Author Topic: ant control and frog/toad habitat  (Read 3900 times)

Offline R_Morgan

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ant control and frog/toad habitat
« on: September 02, 2015, 06:47:03 AM »
So I have a issue.

We bought a 1.5 acre property which wasn't the ideal but made financial sense for us (not sure if this is "forever" home or not so went for better resale to hedge bets).

I am in the process of permaculturing the property. Have sheet mulched small areas with expansion next summer and planted fruit trees. However there is a ant problem, they are everywhere from the little red ones to the carpenter style.

I do not want to use pesticides.

I have been using DE but as humid as it is here and the rain issue (we get small downpours often and it seems they come everytime I either water the veggies or put out DE!) I have to constantly re apply. 

The de works decently.  I had a few mega nests. I would dust them then leave it for a day then actually dig up the nest and then dust inside and around and come back a few days later redust over exposed then come back again a few days later and put the grass back.

However for every mega nest I get there are another 20 small ones that form around the area. I can't keep up

My significant other wants me to roll out the anti ant granules. I have also tried using the eco smart stuff from walmart with oils in it but those lose effectiveness after every rain as well.

The ants are going through the hatch with flying versions and mating and I have been going around and dusting them as they pour out and congregate.

I noticed however that as I was doing this there were frogs/toads everywhere as well just sitting outside the nests. They of course have come now as they are hatching out and mating but I'm wondering if I can promote more toad and frong habitat if I can get them to come earlier and help out earlier in the year.

I know a small pond would help but that's not practical for the size of the property and would attract more of an already bad issue with skeeters (which I've put up bat houses to help next year).

Any suggestions on either better ant. Control or frog/toad habitat promotion. From a permaculture perspective I realize I don't have a problem but a lack of predator problem.


Offline I.L.W.

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Re: ant control and frog/toad habitat
« Reply #1 on: September 02, 2015, 11:33:15 AM »
Ants love dry, compacted soil or old fallen logs. Sounds like you may have more of the former environment. Mulching will help substantially.

Frogs are great to have, but they will not put a dent in an ant population. The queen can lay 2,500+ eggs a day. A hungry toad may eat 1/20th that, and only those ants which wander above ground. You should encourage frog habitat, but it's not a solution to the ants.

You will find however, the best habitat for frogs is bad for ants. Standing pools of water for example create a barrier for ants.

Frogs are extremely vulnerable to any poisons. Much more so than the ants. As such, I would avoid sprays and granules.

For taking out individual nests, I like to use fire. Get a flame thrower! If you happen to hit a patch of lemon ants, the whole neighborhood will smell like cookies, lol.  Other than that, it's a discreet method and very effective. Just bake the entrance on full blast for 30 seconds, and quench with a watering hose.


http://www.amazon.com/Red-Dragon-VT-2-23-000-BTU/dp/B00004Z2FP

$40 on Amazon prime right now. + $20-30 for a 20lb propane tank. Close to what you would spend on any effective multi-application organic regiment.  This also does a number on pretty much any insect pest, but it's targeted. Great for paper wasps that get too close to the house. Also an effective way to clear large areas of weeds. It's the only thing I have which puts a dent in Canadian Thistle.

This is for spot-treatment only, don't go scorched earth on the whole property, lol.  That will damage soils.

Sheet mulching is your most effective preventative measure. 4-6" thick of mulch is more than ants want to deal with.

As for a small pond, don't worry about mosquitoes. The would rather breed in moist areas in tall grass or under brush. They only require about 4oz of water standing for a couple of weeks to breed. They tend not to breed in ponds if they can avoid it.

Bury a few small 100 Gallon stock tanks.


You can put some fat-head minnows in it (from a bait shop) to ensure there is no mosquito breeding. They won't bother most toad eggs, and you'll have a renewable source of fishing bait while increasing your toad population. They breed fast. If nothing else, when you make a batch of comfrey tea or other fertilizer, take a few pounds of minnows from the tank and use as a fish emulsion.

Another thing to consider, ants are not entirely bad. They have a part to play in your garden. Sugar ants are the best pollinators for many fruit species. Lemon ants are excellent decomposers of dead wood.  Black ants keep grass hoppers, scorpions and cabbage moth larvae under control like nothing else. You don't want them in, or immediately near your house. But 100' away, you'd never notice them. It's really only carpenter ants and fire ants in most of the US which pose any substantial threat to property or people.

As for ant-predator species, you've either got them or you don't. I'm not aware of any place you can buy them (unlike ladybugs and lacewings). Most of the effective predators work by infiltrating the nest, appearing as food or even mimicking the queen. Once the ants carry it in, they eat all the food, eat the eggs, some just sit back and let the ants feed it like an insect welfare recipient. These basically parasitize the colony, weakening it and preventing the spread of the colony. When you kill the colony, you kill the parasites. It's been observed that destroying one colony can inflame the problem, as other ants will quickly move into the undefended territory, and their new colonies are not parasitized, so they grow very fast. Meanwhile survivors from the colony you took out will move a few feet away and begin dozens of new colonies.

