2 rows about 20 foot long each of peas so I must have used 10 pounds. I put a few cups of sugar around the base of the okra plants. It only took 24 hours for the ant to totally disappear from the garden.

    Bookmark   August 22, 2010 at 10:30PM
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fire ants are not evil, especially not compared to some of yall's comments.

how would you feel if someone stepped on and destroyed your home? you would rush out and try to save your loved ones and bite the trespasser to get him to stay away.

ok, but i'm a hypocrite since they did bite my little girl, I used sugar and they have relocated, lol.

    Bookmark   August 26, 2010 at 2:58PM
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carrie751(z7/8 TX)

I would say they need to build their home elsewhere, not on MY property.

    Bookmark   August 26, 2010 at 3:16PM
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I've been noticing a lot of fire ants lately, and they find the cat food as soon as the cat walks away. They seldom go after the Amdro anymore either.

So I have been putting a couple of pieces of cat food (dry) on a rock or something near the ant mound, and surround it with Amdro. They are attracted by the cat food and take all the Amdro as well. Next day, no fire ants.

    Bookmark   August 26, 2010 at 11:57PM
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sam_mcgowan(Z9 TX)

Fire ants are killed by bait, which is sprinkled on the hills and then they take it into the ground and wipe out the whole colony. It's not used on plants and has no effect on them or their fruit. Bait is the only thing I've found that will get rid of them. I've got ant bites on both my ankles because I didn't check before I went out to till a few days ago.

    Bookmark   September 7, 2010 at 4:35PM
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After reading this thread a few weeks ago, and facing a problem of ants in my raised bed, I called my local Starbucks, and they had a fresh bag of grounds for me. They even loaded my car for me, about 50 lbs. I sprinkled most of it on my 4'x8' bed, and they seemed to go away, but today as I planted some marigolds, they swarmed again from the same spot. Now I'm off to try the sugar, and tomorrow I'll get some diatomaceous earth. ARGH. I'm bummed the coffee didn't work, but I sure was awake while spreading the grounds and tilling it in!

    Bookmark   April 6, 2011 at 8:12PM
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Got this in my email from Howard Garrett's weekly newsletter:

The fire ant control program that I have recommended for years and many people have used with great success is as follows:

1. Apply dry molasses at 20 lbs. per 1000 square feet. This single step eliminates the pest completely in most cases.

2. Drench problem mounds with the Mound Drench formula - orange oil, molasses and compost tea. Commercial products are available.

3. Apply beneficial nematodes. These beneficial worms also help control termites, grubs, fleas, ticks and other soil inhabiting pests.

More detailed info on fire ant control can be found here:

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

    Bookmark   April 6, 2011 at 10:21PM
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I have mounds that pop up periodically in my veggie beds. I'm trying to go completely organic and this year have been using Howard Garrett's fire ant mound drench recipe (I use 2 oz each of molasses, orange oil, compost tea in 1 1/2 gallons of water). It works really well for me. Two notes of caution about it, however. First, the earthworms don't seem to like it. I stand over it for about ten minutes and hand pick the earthworms that surface so I can relocate them (Not sure whether they make it after that or not). Second, it will burn the foliage of your plants pretty bad. Seedlings are pretty much goners if you pour it on them. Bigger plants will survive, but if they're ready to harvest you might as well before you pour it. I haven't tried it around root veggies, so I'm not sure what it does to them.

Also, it smells really nice.

    Bookmark   April 7, 2011 at 7:58AM
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Try Club Soda, it worked for me. I was surprised and it kept the mound from splitting. A friend had told me to use 1 liter of club soda or urine. I opted for club soda for obvious reasons.

    Bookmark   April 15, 2011 at 12:50PM
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My raised-bed vegetable garden (and I) fell victim to fire ants yesterday. They got me good while I was on my hands and needs working with some transplants. After doing an abstract dance in my backyard I rushed inside and got on the internet with vengeance on my mind. I found this great thread and loved the idea of exploding fire ants! LOL. After further research I did confirm it is the fact that the grits go rancid that drives the ants away and it does not kill them (which I gleefully admit I desired).

I found this great article on the topic of spinosad (pronounced spin-OH-sid). It mentions the fact that fire ants avoid rancid food and also the orange oil as a direct method to take on ant mounds.

I also found a good link from Dow Agrosiences on the organic pesticide:

Spinosad is very interesting and new to the market and get this... it is "derived from a naturally occurring soil dwelling bacterium called Saccharopolyspora spinosa, a rare actinomycete reportedly collected from soil in an abandoned rum distillery on a Caribbean Island in 1982 by a scientist on vacation!" And there you have it; vacations are good for gardening.

