When my potted orchid plants started to get to a good size, I noticed that a colony of ants had made a new home out of them. So, I looked into it and put together this helpful article to explain how to get rid of them.
So, how do you get rid of ants in potted orchid plants? The main ways are to use baits and lures, insecticidal soap, washing the outside of the pot, and getting plants that eat ants. Once they are gone, you can keep them away using citrus rind, citronella plants, or spices.
The way to use these methods is a bit complex. So, below I will explain exactly how to use these methods to get rid of ants in your potted orchid plants.
How to get rid of ants without killing my potted orchid plants?
If you dig up the ant nest and move it, you will usually have to dig up your orchids But that can kill them or stunt their growth. The methods described below will get rid of your ants without killing your plants. These are:
Using bait and lures
Baits and lures, attract your ants and trap them. Common ways are using tape around the outside of your pot. As the ants walk across it they will stick and die from exhaustion.
There are specially formulated tapes that are sweet-smelling and tasting to ants. Ants behave intelligently, so after many ants have died on the tape, they will get the message and find an easier place to gather food.
This method is good if you don’t have a lot of ants. You can use a plant-friendly insecticidal soap, and lightly brush it onto your plant. As the ants walk over the plant, it will get on their bodies and kill them.
You should avoid using it on the underside of the orchid leaves as this is where your orchid breathes. This is a favorite hiding place of most insects. For the underside of the leaves, you should spray them with water to wash away ants and other bugs.
Wash out the pot and start again
You can remove the plant and soil completely from your hanging basket. This will remove any ants and eggs that are lying within. Take your pot somewhere where you can tip out the dirt. You should then wash the pot completely using water and a scrubbing brush.
Once finished you should douse it in boiling water. This will kill any eggs that may be stuck in the pores of your pot. You can then replace it with a new potting mix.
You should use a new orchid because it is difficult to remove every last egg from the roots of an infested orchid. Your orchid will also have a scent that will attract the ants back.
Get some carnivorous plants
This method takes many months to get rid of ants. It involves putting a plant that eats insects next to your orchid.
Venus flytraps or the pitcher plant are famous examples that you’ve probably seen. Ensure that the variety you choose can catch ants. Some varieties of venus flytraps don’t catch ants for instance.
Some plants to choose from are the Butterwort, Cephalotus, Heliamphora, Sarracenia, and Darlingtonia. These plants produce sap which is appealing to lots of different insects.
They come to drink some of the sap, but they get stuck on the plant or slip in a water-filled pod. The water-filled pods contain a natural insecticide that kills the bugs when they land in the water.
Though this method takes a long time to reduce an ant population, it is useful once you have removed the ants to deter future ants from finding your orchids.
Get rid of other bugs on the orchid plant
Ants are attracted to the insects that like to eat orchid plants.
Such insects are mealybugs, aphids, and scale. To control their numbers, you should pick them off individually from your orchids.
How do you keep ants away from potted plants?
To keep ants away from potted plants you can use these methods:
Use citrus rind in the orchid
You can cut up citrus rind from citrus fruits such as oranges, mandarins, tamarillos, lemons, limes, etc. Placing them at the base of your plant and around the pot will deter ants.
Grow a citronella plant near the orchid
Citronella plants repel ants and spiders. It is also commonly referred to as lemongrass and is used to make herbal tea.
They have a strong odor which disorientates ants and spiders when they get near it. So, they stay away. The odor they give off to humans though is not everyone’s cup of tea.
Citronella plants smell like cleaning products you use in a bathroom. If you don’t like the smell do not put one of the plants indoors. They grow large, so you will need to cut them back every now and then.
Put some spices near the orchid base
Examples of spices you can use to deter ants are cinnamon, cloves, chili powder, coffee, and dried mint. They work the same as citrus rinds. Ants prefer to avoid them.
It can be an issue in restaurants that have sugar on the table. That is why in some restaurants they put a saucer with sliced lemon and cinnamon to deter the ants.
Put little bottle caps or glass containers of this around your potted orchid plants to keep ants away.
Use vinegar to kill ants
Vinegar is strongly acidic and kills ants. Ants don’t like vinegar so you can wipe it around your pots plants and the area around them.
The smell of vinegar fades quickly to humans but sticks around much longer for ants. It will keep them away and you can put some in a spray bottle and use it on them.
Use toothpaste to stop ants
Ants don’t like peppermint. Many kinds of toothpaste contain peppermint oil. If you spread peppermint, peppermint oil, or peppermint toothpaste around your potted plants it will repel ants.
Peppermint oil or crushed peppermint is preferred over peppermint toothpaste because you can’t see it after it is applied. Some peppermint toothpaste also might not contain peppermint oil, but only peppermint flavoring, so they won’t work.
Spray salt to kill ants
Salt burns ants and repels them. Similar to when you put too much salt in your mouth, and you have to spit it out. You can use salt mixed with water in a spray bottle to repel and kill ants.
You can spray it on the main paths to disrupt their walking patterns.
You want to avoid spraying it directly onto plants or potted plants because it will damage your plants.
Are ants harmful to orchids?
Ants don’t eat orchids. Therefore, they don’t do any harm to them. They are an annoyance if you water your plant in bare feet, and can itch and bite you between your toes.
Ants also get everywhere, once they make a home in your garden. Therefore, most people attempt to eradicate them from areas where they frequent. They serve a fundamental purpose in the ecosystem, so where they can be kept they should.
You can get rid of ants by using baits and lures, insecticidal soap, washing the outside of the pot, and getting carnivorous plants. Once you have removed the ants you can repel them to stop them coming back by using spices, citrus rinds, a citronella plant, vinegar, and salt. Ants don’t directly eat your orchid but are attracted to insects that hang out in your orchids.