UACES Facebook Ants
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August 26, 2017

QuestionI have a young Rose of Sharon, variegated, that has ants all over new blooms.  Can I spray it with something or is there nothing to be concerned about?



I bet you have a lot of aphids as well. Aphids give off a very sweet substance called honeydew which ants are attracted to.  Occasionally, ants will even be “aphid ranchers” and manage the aphid population.  A strong spray of water or insecticidal soap should do the trick.


March 25, 2017

QuestionWe want to plant some tomatoes in large pots. Fire ants are in some of the pots as the soil was left in pots since last growing season.  If we put Fire Ant killer in pots, does the poison go into the tomatoes?



Any insecticide you are using around vegetable plants has to be labeled for use on edibles.  Since it is in pots, why not just dispose of the soil in the containers, clean them thoroughly with a bleach solution and use new soil.  That would prevent you from getting attacked as well.  If they are too large and you don’t want to invest in more soil another option would be to flood the soil and seal the container in plastic and leave it covered for a few weeks to smother them out, but fire ants can be tenacious.  


November 12, 2016

QuestionWe have a small raised bed where we grow onions, green beans and a few tomato plants each summer.   When we pulled out the border of marigolds recently we discovered a fire ant nest. What is safe to use against fire ants in an area where you grow edible plants? 


 AnswerIf you are done with the vegetable garden for the year you could use a fire ant killer, because there should be ample time between application and planting next spring. However if you are still gardening, try pouring boiling water on the mound.  Be careful when using this, so you don’t get hurt.  There are also several baits that are growth regulators that can be applied on the perimeter of the vegetable garden, but these can take a while to work, so it is probably too late to use for this season. As temperatures cool off, fire ants slow down in their activity and move deeper in the soil or protected areas to overwinter.  When applying any insecticide always read and follow the label directions.


October 2007

Question How do we keep red ants out of potted plants? I have two hibiscuses in pots along with a couple of other plants, prepared by a gardener who works in a local nursery. I had them put together about one and a half years ago to spruce up the front entrance of my daughter¹s apt. I have them now at my place. One of them has had blossoms and the other hasn¹t. Today the ants were milking the aphids on the buds! Ants are such a problem. I want to put pots on my steps but the ants always find there way under the pot.

AnswerAnts must crawl up the pots so using some type of physical barrier can keep them at bay. The above mentioned Tanglefoot can be applied to a band and then put around the pot—the ants can’t cross it. I have also had gardeners use the hot pepper wax as a barrier and even Vaseline. It is not unusual to find ants ‘herding’ aphids. They love the sweet honeydew the aphids give off.

January 2010

Question I have received several emails from friends and associates about a new cure for fire ants. Would you please consider looking into this assertion which follows: an environmentally friendly cure for fire ants has been announced. Simply pour two cups of CLUB SODA (carbonated water) directly in the center of a fire ant mound. The carbon dioxide in the water is heavier than air and displaces the oxygen which suffocates the queen and the other ants. The whole colony will be dead within about two days. Besides eliminating the ants, club soda leaves no poisonous residue, does not contaminate the ground water, and does not indiscriminately kill other insects. It is not harmful to your pets, soaks into the ground. Each mound must be treated individually and a one liter bottle of club soda will kill 2 to 3 mounds.

AnswerI have gotten the same emails and also a bunch of questions from interested gardeners. It has also been making the rounds in other fire ant states, and a response has actually been posted on the national eXtension site at I posed the question to our entomologists and the overall opinion seems to be that it might make them move during the growing season but the chances of it actually killing fire ants is slim to none. The best control of fire ants is to use the UA Extension recommended 2-step program which you can view at: This would be done during the growing season when the insects are active.

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