I went to the local feed and seed store and bought some Spinosad and applied it this morning, with glee I might add. I'll post the results later.


    Bookmark   April 20, 2011 at 12:02PM
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A quick fix is soapy water they dehydrate when their waxy coating washes off in a matter of seconds.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2011 at 1:03AM
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aspartame artificial sweetener works like a charm and it's cheap! Just buy the packets in the box in the baking isle and sprinkle it on. Not sure what it does, but we assume they eat it and it just wipes them out in no time.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2011 at 9:34AM
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I tried corn meal yesterday, and while I don't know if the mold thing is working yet, I do know they are gathering it. I picked up a couple of rocks today and there were little collections of corn meal under them.

    Bookmark   April 29, 2011 at 7:49PM
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Last year my grandson step in a mound of fire ants and minutes later he was swollen all over, we carried him to the hospital and the doctor said if he had been any later getting there he would have died,I am also allerige to stings,so please watch small childern around them and pets, a freind had them to get in to her dog house and bite her dog to death , these little buggers are mean,I feed them grits, I carry a small bag out when walking my little dog and pour it on mounds that I find, I HATE these monsters,my hubsand sprays them two or three times each year but we still find little mounds of them between spraying so I use the gris, I don't think anything really rids you of them,if you know of something email me.

    Bookmark   May 2, 2011 at 6:38PM
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Beneficial nematodes WILL get rid of them - but you must buy them from a reputable source. They must get them from the refrigerator when you buy them because if they are on the shelf, they will be dead, they must be kept cold. You must follow the directions for application to your yard carefully. Also, you must water your yard every week or 10 days, if it does not rain, because the nemtodes will die if the soil becomes completely dried out. I have used them on my yard for the past 10 years, and I have never seen any fire ants in my yard with one caveat. I found them living in the little balls that form on my Red Oak tree. Those fire ants are crafty little buggers! But I have NO mounds, and NO ants in the ground in my yard. Here is some information on beneficial nematodes.

Beneficial Nematodes - Organic Insect Control
Beneficial nematodes are underground pest hunters that control over 250 different species of insects that spend some part of their lives underground. They are a very efficient organic insect control method and kill most insects before they become adults. This includes lots of common lawn and garden pests such as grubs, fleas, mole crickets, japanese beetles and weevils.

Beneficial Nematodes - Just what are they?
The beneficial nematode is a small microsopic worm that lives below the soil. It is generally clear or white in color and has no segments like earthworms do. There are over 20,000 different kinds of nematodes that live in the soil and a small handful of dirt will generally contain thousands of them. Nematodes are considered parasites and can affect a number of different plants and animals. Some species of nematodes are considered pests, but these are not the same species of beneficial nematodes used to control insects.

How effective are nematodes as natural predators?
When a beneficial nematode attacks an insect larvae or grub it enters the body of its host. Generally within 48 hours that host insect will either die, be physically altered or unable to produce. The Steinernema and Heterorhabditis strains of nematode carry a bacteria that generally kills its host insect in quick fashion. The beneficial nematode then moves onto another host.

What sort of conditions does it require?
Beneficial nematodes live in almost any soil, but they prefer moist soil

    Bookmark   May 2, 2011 at 10:50PM
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texann(z8 Austin)

rowdysmom, I am encouraged to hear that the nematodes really work in controlling the fire ants. I learned that recently from a guy who has a lawn care business and uses organics. I just applied them for the first time a couple weeks ago and am waiting to see if it makes a difference in the number of fire ants.

    Bookmark   May 3, 2011 at 3:40AM
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Hi Texann! It WILL make a difference, I promise. It will take about a month, if I remember correctly back to the first time I applied them (~10-12 years ago). You may still find them snarking around like I did, up in my Red Oak tree living in the little balls. Who would have thought they would do that! I just moved to a home on a half acre. I haven't applied them yet to my new yard (I'm waiting till my vacations are over for the summer) so I am fighting them left and right with diatamaceous earth, boiling water and the like. I cannot wait to get the beneficial nematodes on my yard so I can stop.

    Bookmark   May 3, 2011 at 7:52AM
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I have been using fire-ant poison with some results, but recently i had some old Clorox, so added about a cup full on top of the poison. I figured the smell would irritate them, and, it has worked a lot better than i figured it would!

