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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.

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

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Saturday - May 22, 2010

From: McAllen, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Pests
Title: Plants ants avoid from McAllen TX
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Which native plants do ANTS avoid (are there?)? We have a big ant problem here. Thanks!

ANSWER:

We are touched by the confidence in our correspondents that we can come up with native plants that repel deer, rabbits, dogs, cats, snakes and, now, ants. Deer and rabbits eat plants, and will eat just about anything that can't get away when times are hard and they are really hungry. Dogs and cats don't eat plants, normally, although puppies will mess with just about anything. The biggest problem from those animals is they often choose plants as a bathroom. Snakes and ants don't eat plants, but hang around them for shelter and a good place to pick up a bite to eat that is not a plant. 

Basically, ants are farmers, as you will learn in this University of California Integrated Pest Management Program Ants. This probably tells you more than you wanted to know about ants, but it does give good information, although not about plants that repel them. 

So, we moved on to this article from eHow Outdoor Plants That Repel Ants. Nice, but not native. Most of them are Meditteranean herbs. And, you know, there is nothing to keep an ant trail from moving over a few inches to go around a plant they don't wish to associate with.

Still searching, we found an article from Golden Harvest Organics Ant Controls, but it had no more information on plants.

Some time ago, we got some questions from people in pretty much the same part of the state that you are, inquiring about Cutter Ants. Here is our previous Mr. Smarty Plants answer Perennial Plants Resistant to Cutter Ants. If you have cutter ants, you may think they are eating the plant because they can denude a small tree virtually overnight. Actually, they are taking those leaves home to make fungus for everyone in the colony to eat. Yuck.

We think that our first reference probably has the best information for dealing with different kinds of ants. Although it is based on the problem in California, most of the ants they mention are also in Texas. You did not say if your problem was indoor or outdoor. Either way, you need to deal with what the ants are going for, and if you have Fire Ants, you already know they are going for bites of anybody that disturbs their chosen area of residence. We suggest you contact the Texas A&M AgriLIFE Extension Office for Hidalgo County  to see if they have any insights on controlling the little beasties. 

 

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