If you mention in certain circles that you practice ant control in the yard, you're likely to have some smart aleck pipe up and rant, "That's not really necessary. These insects don't cause much damage to plants, so just leave them alone." But what your Mr. Know-It-All isn't recognizing in his rant is that, indirectly, ants can cause significant damage to plants. |
Ants have a sweet tooth for honeydew, a substance secreted by insect pests such as aphids, scale and whitefly. Not content to take a "hunter-gatherer" approach to supplying themselves with honeydew, ants act as "farmers," herding around the insect pests that produce the honeydew. The herders protect these insect pests from predatory insects that would, otherwise, kill them.
Ant control, then, can be regarded as a measure to take against insect pests such aphids, scale and whitefly. Incidentally, as if the direct damage caused by these herded insect pests weren't sufficiently troubling to convince you that ant control is a legitimate concern, consider this: sooty mold, a fungus that often coats honeydew-stained plants, can damage a plant by depriving it of sufficient sunlight. Oh, and sooty mold turns ornamental plants into eyesores, too, by the way.
Now that you understand when and why it's necessary to take action, let's consider a few organic methods used to tackle the problem. Note also that, in addition to the organic tips discussed below, successes in organic ant control have been reported using everything from parasitic wasps to talcum powder.
Organic Ant Control With Companion Planting
As gardeners, I think we're enamored with the idea that the solution to one plant's problem may well lie in another plant. Indeed, companion planting has helped gardeners deal effectively -- and organically -- with pests for centuries. There are even companion-planting solutions for ant control. Specifically, the fragrance of certain herbs has been thought to repel certain insects, including ants.
Before I cite examples of plants used traditionally for organic ant control, however, let me issue a disclaimer. One gardener may swear that such and such an herb discourages ants; but that doesn't much help another gardener (living, perhaps, in a different region) who tries the same herb but fails to enjoy the same results. Remember that a given herb may not repel all types of ants. If you wish to try companion planting for organic ant control, be ready to experiment: Don't take anything as "the Gospel truth," or you may suffer disappointment.
Besides, the nice thing about companion planting is that, even if it fails, all you're "stuck" with (besides the insects you're fighting, that is) are some additional plants -- plants which you may end up liking so much for their ornamental value, etc. that you decide they're now must-haves for your yard (so you haven't wasted any money, at least).
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