Autumn is the time of the year ants are very busy excavating paving and preparing for winter months. For homeowners and gardeners they are a nuisance. We need to remember ants play an important role in the natural eco system and are continually scavenging food. If ants were removed from our natural systems weeds and flies would be a bigger problem than they are now.

It’s because of this food searching trait they become a problem for gardeners. The most common varieties of ants we find in our gardens have a mutually beneficial relationship with scale insects, moving and protecting them in exchange for a food source. Scale insects secrete honey dew, which is sweet, sticky and nutritious. In this case, controlling the scale insects will reduce damage to plants by ants.

In summer and autumn ants move into potted plants and garden beds. They excavate soil around the roots and expose fine feeder roots to air, causing plants to die back. In addition, the soil where ants build their nest tends to be water repellent. No amount of water will rewet the soil. The addition of a wetting agent is crucial in helping force ants to move out without the need for applying ant control products.

Steps to preventing ant in pots

  • Lift pots up off the ground with the use of pot feet so the base of the pot is not in direct contact with the paving or soil.
  • Apply wetting agents to potted plants at the beginning of every season.
  • Control scale insects with white oil. This is a safe spray that controls insects with a fine coating of oil and they die by suffocation.
  • When potted plants are small enough to be lifted, completely submerge soil in water that has had wetting agent added. Leave in solution until air bubbles stop rising then allow to drain.
  • If ants have caused extensive damage in soil and removed a large percentage, repot the plant before treating with wetting agent.

How to stop ants in paving

  • Remember ants are persistent so any organic control needs to be topped up regularly.
  • Dust talcum powder along ant trails and in gaps of paving.
  • Sliced cucumber placed near mounds of soil may slow a few down so they are manageable. The cucumber contains a compound they are not fond of.
  • A mixture of 1 tablespoon of yeast, 2 tablespoons of honey, golden syrup or molasses and 1 desert spoon of borax mixed together will cause a feeding frenzy and ‘popping ants’ when the yeast ferments.

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