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Dr Duncan

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Doctorduncan:

I have a problem with ants in my flower gardens, sometimes it seems that they are eating my annuals, ie. petunias. Just wondering if it is true that the red mulch I am using is any worse for attracting ants than the dark mulch? If so, should I switch to the dark mulch?
Thanks for your time concerning this matter!
 Dorn, Hampton


Hi Dorn.
 Ants usually get blamed for more than they are actually doing. I don't know of any instance of them eating flowers. They may sometimes, but I doubt that it is significant. The chewing may be happening at night, and the ants are just around in the daylight when you can see them, on the same plants getting nectar, and getting your blame! The most likely maker of holes in petunias is slugs, which come out mainly at night. There's good non-toxic slug bait now, which uses iron as the lethal ingredient for the slugs. Its by safers brand. We carry it. The next most likely chewers would be earwigs, but not nearly as likely as slugs.

 As far as mulch making the area more attractive to ants, I am not convinced of that either. The main attraction for ants is the nature of the topsoil. They like it sandy and/or dry and well-drained. I have absolutely no mulch in my entire yard, and yet I have my fair share of ants. I dont think it makes a big difference. I do know that it is very hard to grow annuals through mulch. I never try it. They never do as well, because you cant begin to prepare the soil deeply enough with mulch on top for them to do well. You are better to grow annuals in beds with no mulch, or just a sprinkling on top after you have deeply dug the soil with organic matter, and planted.

 As to whether one colour of mulch would be any more attractive to ants, I have never heard or observed that, and wouldnt be able to think of a scientific reason why that would be. Not to say it doesnt, but I wouldnt be concerned myself.