Moving potted plants inside? Watch for fire ants


Special to The Dispatch



Gardeners are often dismayed to find fire ants nesting in potted plants they want to move indoors for the winter. The fastest and easiest way to deal with this problem is to apply a pot drench of an insecticide that contains permethrin or bifenthrin and is labeled for application as a mound drench treatment for control of fire ants. Two examples of products labeled for this are: 


  • Hi-Yield Lawn, Garden, Pet & Livestock Insect Control (10 percent permethrin): Mix 1 1/2 fluid ounces (3 tablespoons) per gallon of water and apply as a drench using a sprinkler can.  


  • Hi-Yield Bug Blaster Bifenthrin 2.4 (2.4% bifenthrin): Mix 0.5 fluid ounces (1 tablespoon) per gallon and apply as a drench using a sprinkler can.  


    The permethrin product specifically mentions use on potted plants on the label, while the bifenthrin product just indicates that the product can be used as a mound drench treatment (but does not preclude treatment if that mound happens to be in an outdoor pot or raised bed). Of course, these treatments should only be applied to pots that are outdoors and are resting on the soil where solution draining from the bottom of the pot will not pose a problem. Treated pots should be allowed to drain and dry appropriately before they are brought indoors. Wear chemical-proof gloves and other required personal protective equipment when mixing and applying treatments. Read product label for full details. 




    Fire ant baits 


    The best way to minimize the potential for this to occur in the first place is to preventively apply granular fire ant baits such as Amdro, Advion, Extinguish Plus or other fire ant baits, to the lawn and landscape area where the pots are kept during the warmer months. Baits are slow-acting, but provide good control when used preventively two or three times per season.  


    Advion (indoxacarb) works much faster than most other fire ant baits, often providing significant control in as little as seven days, and is a good choice for use in late fall, a few weeks before plants will be moved indoors. If time allows, Advion can even be used to eliminate fire ants from pots that are infested. Apply bait to the area around the pot where ants are foraging, and allow adequate time for ants to collect bait and be controlled.  


    Organic gardeners can eliminate fire ants from potted plants by submerging pots for 15-20 minutes in water containing a small amount of insecticidal soap, and then rinsing the plant and watering with fresh water to flush the soapy solution from the potting soil. See label for directions. Some species and varieties of plants are especially sensitive to insecticidal soap. There is an increased risk of plant injury with this method, but many would agree that it is far better to bring a dead plant indoors than to bring a live plant that is infested with fire ants indoors. 


    This information is courtesy of Extension Entomology Specialist Blake Layton at Mississippi State.



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