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Keeping Fire Ants Out of Potted Plants


What is the best way to keep fire ants from setting up shop in outdoor potted plants? After recently transplanting two ornamentals, I noticed ants in the newly placed potting soil. I utilized Sevin Dust water hose treatment, but this was without success.

Hardiness Zone: 9a

Jo from Louisiana


Hi Jo,

One of the best products I have found for keeping ants out of my flower pots (and my house) is diatomaceous earth (DE). Just sprinkle a tiny bit around the base of your pots or on the ants' "runs". It won't hurt your plants if you also want to spread a little on the topsoil.

I like DE because it is organic and it is safe. It contains nothing more than the powdered skeletal remains of tiny algae-like plants called diatoms (and maybe some water). DE is considered a mineral-based pesticide. It is made of up magnesium, silicon, calcium, sodium, iron, and several trace minerals. You can find it at garden centers, feed stores, and some health food stores, or order it online. DE is usually sold in 1-2 lb bags and has the look and feel of ground up chalk. I'm not exactly clear whether ants ingest it, or just perish as a result of coming into contact with it, but either way, it dries them up within about 30 minutes of exposure. The only caution about using diatomaceous earth is that you should not continuously breath any of the dust. Once you open the bag, you may want to store it in an additional bag to help contain the dust. I've used DE both indoors and out. I also have pets and have never had any problems, but like any pesticide, I restrict their contact with it. Always read and follow the label directions carefully.


Another organic method I've read about is scattering worm casings 1 inch thick across the topsoil of potted plants. Apparently, fire ants (and whiteflies) in particular don't care for this. I have not tried this method personally, but I like the sound of it. You are feeding your plants, while keeping troublesome bugs at bay. If you try it, let me know how it works. You can order worm casings online, get them from worm composters, or find them where organic garden products are sold.

Good luck!


About The Author: Ellen Brown is an environmental writer and photographer and the owner of Sustainable Media, an environmental media company that specializes in helping businesses and organizations promote eco-friendly products and services. Contact her on the web at http://www.sustainable-media.com

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June 24, 20080 found this helpful

When I lived in Louisiana, I used raw grits on red ants. I am not sure why they kill the ants, I've heard the ants "explode", but it did work. Non-toxic & cheap - worth a try.

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June 24, 20080 found this helpful

Grits are corn. Ants do love corn but they don't eat it. Their larvae do. Adult ants don't eat solid food. Their larvae have big strong jaws that pulverise food before digestion. Adult ants don't.

Messing with fire ant colony makes two thinsg happen: one, they attack the messer . . . two, they move the queen, brood of babies and whole colony elsewhere and rebuild.

SEE: http://fireant.  pg4/97-01pg4.htm

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June 25, 20080 found this helpful

I use epsom salts mixed with ground up orange peel that have been left in a jar overnight so the orange oil can soak into the epsom salts. Sprinkle it around any place you see ants and in ant mounds and they will move away quick. Here is the website I first found this on.

http://en.allex  -orange-peel.htm

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June 26, 20080 found this helpful

Would you consider planting mint in the pots? I planted mint in my garden at our old house to keep the ants out. Worked like a charm. But be careful, mint can and will take over your garden so it's best to plant mint in a pot.

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June 27, 20080 found this helpful

My sister-in-law had a big ant bed in her potted plants and my father-in-law told her to use boric acid, it worked very well. The plants started growing like they were fed plant food.

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September 4, 20080 found this helpful

I was recently in North Carolina where there were fire ant mounds everywhere. When I asked the person I was visiting how they rid the yard of the ants she told me something that may be helpful to you as well. Should you find any ant mounds in the yard, pour grits in and on the mound. When the grits get wet, it swells up and kills the ants. (or so I am told) Let me know if you try this and let me know if it works. I'm just interested.

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February 21, 20170 found this helpful

I have been using instant grits for years and it does work.

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February 21, 20170 found this helpful

I have been using Instant Grits for years and it does work. I have never used grits that were not instant.

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September 4, 20080 found this helpful

One of the best things to keep fire ants away, is to sprinkle their mounds with sugar substitute.This product is a neuro-posion and was orginally made as a fire ant killer. REALLY!

The workers carry the poison back to the queen and it kills her.

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