When ants invade your garden, they’re usually either seeking moisture or aphids. Most ants don’t eat plants. This is because the cellulose in plants is not digestible for them. If you see ants in your garden and your plants are being eaten, it may be an aphid infestation. Your ants may be “farming” the aphids in your garden. Unfortunately, aphids do indeed feast on your plants.
What are aphids and why do ants “farm” them?
Aphids are tiny little bugs. You may not notice them because they hang out on the underside of leaves. Ants like to feed on the secretions of the aphids. This sticky sweet substance is known as honeydew and really attracts ants.
To rid your plants of aphids, spray plants with a teaspoon of dish soap mixed in with a spray bottle of water. This will not harm the ants or the plant. It will destroy any aphids that may be feeding on your garden vegetation.
What ants do damage plants?
If you have leaf cutter ants, you should be concerned about your plants. Technically, leaf cutter ants don’t eat plants. They cut pieces of leaves to carry back to their nests. The harvested leaves are used to grow a fungus, which they do eat.
Getting rid of leaf cutter ants
Ants are not fond of peppermint or hot peppers. Make a spray using peppermint extract or cayenne pepper diluted in water to spray the plants. The peppermint and pepper will not harm the plants but it will chase away the ants.
To keep leaf cutter ants off your plants, it may be necessary to build a barrier. Think of squirrel barriers on trees, but on a smaller scale. Shake all the ants from the plant and wrap the base stems with smooth, not crinkled aluminum. The ants can’t climb up the plant because they can’t get a grip.
Ants can be beneficial insects.
If the ants in your garden are not leaf cutters and aphids are not a concern, consider just leaving them alone. Ants can actually be beneficial to gardening soil. Like earthworms, ants till and aerate the soil. They also benefit through leaving waste as fertilizer.
Ant repellents for houseplants
Wet plant pots often attract ants. If moisture from plants is attracting the ants, there’s a simple solution. Raise the plants up so that the bottom of the pot is not touching the ground. This keeps moisture from collecting.
Ants like moisture but they drown in water over their heads. Consider placing a shallow water dish at the base of raised container plants to keep ants out. This method also works to keep ants out of pet food. Just center the pet food dish in a shallow bowl of water.
The same sprays you made for the plants will also keep ants from invading your home. Just spray the perimeter with either solution to discourage their entry. The spray can also be used as an indoor non toxic pesticide.