Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Controlling Ants in Your Garden

Controlling ants is essential for the successful gardener. And since "they" have taken away some of our best tools for control, I believe the following article, taken from Weidners' Gardens website at is very valuable for all of us to understand. The article looks much better by going to their site, but here are the words.

The Battle of Ants vs Gardeners

Ants in the Garden, Ants in your House

This is a Weidners' Gardens 'Learning Page'

Keep on reading to find out:

Why controlling ants in the garden is essential to healthy plants.
Understanding the lifestyle of the Ant.
The best Ant Control Product Available.

Meet the Argentine Ant

This little ant or more accurately the millions of ants that probably live rent free in your yard is very probably the Argentine ant. These ants are the kings and queens of the jungle, your garden and almost everywhere else.

Very smart, hard working and very hungry, these little insects stand between you and effective control of the bad insects that damage the beautiful plants in your garden. Unless you control the ants in your garden your chances of success with beneficial insects and other pest control measures are doomed to failure.

The most favorite food of the Argentine ant is the sweet honeydew that aphids, mealybugs, whiteflies and other garden insects secrete.

Ants will do anything to keep this supply of yummy food available. They will actively attack beneficial insects that threaten their food supply. They spread both the insects and their eggs to other plants in your garden.

If your goal is to have healthy plants without using large quantities of pesticides then your first and most important job is to control the ants.

Common quote from our customers......."Get rid of the Ants? You must be kidding, my house is built on an ant hill!!"

Yes, you are right your house is built on an ant hill, more likely a dozen ant hills.

At Weidners Gardens we started researching all we could into the life cycles of ants, natural ant control measures and what really works . We've found what appears to be the very best ant killer that is also environmentally friendly, low toxicity and actually kills most of your ants. .

The clear winner is a product called Maxforce. The very best ant killer available and you can buy it as granules, bait stations or Ant Gel at Weidners Gardens This is a commercial product used by professionals and is not very easily found in most nurseries or stores. You can order directly from Maxforce by going to This is a really good place to learn all about ants, rats, roaches and other gross things. I would suggest that California folks particularly read everything on the Argentine Ants which is usually the Ant that is out in your garden.

The bottom line as I read it is that if you want to control Argentine ants outside you need to use IPM or integrated pest management. That means a combination of low toxic almost non=toxic Maxforce and some very careful and targeted spraying with pesticides especially for ants.

They have a whole range of products that you can order direct from them but the information that you will get is both depressing and useful.

RATS,Rats,Rats...this is the summer for rats in Southern California because of all the rain we have had. The nursery is no exception and I am after those Rats with a vengeance. If rats are one of your problems read the Maxforce section on rats. Too gross but knowledge is power. If you want to know how I am doing in the rat crusade send me an email or come in. I may never win but a lot of rats are going die too!

In the research tests, Maxforce killed from 92% to 99% of the Argentine Ants within 10 days. Maxforce comes in a special fishmeal/silkworm pupae base that is especially effective in killing the maximum percentage of ants. Because this is a protein base, Maxforce can reach all ant life stages. Maxforce also acts quickly to give some immediate knockdown to forager* ants.

Bait stations seem to be the preferred method and are the least toxic and safest use. Granules are very good for use outdoors and a little bit goes a long way

*See Ant Trails

Maxforce We'll have it available at the nursery along with more information. if you live outside of the Southern California area you can buy the Maxforce products over the internet now or by going directly to the Maxforce website

760-436-2194, fax 760-436-3681, E-mail to staff@...

Follow the Ant Trail... If you like to learn more about life cycles, how ants find your food so quickly and other interesting hints on eliminating ants problems from your house and garden follow the Ant Trails below.

Ant Trail .............Did you ever wonder how the ants find that food you left on the counter so quickly? One minute there is not an ant around and a few hours later there are millions of them swarming all over.

Here is the answer: When a scout ant leaves the nest it weaves all over, back and forth looking for insect honeydew, sweets, proteins, foods & water...anything good! As soon as that something good is found the scout ant turns around and makes the straightest most direct trail back to base camp (the nest) leaving a scent trail for other ants. This scent is called a 'pheromone' and is used by all sorts of insects.

Each ant that follows the trail to the food source reinforces the path with ever more pheromones...soon the path is so strong that millions of ants are following it right into your kitchen!

