En EspaŅol

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?

Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
    
 
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
 
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Friday - April 18, 2008

From: CEDAR HILL, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Invasive Plants, Non-Natives, Pests
Title: Organic means for ridding garden of stinging ants
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

Dear Mr. Smarty Pants, I have a butterfly garden that is filled with native plants the butterflies LOVE! However I have a colony of red ants that have moved in. I need to trim some of the more invasive varieties of flowers, but can't get in without getting bitten terribly. Can you suggest an organic way of either killing or making them want to move on their own? Thank you!!

ANSWER:

It sounds as if you have fire ants, a really nasty invasive species. There is no fast, effective organic method to rid yourself of the pests, but there is good advice about using chemical means safely and with the least environmental impact. Dr. Larry Gilbert and his researchers working at Brackenridge Field Laboratoy of the University of Texas have very good advice under:

14. What are the safest and Most effective chemical controls for fire ants in yards and pastures? I don't want to expose my family and pets to dangerous chemicals.

Also see the FAQs on Texas A & M's Texas Imported Fire Ant Research and Management Project page.

Both of these sources tell you how to identify fire ants and distinguish them from our native ants, but from your description of their aggressiveness I'll bet on them being fire ants.

If you follow the advice from the sources above, you should be able to control these painful pests so that you can enjoy your garden again. It will probably take several weeks to do so, however.

 

More Pests Questions

Controlling slugs in a Pacific Northwest strawberry patch
February 04, 2013 - Would love to plant various varieties of strawberries on a bank for erosion control and ground cover. How can we keep the slugs at bay? We are in the the Pacific Northwest
view the full question and answer

White specks on unknown houseplant from Ridgeway SC
June 20, 2013 - I have an unknown houseplant that seems to have some sort of pest or disease on it. It has white snowy specks atop its leaf. I bought this purple fuzzy leafed houseplant from Walmart in Winnsboro, SC ...
view the full question and answer

Insects on yucca from Ft. Worth TX
April 05, 2012 - I have a plant labeled Yucca Soft Leaf recurvifolia that I planted about 5 years ago,& was beautiful until last summer when it became infested with thousands of fast, tiny, dark insects. I sprayed wit...
view the full question and answer

Problems with blueberries from Kernersville NC
April 29, 2012 - My blueberry plants have no leaves or scrawny ones. I have 13 plants, 5 of them are like this.
view the full question and answer

Affect of poisonous plant roots in soils for vegetables from Rusk TX
May 11, 2013 - I have a huge old flowerbed in front of my house that I want to plant veggies in, but I'm afraid to. It has a catalpa tree there, which I sell the worms from, but the entire tree (bark, leaves, flowe...
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP | STAFF
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center