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Should I care about ants on my veggies?

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Should I care about ants on my veggies?

Post  tiffanybrenner on 7/2/2014, 12:20 pm

They are so very annoying (I'll attempt some of the techniques listed in other posts), but will they do any actual harm in the veggie garden?
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Re: Should I care about ants on my veggies?

Post  HiDesert on 7/2/2014, 1:27 pm

I've got some ants in mine and I haven't seen them do any damage to anything. Mostly they are attracted to the flowers on my plants.
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Re: Should I care about ants on my veggies?

Post  Marc Iverson on 7/2/2014, 1:28 pm

They will if they herd aphids. Sometimes they'll bring them onto plants and protect them from other bugs so they can drink their sugary droppings.

I think some of them eat pollen too, but some of them also pollinate in the process, and fighting off other bugs is generally good news, so there's definitely good and bad to them.
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Re: Should I care about ants on my veggies?

Post  audrey.jeanne.roberts on 7/2/2014, 2:41 pm

Ants have discovered my Purple Cherokee toms and are eating every one that matures.  However, they're not actually bothering my other crops that they usually bring aphids to.  Do I let them continue to feast on the toms (believe me I have a PLETHORA of other ones)?  

I'm thinking of placing ant bait traps around those toms so I might head off the aphid attacks that will be coming.
Suggestions?  I'm thinking of trying cornmeal & DE in peanut butter jars laid on their side that I saw mentioned in another post.
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Re: Should I care about ants on my veggies?

Post  AtlantaMarie on 7/2/2014, 7:01 pm

I THOUGHT they weren't doing any damage.  Until I found an aphid explosion on my purple hull cowpeas yesterday. 

And the ants were merrily running up & down the stems as well.  I'm sure they were taking nectar back to their nest.

So now it's war on the ants.

 get that pesky wabbi
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Re: Should I care about ants on my veggies?

Post  Marc Iverson on 7/2/2014, 9:47 pm

@audrey.jeanne.roberts wrote:Ants have discovered my Purple Cherokee toms and are eating every one that matures.  However, they're not actually bothering my other crops that they usually bring aphids to.  

A lcamprn provided the other day said that ants will exploit the holes created by other creatures, and suggested looking especially for hornworms as the real culprit.

I had hornworms and bird attacks, and often found swarms of ants over their holes. But the ants didn't cause the holes, so far as I know.
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Re: Should I care about ants on my veggies?

Post  mollyhespra on 7/2/2014, 10:51 pm

Personally, I don't think aphids *need* help from ants to get around.  They have wings, they fly, and they reproduce...like mad.

My understanding is that the ant/aphid relationship goes something like this: aphid finds plant to eat, aphid starts sucking on plant juices, aphid secretes honeydew, ant finds aphid and ant "milks" aphid for said honeydew.  It even appears that ants will "herd" the aphids to keep them together, which sounds contrary to the idea of dispersing them to other plants.  And I'm not even sure that it's ALL ants that exhibit this behaviour.

SO, where did the whole idea about ants "bringing aphids to a new plant for the purpose of 'farming' them" come from?  Does anyone have any bona-fide research article finding this to be the case?   I mean, how could the ants know what plant the aphid will want to eat?  How do they keep them alive during the winter months?

I'll say it again and again: I like having ants in my garden *because* they tell me where the aphids are, among other things.  Until someone can show me a legitimate research article that shows that *all* ants are capable of introducing aphids into a previously aphid-free plant, I will continue to hold that coexistence is preferable to broad-spectrum eradication and that ants form an important part of the garden ecosystem.
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Re: Should I care about ants on my veggies?

Post  Marc Iverson on 7/2/2014, 11:23 pm

@mollyhespra wrote:
SO, where did the whole idea about ants "bringing aphids to a new plant for the purpose of "farming" them" come from?  Does anyone have any bona-fide research article finding this to be the case?   I mean, how could the ants know what plant the aphid will want to eat?  How do they keep them alive during the winter months?

I'll say it again and again: I like having ants in my garden *because* they tell me where the aphids are, among other things.  Until someone can show me a legitimate research article that shows that *all* ants are capable of introducing aphids into a previously aphid-free plant, I will continue to hold that coexistence is preferable to broad-spectrum eradication and that ants form an important part of the garden ecosystem.

Neither of those things is particularly determinative, though.

1. It isn't necessary for all ants to herd aphids for some ants to be damaging.

2. It isn't necessary that ants take aphids from plant to plant for ants to be responsible for increased aphid damage, for example by keeping away their predators, such as ladybugs, etc., on any individual plant they may find aphids on.

3. It isn't necessary for ants to take care of aphids during the winter for aphids to be helped by ants. Ants are capable of finding food resources and alerting other ants to them, and can even search systematically for them, in a different direction every day. An aphid is just another food resource, though a preferred one, among many that they can find.

4. It is not just in guarding and/or moving aphids that ants might be problematic for gardeners, but also in their attacking of other insects and other possible aphid predators, including those normally considered beneficial to gardeners.

Which is not to say that ants are indeed bad in the garden. Maybe it's not a very black and white issue at all, and they may be doing both harm and good at the same time, or maybe it varies tremendously by type of ant, or by circumstance, such as whether a garden even has a serious aphid problem to begin with.
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Re: Should I care about ants on my veggies?

Post  yolos on 7/2/2014, 11:55 pm

I picked some pink eye purple hull peas this evening.  They have some aphids and ants on the pods and stems of the peas.  I was bit 3 times by the ants.  I used insecticidal soap to control the aphids.  But they keep coming back.  There are ants crawling up every stem/branch on the pea plants.  For that reason, I will be putting out ant baits in my beds where the peas are planted.
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