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Ask Nell: Ants In & Around Plants

Ants & plants have been hanging out together for ages. Find out what draws ants in & around plants & what you can do about it.

Ants In & Around Plants

Pearl wrote me a couple of weeks back and said she’d seen lots of ants on the soil of her succulents and near her succulents.  “What is the best way to get rid of Ants In & Around Plants?”, she asked.  Ants and plants have been spending time together for 100’s of years.  There seems to be no end in sight for this combo.   The answer is simple: get rid of what the ants are after, and the ants will go too.

Ants love anything sweet.  It seems that Pearl’s succulents have some kind of pests and she doesn’t even know it.  You see, the ants are after the honeydew (which is very sweet) secreted by sap-sucking insects; the most common of those beasties being aphids, mealy bug, whiteflies, and scale.  If the insects go, so does the source of sugary food for the ants and off they go.

The succulents in my own garden get mealy bugs and aphids but the ants don’t bother me.  The infestation never gets to a red flag situation nor do the ants harm the plants or bite me so I take a very casual approach.  Every month or so I take the garden hose and (gently, no fire hose action needed here) blast the insects off the plants.  The environment is not harmed and neither are any of the pollinators making mother nature a very happy lady.

Hanging out in my front yard talkin’ about Ants In & Around Plants:

In the house, the ants may not be welcome visitors.  Inspect your plants to find the insects.   Once you have done that, you can spray the plants with insecticidal soap making certain to get under the leaves and in the nodes.  If the ant infestation is really bad and driving you cuckoo, watch the video and you’ll see what to do.

The picture of the beautiful peonies is up top not only because I love them, but ants and peonies are another well-known horticultural coupling.  The peony buds secrete a nectar and the ants love it.  Once the flowers open, the ants pack up and off they go.  So, don’t rush to spray those buds because the ants really don’t do any damage and won’t be around for very long.   Hey, we have a sweet tooth too!

Here’s a short tale told by me in my early days of blogging about my childhood adventures on the farm with peonies and ants.

Dealing with pests in and around your plants

1 of my aloes infested with mealybugs & aphids which like to hang out in the crevices.  There were ants crawling around in there too but they weren’t in the mood to pose for me!

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