Why Are There Ants on My Vegetable Plants?
“I have ants in my garden, and they are eating my veggie plants. What is the best product to use on a vegetable garden that is safe for us to eat vegetables from?” Question from Jill of Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin
Answer: Ants are not vegetable garden pests. They may be attracted to the sweet juices of a split tomato or strawberry or drink the nectar from a sweet flower, but their peskiness ends there. But, that does not mean they aren’t a sign of a garden problem. Ants herd aphids like cattle so they can eat the sweet honeydew they produce, and aphids are a very obnoxious plant pest. If you get rid of the aphids, the ants will leave, and you don’t even need to use heavy chemicals.
Managing Aphids in the Garden
Aphids are delicate pests and quite easy to remove, believe it or not. When I have an infestation, I use these four methods of removal.
1. Spray them off with a sharp stream from the hose. This actually removes them fast and will kill quite a few. It’s a good first step for management.
2. Prune off really badly infested flowers or stems and spray the others with lightly soapy water (fill a spray bottle with water and add just a drop of dishwashing liquid). This will remove damaged parts of the plant and greatly reduce aphid populations.
3. If the two previous steps don’t get rid of your aphids, spray plants with OMRI Listed insecticidal soap to tackle any lingerers. The mild product is approved for organic gardening and works. If you are worried about it harming other insects, you can rinse off plants a few hours after application.
4. Nurture ladybugs and other beneficial insects that consume aphids. Refrain from using any harsh pesticides, and the beneficials will come. (Click here to read more about beneficial insects.)
I hope these tips help you better manage your aphid problems. They are annoying insects, but they won’t stand a chance if you continue with these methods.
If you ever have other ant problems, please click here to read an answer about removing fire ants. The methods of removal would apply to most ants.
Happy vegetable gardening!
Black Gold Horticulturist
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