Host an Event Volunteer Join Tickets

Support the plant database you love!

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

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

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

Watering oaks in Houston, TX.
June 07, 2011 - Our yard (Real County, TX.) has many oak trees. We never water these trees, but I wonder if you recommend watering during this extreme drought. The trees look very stressed and are covered in ball m...
view the full question and answer

Do Deer Eat Orchid Trees?
March 08, 2013 - I have planted three anacacho orchid trees, however we have a lot of deer around us. Is this a tree they will want to eat? Do you have any ideas to keep deer away?
view the full question and answer

Small tan balls on oak from Pipe Creek TX
May 21, 2014 - Dear Mr. Smarty Plants, our spanish oak is growing tan colored lumpy balls about the size and weight of a marshmallow..sometimes just one at the end of a short stem and sometimes 2-3 clumped together....
view the full question and answer

Hibiscus plants being attacked by powdery mildew, or maybe mealy bugs in Austin, TX.
August 10, 2011 - I have three hibiscus plants planted outside about a foot apart from each other. The one that gets most of the sunlight is the worse off of the three. However, all three of them have white powdery stu...
view the full question and answer

Cultivar of Cercis Canadensis from Haskell OK
May 16, 2012 - We have a Hearts of Gold Redbud that first had dark edges to many of its leaves (about 2 weeks after planting). It now has multiple leaves w/ medium-dark brown spots on them. Are we looking at some ...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.