Ants eat pretty much everything that humans do, including plants. However, they like sugary foods, so they are drawn to sweet fruits and vegetables like strawberries and cabbages.
Ants also consume grass seeds, which may keep grass from growing.
Although ants normally build colonies near or on plants, they seldom consume those plants. The main reason ants infest plants, in this case, is because of the presence of bugs such as aphids that produce honeydew, a favorite of ants. In other instances, ants favor gardens and planters as spots to build their nests because of the moisture in the soil.
Do Ants Eat Grass?
Ants do not consume grass, at least not grass leaves. The reason could be that grass leaves are not sugary enough. That notwithstanding, it is common to find tens of ant colonies in your lawn, which could be worrying.
The main reason ants hang around a grassy area is not to devour the grass; it is to build colonies. They favor lawns because the soil is usually moist, which is a prerequisite for an ant-nest. Furthermore, there is plenty of food in the form of dead animals such as insects and worms in the soil.
Since they do not eat grass, ants rarely have negative effects on grass lawns. If anything, they could be beneficial as they eat pests that feed on grass or food particles that may have dropped on the lawn.
However, ants can become detrimental when they increase in numbers. For one, they tend to consume grass seeds which interferes with the growth of the grass. They also loosen the soil by digging to build nests, which on top of being unsightly, can downgrade the quality of the soil. At this point, it is wise to get rid of the insects.
Which Plants Attract Ants?
Plants that attract ants are those that produce nectar, sweet fruit, and have aphids. These plants include peonies, wild parsnip, and desert willow, which produce a whole lot of sweet nectar.
Roses, small stonecrop, clematis, and penstemon are plants that attract aphids. Ants feed on the honeydew that aphids produce and, in other instances, feed on the aphids themselves.
Fruit plants that produce sweet fruit such as oranges, strawberries, and bananas also attract ants because of the sugary content in their fruits. Other ants, especially the red imported fire ant, also known as Solenopsis invicta, are known to devour cabbage plants. Eventually, the cabbage wilts and dies.
Do Leaf-Cutter Ants Eat Leaves?
If there were an ant species that practiced gardening, the leaf-cutter ant would be it. These ants have a propensity for cutting leaves into small pieces. Interestingly, they do not eat these leaves or use them for nourishment.
Instead, leaf-cutter ants break down leaves into small pieces, carry them into their nests and chew them till the leaves break down. Then, they store the broken-down leaves together with their excretion, as if to increase their rate of decomposition.
The mixture of the leaves and excrements stimulates the growth of fungus, which is what the ants eventually consume for nourishment.
Do Ants Cause Damage to Plants?
Ants can have damaging effects on plants. For instance, when ant colonies build nests on the soil where plants are growing, they disturb the roots and interfere with the growth process. Furthermore, they can cause deprivation of water for the plants.
Additionally, ants tend to bury young plants by covering them with soil as they are digging up their nests. Other times, they feed on seedlings of various plants such as grass, thus cutting short the plant lives.
Also, ants create ant hills in lawns, which can be very unsightly. The ant hills also make mowing difficult and frustrating. The biggest offenders for this are mound ants and yellow meadow ants. However, these mounds can be flattened by mowers or feet.
On the other hand, ants can have positive effects on plants. For instance, when they are not nesting directly underneath a plant, ants can help to loosen the soil. Loose soil improves soil structure and drainage, all of which enhance the growth of plants.
How To Stop Ants from Damaging Your Plants
When ants infest your lawn, vegetable garden, or flower pots, nothing good can come out of it. They will only increase in numbers and cause damage. At the very least, they will forage for your food, block your sink, and if it is fire ants, they will bite you.
Fortunately, there are many methods of getting rid of ants from your plants. They include the following:
Ant repelling plants– Introducing ant repelling plants in your garden will keep ants away. These plants include peppermint, spearmint, sage, and pennyroyal. The scents produced by these plants are what steer away ants, keeping your plants safe.
Use of boric acid– Boric acid is an effective method of getting rid of ants that have infested your plants. First, you should mix half a cup of apple jelly with a few teaspoons of boric acid powder and seal the mixture with a plastic wrap. Then, poke some holes at the top with a sharp object.
Make a few jars in a similar way, and station them around your plants. The sweet apple substance will attract ants into the jars, after which they will perish due to the boric acid.
Spray your plants with water– Ants do not do very well in water; while they can float, they can’t swim. So, they drown within several hours of being trapped in it. Therefore, spraying your plants with water regularly is a good way of keeping the insects at bay.
When you keep spraying water on your plants, the continual saturation will push both aphids and ants away from your plant, keeping it safe.
Use of cinnamon: Ants are repelled by the potent smell and texture of cinnamon powder. Therefore, sprinkling some of it around your plant will prevent ants from crossing over to your plant. Some substitutes for cinnamon powder include curry powder, chalk, and talcum powder.
Application of pesticides– Applying a garden-safe pesticide to the perimeter of the plant or garden will prevent ants from infesting your plant or garden. On top of getting rid of ants, pesticides also keep away other harmful insects from your plants.
Ants are omnivorous insects; they eat everything from insects to plants. The insects are attracted to sweet plants that produce sweet nectar and fruits. These plants include roses, clematis, and strawberry plants. Plants also infest plants that have aphids, bugs that produce the sweet-tasting honeydew.
However, ants can be detrimental to the well-being of plants, especially in large numbers. In such cases, it is wise to get rid of them using the various methods highlighted in this article.
Joe is a freelance writer for FaunaFacts. Joe has written extensively about snakes for the site, but also contributes content about a range of animals.