Ridding of fire ants, planting rubber trees
Guadalupe County Master Gardeners is responsible for this content, which is not edited by the Wilson County News or wilsoncountynews.com.
How do I get rid of fire ants in my garden? What should I do if I have fire ants in my compost pile?
While most types of ants are harmless and even beneficial, the fire ant is a well-known pest in our area. This non-native ant has invaded the United States from South America and has spread to states as far north as Virginia and west to California. Most of us have been victim to the sharp sting that the fire ant inflicts, but it can also cause damage to our gardens by eating germinating seeds, tunneling into fruits and vegetables, and girdling young trees. Our gardens are prime targets during times of draught.
If you have only a few mounds to treat, I recommend drenching each mound with a solution of 1 ½ ounces of orange oil, 3 ounces of liquid dish soap, and one gallon of water. An ingredient in the orange oil (d-limonene) is toxic to ants and has been proven effective in studies at Texas A&M.
One home remedy for eliminating fire ants is to pour boiling water on the mound. This method has been shown effective in killing about 60% of the ants. Actually, if you don’t kill the queen, you just encourage more egg laying and therefore, more ants. Other home remedies such as aspartame, baking soda, cinnamon, club soda, coffee grounds, and grits failed to prove effective in studies conducted at Texas A&M.
If your problem is very widespread, you may need to broadcast fire ant bait. Baits containing spinosad are safe for use in vegetable gardens. Broadcasting should be done when the ants are foraging because they will collect the bait and take it back to the mound. To know when ants are foraging, drop a potato chip near a mound. Come back in a couple of hours. If the ants are enjoying the potato chip, they are foraging. Apply the pesticide during the late evening, night, or early morning to minimize the effect on bees. It may take several weeks before the ants are eliminated and future applications may be necessary. As always, follow the directions on the product that you purchase.
Broadcasting is discouraged in areas with fewer than 15 to 20 mounds per acre, as native ants may also be eliminated. Use the drench method instead.
If you have fire ants in your compost pile, keep stirring and watering the pile. The ants will eventually get annoyed and leave.
Is it possible to plant a rubber tree outside? Where can I go to get information for planting and maintaining the rubber tree once it is planted?
The rubber tree is native to tropical areas. It makes a wonderful indoor plant here in south central Texas, but does not handle our winters well when planted outside. I tried moving my potted rubber tree outside several years ago. It did quite well, as long as I moved it indoors during the cooler weather. I did not try planting it in the ground, but a friend of mine did. He said that the plant froze to the ground each winter and did not grow back to its original health and beauty.
You can get more information on this topic at gardeningknowhow.com (Rubber Plant Information: Taking Care of a Rubber Plant Outdoors).
Penny Wallace is a Texas Master Gardener with Texas A&M AgriLife Extension. If you have a question to be answered, call the Master Gardeners at 830-379-1972 or leave a message to be answered. The website is guadalupecountymastergardeners.org. The Master Gardener research library is open Mondays from 8:30 to noon, at 210 East Live Oak Street in Seguin.