As such, I would only take out the colonies which pose a problem.

nkawtg

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Re: ant control and frog/toad habitat
« Reply #2 on: September 02, 2015, 11:38:06 AM »

Offline gopack84

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Re: ant control and frog/toad habitat
« Reply #3 on: September 02, 2015, 07:35:54 PM »
I will say in my experience though, fire ants will happily build in mulch. Even thick mulch. I hate them.

Offline LibertyBelle

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Re: ant control and frog/toad habitat
« Reply #4 on: September 07, 2015, 12:17:43 AM »
In addition to frog and toad habitats, I also try to make the area near my gardens as bird-friendly as possible in order to help combat the pests.  Among the many feathered visitors is a pair of Northern Flickers, and ants alone can make up almost 50% of their diet.  The flickers sit on the edge of my raised beds and feast on the ants, and have greatly diminished the population of the little buggers. In addition to the Redbud tree that I have near the gardens, I have allowed a couple of large shrubs and vines to become a bit overgrown in order to provide the smaller birds shelter from the predatory red-tailed hawk and the cooper's hawks that also visit occasionally. 

Offline Skunkeye

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Re: ant control and frog/toad habitat
« Reply #5 on: September 17, 2015, 09:24:52 PM »
As ILW said, not very many ants are actually bad guys in the ecosystem.  If they're not harming you, your house or your plants, and they're not imported fire ants, I'd leave them alone.  Even the ones that farm aphids are useful, because they tend to herd the aphids together, making it easier to kill them.  If you really must kill them, an orange oil drench is very effective.  There are lots of different recipes for that available in the internet, and most work about equally well in my experience.

Keep in mind, unless you change the habitat significantly, or are willing to commit to a constant battle, you're going to have to settle for some ants no matter what.  If the environment is favorable for them, you won't ever completely eradicate them, as new colonies will be continually established.  Most species of ants are at least somewhat territorial, so a colony of "good" ants will help keep the bad ones at bay.  Kill off the good guys, and you might find something worse moving into that niche.

As for ponds and mosquitoes, if you have even just a couple minnows or goldfish in a pond, it will reduce your mosquito population, not increase it.  Some of the mosquitoes will lay eggs in the pond, and if it's a small pond (the 100 gallon stock tank ILW proposed is an excellent choice - it's deep enough for the fish and frogs to be able to get down away from raccoons), not a single larva will make it to adulthood.  For seven cents at the pet store, "feeder" minnows and goldfish are an excellent investment in mosquito control.

Offline The Spartan Dad

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Re: ant control and frog/toad habitat
« Reply #6 on: September 18, 2015, 10:27:48 AM »

Bury a few small 100 Gallon stock tanks.


You can put some fat-head minnows in it (from a bait shop) to ensure there is no mosquito breeding. They won't bother most toad eggs, and you'll have a renewable source of fishing bait while increasing your toad population. They breed fast. If nothing else, when you make a batch of comfrey tea or other fertilizer, take a few pounds of minnows from the tank and use as a fish emulsion.

As for ponds and mosquitoes, if you have even just a couple minnows or goldfish in a pond, it will reduce your mosquito population, not increase it.  Some of the mosquitoes will lay eggs in the pond, and if it's a small pond (the 100 gallon stock tank ILW proposed is an excellent choice - it's deep enough for the fish and frogs to be able to get down away from raccoons), not a single larva will make it to adulthood.  For seven cents at the pet store, "feeder" minnows and goldfish are an excellent investment in mosquito control.

Great thread and I'd also like to promote our frog/toad habitats. I've been finding frogs and toads around fairly often lately. Not to thread hijack but do you need a filter to keep fish in the buried 100 gallon stock tanks? If so, any recommendations?

Offline Skunkeye

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Re: ant control and frog/toad habitat
« Reply #7 on: September 18, 2015, 11:17:57 AM »
If you put in some aquatic plants (floating/submerged oxygenator plants like hornwort or anacharis work really well in small ponds), no filter is necessary.  You only need five or six fish per pond to keep the insects under control, and once the pond ecosystem gets established, the fish will be more or less self-sufficient.  Diving beetles, mayfly larvae, damselfly and dragonfly larvae will all move in, and the fish can eat them as well as algae.  I'd feed the fish a couple times of week in the first couple months, until the pond is fully established.