    Bookmark   June 30, 2011 at 1:01AM
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So glad I found this thread! I am on an acre in NW Louisiana and we have fought fire ants the entire time we've been here :( My husband has been pouring boiling water on any mounds we find and it does work (though I do think they just relocate), but this is my first time ever having a vegetable garden (yay, me!!) and I'm doing raised beds. This morning while I was out watering and poking around I noticed a crap load of ants in my beds! At first, I just saw some randomly crawling on the sides of the beds, not in any sort of organized line leading to anything, then I saw a whole slew of them around my plants (mostly around my sweet peppers. do you think they like sweet peppers more?) Do they actually harm the plants, or are they just a nuisance to the gardener?
I'm not going to pour boiling water around my plants, so after reading through this entire thread, I think I will try the least expensive and easiest method: SUGAR! I am assuming that I should just sprinkle it all over the bed? I am also assuming that I should do it when the soil is dry, so as not to 'melt' the sugar? Any thoughts?

    Bookmark   April 16, 2013 at 11:19AM
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I like the boiling water idea. I'm afraid of everything because my chickens might eat it and die. Yes, this is a bit weird but when I have almost finished my beer, I dump the rest all over an ant bed. Don't know though if it actually kills the little creeps or if they just move out but they're gone the next day. Wonder if boiling water would hurt roots though. hmmm

    Bookmark   April 19, 2013 at 5:18PM
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The best contact system I find is water with a few drops of dish soap, washes of their waxy protection and they die there and then.

    Bookmark   April 20, 2013 at 10:25AM
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Good idea Wally...I'll try that!

    Bookmark   April 23, 2013 at 4:35PM
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I know spinosad works but now want to try sugar. Another option for keeping ants off plants like okra, citrus etc. is tangle foot. I like to use the flagging tape and rap the trunk of the tree with it then spread the tangle foot on the flagging tape. It wont kill the ants but keeps them from farming the aphids on the plants and gives the lady bugs a chance to eat them. That plus spinosad is winning recipe for me. You have to watch overspray on Spinosad because reguardless of what it says it does kill beneficals. I spray it to help control Thrips on my blueberry plants and after spraying there are no lady bugs or lacewings to be found. Kills them all!!! Be cautious how you use it.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2013 at 3:47AM
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I found this site while looking for a way to get rid of fire ants who have decided to enter the electrical system on my water well and are shutting my water off daily. I really wish the grits worked, because I'm having to fight red wasps as well as fire ants in the same location. There would be some justice in watching the fire ants blow up. I'm going to try the Green Light stuff as soon as I can get to a home improvement store. I've used several types of fire ant killer and I've had no success so far. I'm glad to have some advice on a more Eco-friendly way to combat these things. My 4 year old and I have been stung many times. We live on an acre of land in NW Louisiana and we deal with the fire ants every time we go outside. I wanted to check a small tree the other day to see if the dirt around it was moist and put my fingers down around the base of the small tree where I couldn't see because the grass had grown up a bit, pulled my hand out and it was covered in fire ants. I couldn't even see a mound! I know I can't put anything like orange oil on my water wells electrical points, but I hope putting something around the base will work. Keeping my fingers crossed!

    Bookmark   September 6, 2013 at 10:16AM
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Sheila, our HVAC guy told us to get a cattle ear tag from the feed store and tie it inside the a/c unit somewhere and it will keep out fire ants. If there is any space inside your electric housing, you might try that too.

    Bookmark   September 10, 2013 at 1:29PM
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White sugar is what I'd like to try. I am starting a Lasagne Garden and have lots of fire ants in the area. Do I just put it on the top of the garden or should I also put it in the layers? THANKS!

    Bookmark   February 7, 2014 at 11:35AM
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Simple Dollar Store "Lemon" Dish soap and a hose end sprayer
Cover every square inch of ground when you spray.
If you have trees,hit the bark as high as you can reach.
Adding Lemon scented ammonia(1c ea equal parts in 20g sprayer) to the mix is a mosquito's worst nightmare.
aka:Buzz Buster Lemonade
You must spray 3 times a week for effective eradication after rainy periods.

Grits DO WORK if you use the "INSTANT" grits,you must use the instant version.
The ants eat,the moisture inside them expands the grain faster then they can digest.
Im sure its a painful death,but they do not explode.

This post was edited by TNKS on Sat, Feb 8, 14 at 15:50

    Bookmark   February 8, 2014 at 3:45PM
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Sounds good to me. Especially like getting rid of mosquitos too!

    Bookmark   February 8, 2014 at 4:11PM
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I haven't tried it yet but my favorite way of getting rid of them is to pour molten aluminum (from cans or whatever) on them. You have the satisfaction of knowing they are definitely dead plus you get a nice commemorative statue of their obliteration.

    Bookmark   February 2, 2015 at 8:27PM
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coffee grounds work very well. In addition they repel snails, slugs and many other pests in your garden. Best part is they are free from Starbucks

    Bookmark   February 6, 2015 at 10:45AM
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