Exterminating ant colony without killing vegetation

So I’ve got several plants ready to transplant into the ground, and I was digging up the grass around where I’m going to make the garden. Small problem though - there’s a sapling in the way which didn’t quite make it last year. I dig it up and notice something moving on the roots. well…several small somethings. Several hundred small somethings. Ants. I cringe and throw the tree, and notice that there’s even more ants in the ground. Now I have a bottle of boric acid from a previous indoor ant raid that I thought of using, but I don’t want to damage the plants I’m putting in the ground there. Then I remember that boric acid in small amounts can be used in fertilizer (or at least so I read in a book last week). Unfortunately, I don’t know how much I can use without damaging the plants, or even if that’s enough to kill the ants. So what’s the quickest way to get rid of the ants and transplant the plants soon after. Or should the design for the garden just be moved while I load the ground in that area with chemicals?

Pretty much any insecticide designed for use outdoors will be safe to use on vegitation. Just buy an outside pesticide that’s labelled for killing ants (there are many) and use as directed.

Why kill them at all? Unless they are fire ants, they are harmless and possibly beneficial.

Or carpenter ants, which damage wood.

Well they’re red…and I’m betting that since they’re crawling all over and inside the wood of the tree, they’re the cause of death. I don’t really want to find out the hard way if they’re good or bad.

Richard “Bugman” Fagerlund, a local entomologist and pest management specialist, has an excellent page about ant control. Although the advice is tailored to the Albuquerque, NM area, it’s a good resource for ant control in general. He has made the point in the past that indiscriminate poisoning of ants can lead to greater problems because you have to know what type of ant you have in order to approach the colony effectively. The ants you see are only foragers; if you poison them and don’t get the queen(s), they’ll be quickly replaced, and some species will react to an attack on its foragers by splitting the colony, doubling your problem. It’s worth doing a little research before you react.

I’m pretty sure what I found was the whole colony…because I saw the ants pushing around larvae. The problem is I don’t know if the ant is in the tree root or in the ground.

I recommend molten zinc (no, really!). Zinc melts at a relatively low temp, and you can then pour it down the ant hole. After it cools (in about an hour or so), you dig it up and you have this nifty sculpture to show all your friends (the zinc will flow through the colony and take the shape of it).

I see…two questions, though. Where around here can I get some, and how big a dent is it going to put in my bank account?

Well, you could always “liberate” some from MTSU ;), or you could drop me an email and I can put you in touch with some folks who could either sell you some or tell you where to get it. Zinc ain’t exactly expensive, IIRC.

I hate ants

So can you melt zinc on top of a gas stove in a Farberware stainless steel pot? :smiley:

Just curious… :slight_smile:

If you are deep enough into the colony to see larvae…boiling water will work.

In addition to Reeder’s suggestion, we’ve had good success with what is called a “Hot Pepper Drench.” Make a pot of boiling water with hot peppers chopped up in it, and dump it still hot on the ant colonies. It sounds kind of mean, but we’re absolutely infested with them. We have to do something, or they’re going to take over. I for one don’t want to bow to our new segmented overlords.

Yeah, I but recommend not doing this indoors. Having inhaled zinc fumes before, I can tell you that being upwind of the stuff is strictly contraindicated, unless you like sneezing uncontrollably. If you were to do something like this, use a campstove (or similar), a pot you have no intention of using for anything else ever again, on a relatively windless day, and wear safety goggles and welder’s gloves.

I second the boiling-water drench.

First, BE CAREFUL! Fill the biggest pot you have, get it to a full rolling boil (preferably outside, near the nest), and CAREFULLY dump it in - don’t splash! It will kill any plants that are in the way, so be careful. And boiling water is dangerous for you too. Did I say to be careful?

If they return, look for poison that says it kills the queen. Contact insecticides may only kill a few workers, not the whole colony.

Give up! Learn to live with the ants; you can’t get rid of them. Shovel them out of the way. Use gloves.