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
4 ratings

Friday - August 04, 2006

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Diseases and Disorders
Title: Beneficial earthworms attacked by fire ants
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

Is there a right way or a trick to releasing earthworms? I have a friend who has an abundance of earthworms in their soil so I took advantage of the situation. I released them in my freshly tilled garden and made rows to release my worms. No ants were present I triple checked, this was in the evening I released them. I covered them up about 2-3 inches then watered them in, again no ants present and they seem to be likeing their new home digging down to explore. The next morning I was horrified to find about half a dozen of my prize worms covered with ants. I felt so bad. This happened twice, can you help? Or should I just leave the little fellas alone :-) Thanks, and by the way I love your name Mr.Smarty Plants Tammy

ANSWER:

I am sorry you lost your earthworms. It sounds as if you have fire ants (Solenopsis spp.) and even though you did a thorough search for ants before you put the worms out, you wouldn't necessarily see the individual worker ants who were out foraging for a great protein-rich meal to feed the developing larvae and the queen in the nest. Ants have a keen sense of smell and they may forage 100 feet or more from their nests. When they smelled your earthworms they would have recruited some buddies and hurried over to take advantage of the great food source.

I don't hold out much hope for your introduction of earthworms into your garden unless you begin some ant control, too. The article above offers some environmentally friendly ways of controlling the ants. Meanwhile, here are some tips from Mother Earth News and from eHow.com about cultivating earthworms. Unfortunately, neither offers tips on how to protect them from attack by ants.
 

More Diseases and Disorders Questions

Milky Substance on Salvia greggii
June 26, 2015 - The Salvia greggii that I have in the front yard has a milky substance on it ... and the plants are not doing well. Is this some kind of fungi or disease? What can I do to "cure" it? Thank you! Lia...
view the full question and answer

Growths on Shumard Red Oak leaves from Katy TX
April 01, 2013 - Our beautiful Shumard Red Oak has developed lots of light green grape like growths on the leaves. Please inform us what this could be and how we should treat it?
view the full question and answer

Something eating Arizona ash in Gilbert AZ
May 11, 2011 - Something is eating my Arizona ash tree. what should I spray on it?
view the full question and answer

Texas Redbud Suddenly Died in NM
November 06, 2014 - We had a Texas redbud, approximately 5 1/2 years old. It had been doing great then all of a sudden after it bloomed this spring, the leaves appeared but then shriveled right away. We noticed the trunk...
view the full question and answer

Loss of blooms in potted plants in Hawaii
November 11, 2007 - My lanai is in strong afternoon sun and no matter what "full sun" plants I try to grow they quickly stop blooming. Plumeria, Hibiscus, Echinacea, even Bougainvillea...they continue to grow but lose...
view the full question and answer

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