Ants are Ranchers

Ants and aphidsOur little lime tree is finally starting to produce. It put on quite a lot of growth this year, with lots of fresh juicy leaves. So the aphids and the whitefly moved in next? Or was it the ants first and then the others? Either way, the ants decided this was a fertile area for ranching.  I found a PBase gallery with some great photos of the relationship between ants, aphids and ladybugs. The text there seems to imply that the ants don’t really deter the ladybugs and other beneficial insects like parasitic wasps, but most of what I’ve read says that the ants will do a pretty good job of protecting the aphids, since the aphids are providing honeydew for the ants. And that certainly seems to be the case on out tree.

TanglefootI want to clean up the tree and that means restricting access to the ants.  After doing a few quick searches, I decided not to go with chemicals. I don’t want to be doing lots of spraying  – some say to apply every week or two until the tree is cleared of infestation. So the mechanical solution is tanglefoot, which seems to be pretty well named. It creates a sticky barrier that the ants are unable to cross.

Tanglefoot barrier wrap

I found a nice demo video called Organic Ant Control For Fruit Trees that showed how to use tanglefoot. He also did a nice job of explaining all the little details like which direction to wind your barrier wrap and why. The guy at the nursery said wax paper is also a good barrier.  The main points are to keep the tanglefoot off the trunk of tree and to use something that will not constrict the tree as it grows. Your barrier might last as much as a year before needing to be replaced.  I think the little tube of tanglefoot I got may last a lifetime. Just a dab ‘ll do ya.

After I got the stuff slathered on, I used a small paintbrush to flick off all the ants I could find before it started to rain. What do you do to control aphids and whitefly?

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