Female Velvet Ant photo by Christopher Kimsey
I know! I just had to play on some words...Hopefully they're not in your pants. If they are in your plants however, it is easy enough to find out why.
The Velvet Ant in this photo might fool you. She is not even a real ant! She is actually a wasp without wings. It is the male Velvet Ant who has the wings. She is completely harmless to your plants and is only seeking nectar for food. She has a sharp sting, so just enjoy her beauty and don't touch.
Ants Are Farmers
The most important thing to know about ants is that they are all about farming.
Ants are not interested in eating your plants. A person might be inclined to think so when they are leaf cutting ants. But even they are not actually eating your plants, they are farming as well.
As a matter of fact, the leaf cutter ants are master farmers and composters too. They use the leaf parts, seeds and flowers they harvest to carry back to their own family farm to grow fungus on top. The fungus is the actual food source of this ant.
Fire Ant Mound photo by Pamela Kimsey
Fire Ants can be maddening! This colony thought they would try to charm me by forming their mound into a heart shape. Totally didn't work for me or for them either.
The Fire Ant, like nearly all other ants are big ag farmers. Their favorite food source is honeydew secretions put out by other insects that can invade just about any type of plant..
When you find ants climbing up and down your plant stalks it is namely because you have another invading insect that are actually making your plants sick and possibly killing them..
Harmful insects that may be in your plants are aphids, scale, whitefly or mealy bugs. All of which can excrete honeydew, the favorite food source of ants.
The ants are farming the insects. "What," you say? Yes, in the case of the aphid, the ants actually nurture and grow them to help make more aphids so they will have more honeydew. It's a wacky world in the ant farming business!
At any rate, once you get rid of the invading insects the ants will leave your plants. Hence healthy plants again.
One thing to know, especially in the case of the fire ant....no matter how much poison we could possibly contaminate the ground with, we can never totally get rid of them. We can only attempt to control them and that can be done organically.
I do have a few tricks for helping get ants out of your plants and garden.. Just read my previous post "No Love Loss With Fire Ants."