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Ant Control in Potting Soil

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Ants around the garden and home are annoying pests that often build nests in any available spot. Many species find their way into potted plants as well as open bags of potting soil, seeking moist places to nest. While these ants may not do direct damage to potting soil or potted plants, they are nuisances nonetheless.

Ant Species

Most ants nest in soil, including the Argentine ant (Linepithema humile), odorous house ant (Tapinoma sessile), pavement ant (Tetramorium caespitum), red imported fire ant (Solenopsis invicta), Southern fire ant (S. xyloni) and thief ant (S. molesta). Fire ants can sting and cause severe allergic reactions, so identification is important before attempting to dislodge the ant colony from your potting soil. The red imported fire ant is 1/16 to 1/5 inch long, rust colored with a dark brown abdomen, while the Southern fire ant is 1/8 to 1/4 inch long, with an amber head and thorax and black abdomen. Southern fire ants are also covered with golden hairs.

Damage

While the ants may be doing little or no apparent harm to bags of potting soil, they can easily carry soil bacteria, small eggs or fungal spores on their body, contaminating the bag. Ants in potted plants may be protecting aphids or other sap-feeding insects from predators that would normally feed on these pests. These ants will also wander your home in search for food once the potted plant is brought indoors.

Cultural Control

Ants in potting soil are fairly easy to remedy. Take the plant outside and water it until water runs out the drain holes. Ants will flee the pot, so continue watering until they do. You may need to give this plant a shot of fertilizer after flushing the soil like this. You can also flush bagged potting soil, but the process is much messier. If you are sure that the ants inside aren’t fire ants, it may be easier to simply use the soil up or spread it in a thin layer on a tarp so that it will dry completely before rebagging it.

Chemical Control

Baits and bait stations can be effective if you are afraid to deal directly with the ants infesting your potting soil. You should try several different baits, since the needs of ant colonies change throughout the year. Select a sweet bait containing boric acid, as well as one or two baits with oil attractants containing hydramethylnon or fipronil. Place the bait stations near commonly used ant trails after observing the colony a few days. Check these baits regularly to ensure they are being used and that there is plenty of bait remaining. It may take up to two weeks to see results from baiting.

Ant Control in Potting Soil. Ants around the garden and home are annoying pests that often build nests in any available spot. Many species find their way into potted plants as well as open bags of potting soil, seeking moist places to nest. While these ants may not do direct damage to potting soil or potted plants, …

How to Remove Ants from Potted Plants

Last Updated: April 28, 2020 References Approved

This article was co-authored by Andrew Carberry, MPH. Andrew Carberry has been working in food systems since 2008. He has a Masters in Public Health Nutrition and Public Health Planning and Administration from the University of Tennessee-Knoxville.

There are 20 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page.

wikiHow marks an article as reader-approved once it receives enough positive feedback. This article received 11 testimonials and 92% of readers who voted found it helpful, earning it our reader-approved status.

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Although ants are a nuisance, they do not actually cause any harm to potted plants. Ants are attracted to the sweet honeydew-esque excretions left by other pests that reside in the soil, such as aphids and mealybugs; fire ants like to make nests in potted plants and hide in the plants’ foliage. There are several ways to eradicate ants from your potted plants. You may eradicate the pests with insecticides or baits, drown them in a solution of water and insecticidal soap, or deter them with common household items. If you can’t get rid of pests, repot your plant in fresh soil and a sanitized pot.

How to Remove Ants from Potted Plants. Although ants are a nuisance, they do not actually cause any harm to potted plants. Ants are attracted to the sweet honeydew-esque excretions left by other pests that reside in the soil, such as… ]]>