What about homemade killers like boric acid, chalk, glass cleaners, talcum powder, Diatomaceous earth etc. What about Diazanon and Dursban? We used to have them but they are no longer available...Sorry

Let's look at them one at a time. They all have advantages & disadvantages.

Boric Acid in a sugar base. One of the best of the homemade controls. Boric Acid in a sugar syrup or mixed with sugar is right up there at the top of the research results. Not always consistent results. sometimes it worked well, other times not as well. It's certainly the cheapest way to go. Sugar baits can give a quick knockdown but do not usually reach all the stages of ant life.

In one of the research trials the boric acid had killed fewer ants than the pure peanut butter control....however in a longer trial boric acid killed all of the Pharaoh ants, queens and all within 7 weeks. In my own yard, I had great great results in one spot, no more ants for about 6 or 7 months. In another spot in the same yard, same
mixture...used over and over again and it seemed to have no results at all???

Diatomaceous earth. This natural product is made up of microscopic very sharp pieces. It is a very good barrier against ants & snails. Making a circle around citrus trees can be one of your tools to keep the ants away. Chinese chalk and talcum powder probably work the same way. If ants are coming in to your garden from a neighbor a barrier of Diatomaceous earth can help. Be careful not to breathe in the dust.

Windex and other glass cleaners do a quick job of discouraging ants in the home. The ants often return as soon as you turn your back.

If you must use pesticides spray only on the ground or part way up the trunk of citrus trees to avoid killing the good bugs too.

Handy Hint: The professionals say not to use other ant killing products at the same time as you use Maxforce. You can ruin all the good that Maxforce is doing. Don't get impatient!

Don't forget that just because you make something in your kitchen doesn't mean it is not toxic. Boric acid is a poison and should be used carefully just like any other toxic substance. Always be careful and keep everything out of the reach of children and pets. Sugar syrups especially can be tempting. Always read all the directions on a product and follow them.

Come into the nest & meet the family.

Argentine Ants.......

In the garden and often in the house the ant you are most likely to meet in California is the Argentine Ant. The came in illegally on coffee ships from Brazil in 1891. The Argentine Ant is very aggressive and chases out most of the other ants around.

Argentine ants nest outside under rocks, sidewalks, driveways, under wood....almost anywhere in your garden. They make multiple nests. They also like to make nests right at the base of plants. You already know that ...just look in the garden.

Did you know that they also have multiple queens in each nest? That the time it takes from egg to adult is from 33 to 141 days. Average about 75 days. All during the winter they are just multiplying away underground ready
to come out as soon as the warm weather starts.

Did you know that about 60% of eggs are actually eaten by the worker ants. The ants you see are called forager ants. they bring back the food supply to the nest. Argentine ants like sweets best, but they also are attracted to proteins. The queen and the larvae need proteins. All the ants free lunch in the ant world. The ants in the nest are busy feeding the larvae and the queen.

Argentine ants are very social, they move from nest to nest, often making new nests as needed. Each nest can have 5 or 6 queens, all busy laying more and more eggs! This is why it is never possible to get rid of all the ants. these little critters just are smarter and breed faster than anything you can do. With work you can keep them under control and give the beneficial insects a chance to do their work.

Pharoah Ants.....This is the other ant that we see in Southern California. Smaller that the black argentine ant and more reddish brown in color, Pharoah ants usually nest inside of a building.

Their favorite food base is a protein base, peanut butter, peanut oil, the greasy food you left on the counter! It is easier to get complete control of Pharoah ants since there is a limit to how many sub-nests they can form.

Maxforce and -

How safe are these new products?

.....Compared to many of the pesticide products used for ant control these have a very low toxicity. They carry only a 'warning' label telling you to keep out of reach of children, pets, use gloves to apply etc. They tell you to keep pets away from areas treated with the granules for 24 hours. Actually the granules are so small and
you use so little that I think the warning is mostly to cover all the bases. [Like the warning not to drop the hair dryer in the tub while you are in it. Duh!!]

The bait stations are the safest way to go. Bait stations can be used indoors, in food areas, hospitals any place you find ants. In relative terms of toxicity they are among the lowest and safest you can find.

Final note:

In the battle of the ants against the gardeners you can win the battles, but you will never win the war!!
Remember: the aim of Integrated Pest Management and organic pest control is not to eliminate all the pests in the garden. The aim is to keep them in balance. You will temporarily knock down the ants. That's great! Give them some time and you will find they have returned. This is a war of battles and just be grateful when you win
some of them.



Post a Comment

<< Home