fire ants in raised vegetable planter

Alexander City, AL

I have a raised planter that is 8' x 4' in which I have planted mostly tomatoes. Ants have invaded. I think they are fire ants. Will they harm the tomatoes? Or not? I do not want to use any chemicals into the raised bed. Can I just live with them, or will they harm the tomato plants?

Thanks.

Gainesville, FL(Zone 8b)

It all depends on just what sort of ants they are. Some ants are relatively harmless, but still don't care much for sharing space, which can be a problem - especially if they actually are fire ants. You won't have much fun growing vegetables when you can only be near the bed for a few seconds at a time.

Other ants can cause other problems. Ants that are attracted to sweets can get into "fruiting" vegetables like tomatoes, and some will even encourage and protect aphids to live on your plants. I've even heard of (but never seen) ants that maintain aphid "farms" on the underground parts of plants.

Hahira, GA(Zone 8b)

BPlum - In my experience, fire ants do NOT like dried molasses, which I buy at the local feed store. It is used as horse feed. The bonus (& what I use it for) is it is GREAT fertilizer - all natural, & not harmful to anything - plus, it can't burn your plants!! It will likely just "chase" the fire ants out of your raised bed onto the surrounding ground, but, then you could spread granules or something, without having to worry about the chemicals in your bed. I would also cover a WIDE swath of the surrounding ground with the molasses, making the fire ants go further away before spreading granules!

Cleveland, GA(Zone 7a)

I have had ant hills in my veggies before, and would not use chemicals. I boiled a pot of water and slowly poured it on the anthill. The boiling water travels down to the queen and kills her, killing the whole mound. Doesn't cost anything, worth a try!

Alexander City, AL

Graceful, I tried the dried molasses two weeks ago and now no sign of ants. First, we dug up the fire ant bed, deposited it far away from the veggie planter, and sprayed them to instantly kill them (what can you do? At least it was instant.) We then incorporated dry molasses (got from local feed store) into the 8 x 4 planter, and around its periphery. Today I couldn't find any ants in the planter. Thank you so much for this wonderful tip. I found more detailed information on this product online also.

My future plan is to always use a little of this in the planter and to spread it around the periphery to discourage the ants from coming back - or so I hope.

Camilla, GA(Zone 8a)

I hope the molasses thing works for you, but the ants around here love our horse and goat feeds..They are a big problem..

Larkie

Alexander City, AL

I had hoped the dried molasses would work, but after another week, the ants were back in droves. I've now heard that worm castings might kill them. Anyone knowledgeable about this? thanks.

Deep East Texas, TX(Zone 8a)

I would be opposed to using chemicals in the flower pot but to keep fire ants out you might use the chemicals on the soil under the pot. You may have to relocate the pot to an area where you do not grow edibles.

Start with new soil and treat the ground under the pot. That is the only way I have been successful at discouraging fireants from taking up residence. I've had them move in even when a pot is sitting on concrete.

TAMU was working with an organic treatment of orange peelings. There was something in the rind that seemed to be a repellant. To date I've not heard if it worked and have heard of no other organic treatment for those vicious buggers. Good luck for next year!

(Judy) Simpsonville, SC(Zone 8a)

There is a product sold by Gardens Alive that is supposed to repel ants and is organically based. I've never used it but I think it's formulated for indoors or out.

Alexander City, AL

Thanks SC - I'll look for that product.

Snellville, GA(Zone 7b)

Quote from BPlum :
I have a raised planter that is 8' x 4' in which I have planted mostly tomatoes. Ants have invaded. I think they are fire ants. Will they harm the tomatoes? Or not? I do not want to use any chemicals into the raised bed. Can I just live with them, or will they harm the tomato plants?

Thanks.



Plum...I've had them in my pots and planting beds. I left them alone in the pots that they invaded and they didn't seem to harm the plants at all. In fact they seemed to help the aeration of the soil. I watered right over them and the water seeped right in. Of course the hill was back again next day. Since then I've left them alone and never had any bad effects on the tomatoes. Now I do say I have gotten bitten couple of times when I was trying to pull out a stray weed in the pot, but other than that I think they are beneficial to a certain extent and I don't have to poison anything.

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