It’s difficult to appreciate ants—especially if you are a north Texas gardener who numbers among their victims. I always count my day as lucky if I spend more than two hours in the garden without suffering a few fire ant bites and it does happen—once in a while.
Aphids have appeared in the Garland Community Garden. I have a “live and let live policy” with these creatures until they begin to overpower the plant. Then I take action with the hose and my thumb and forefinger. Once aphids are washed from the plant, they die and do not return to it. Their relatives may, but not the particular ones you removed,
Ants nest in the ground. The labyrinth of tunnels they dig are especially beneficial for our heavy clay soil as these tunnels aereate the soils allowing air and moisture to get to the roots of the plant. Additionally, they help to fertilize nearby plants as the leaves and insects they drag to their nest decay and help feed nearby plants.
Where there are destructive, sap-sucking Aphids, there are, or soon will be, Ants. Aphid eggs are those tiny little yellow balls that you can find on the leaves and stems of your plant. They will hatch into nymphs and unchecked will suck the life out of their host plant.
These tiny pests produce a substance called honeydew. Ants are said to milk aphids like cows for the honey dew. The ants stroke the aphids with their antennas and the aphids excrete the honeydew. The ant in turn store the honeydew in a special holding stomach called “the crop.” They bring it back to the nest to share with the queen and other workers. Ants even keep aphids in their nest giving them food and shelter as humans do with cows. Amazing, isn’t it—the complex societies inhabiting our planet that have existed longer than humans.
Below are two photos taken by Jane Stroud at the Garland Community Garden on August 22, 2018
Ladybugs, a natural predator of aphids, love to eat the aphid eggs and tiny nymphs. Looks to me like this one has her work cut out for her.