If you're not worried about making it decorative, get dark-colored minnows or black goldfish.  Bright-colored fish are easier for raccoons to catch.  Minnows will breed more readily than goldfish, and their babies will find shelter in the floating, fern-like oxygenator plants until they're big enough to not be eaten by the other fish.  Those same plants will provide food for toad and frog tadpoles.

Another thing to note - it is better to bury the tank (for thermal regulation and easier access for amphibians), but it isn't totally necessary.  I have a stock tank pond on my property near my beehives primarily to provide water to the bees.  It's a straight-sided, 2-ft deep galvanized tank, and it's still got frogs in it, even though there was initially no way for them to get in other than climbing or jumping.  I ended up stacking some stones on one side to make it easier for the frogs to get in and out, but if there's open water around, it seems they will find a way to get to it.
« Last Edit: September 18, 2015, 11:36:59 AM by Skunkeye »

Offline The Spartan Dad

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Re: ant control and frog/toad habitat
« Reply #8 on: September 20, 2015, 06:25:23 PM »
Thanks, I'll start a couple of these up in the Spring then. Actually just barely missed stepping on a giant toad outside earlier today

Offline Chris Gilliam

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Re: ant control and frog/toad habitat
« Reply #9 on: September 20, 2015, 06:32:30 PM »
Best thing I've found for frogs is banana trees. They get down inside them where it is always wet.
We deal with fire ants here. The only poison that goes on my land is for them.

Offline PermacultureTrees

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Re: ant control and frog/toad habitat
« Reply #10 on: November 15, 2015, 11:40:06 AM »
We are working on a way to till and farm using fireants with their compost piles in ground.  We have nnot goten the system down to make any dens where we want them, but moving a fire ant den is as simple as flooding it a few days in a row with a water hose..

More drastically you can take the exause from a motor and pipe to a container ove the den.  We have used a furnace fan and a bucket of charcoal to drive carbon monoxide into the dens.  By far the best I'd water flooding to move them..  There is also the ant bait made from corn and fungus, not toxic to frogs..

Offline Skunkeye

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Re: ant control and frog/toad habitat
« Reply #11 on: November 15, 2015, 12:51:54 PM »
There is also the ant bait made from corn and fungus, not toxic to frogs..

Have you had any success with that stuff?  We used to use it at the community garden where I have a plot, and the ants never seemed interested in it, so we switched to an orange oil drench.  An entomologist told me that the vegetable oil they use as an attractant in ant baits goes rancid very quickly, so unless the bait is very fresh, the ants won't try to eat it.

Offline I.L.W.

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Re: ant control and frog/toad habitat
« Reply #12 on: November 16, 2015, 10:01:27 AM »
I've used it with mixed success. However spoilage would explain the inconsistent results, sounds like a good theory. I stand by parasitism as the go-to organic control method. It won't kill the ants, but will stop their incursion into other areas and keep their population in check. By ensuring there are always some ants to be found, you also ensure there are predators who will eat more than just ants. They're a staple food source for many predators when more desirable prey is scarce. As long as the population can be controlled during mid-summer to prevent expansion of the colony, they're no real problem and will keep the predators fed. Parasites do that well.

Offline R_Morgan

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Re: ant control and frog/toad habitat
« Reply #13 on: November 17, 2015, 07:00:52 PM »
I've used it with mixed success. However spoilage would explain the inconsistent results, sounds like a good theory. I stand by parasitism as the go-to organic control method. It won't kill the ants, but will stop their incursion into other areas and keep their population in check. By ensuring there are always some ants to be found, you also ensure there are predators who will eat more than just ants. They're a staple food source for many predators when more desirable prey is scarce. As long as the population can be controlled during mid-summer to prevent expansion of the colony, they're no real problem and will keep the predators fed. Parasites do that well.

This sounds more like what I am looking for as the "kill and contain" option.

I don't care they are there...the wife does but ciest la vie

As long as I can keep them contained and in smaller number I will be happy. So far a good method has been to just dig up that chunk where a colony is forming and dump it in a bucket then dump in burn barrell. Fill hole. Seems to keep them on their feet so to speak.

Offline fritz_monroe

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Re: ant control and frog/toad habitat
« Reply #14 on: June 01, 2017, 06:09:50 AM »
As ILW said, not very many ants are actually bad guys in the ecosystem.  If they're not harming you, your house or your plants, and they're not imported fire ants, I'd leave them alone.  Even the ones that farm aphids are useful, because they tend to herd the aphids together, making it easier to kill them.

This is how I look at ants.  If they are outside the house, why do they need to be killed?  We don't have fire ants in my area, but would have no problems trying to eradicate them. 

I know it's not a peraculture thing, but I'm a huge fan of Terro.  It's the best working ant killer I've ever used.  But you have to keep in mind that since it uses borax, it takes a while to kill the ants.  The workers take it back to the nest and it kills the entire nest.  I see they also have an outdoor ant bait now.