As spring arrives and temperatures warm, we see new growth and early blooms in our landscape. Fruit trees display beautiful blossoms that indicate the fruit is on the way.
As we admire the blooms and inspect new growth, we notice swarms of tiny white or black bugs around new growth. There also seems to be many ants roaming in the area and a sticky substance on the tree. What is all this and how do we get it off our prized fruit trees?
Unfortunately, the swarms are likely white aphids and black aphids and there are probably many more on the way. The ants may be there for other damaging pests as well. These pests may already be attacking your other fruit trees too. The sticky substance is honeydew, a delicacy for the ants.
How to Get Rid of Ants and Aphids
When you look closely you may notice that some leaves are wilting and curled. This is likely damage from the aphids. You may want to treat immediately with a natural aphid killer but wait. You’ll have to treat the entire situation to be permanently rid of both ants and aphids and other undesirable bugs.
The two are linked thru an ant and aphid’s symbiotic relationship. This is not uncommon. Aphids produce the honeydew substance, driving the ants to farm the aphids and protect them from natural predators.
Ants and aphids symbiotic relationship
Pictured are the materials you’ll need to get started. As per the instructions below, apply the fabric band and secure well with the tape. The fabric band protects the tree, unlike those that apply tape directly to the bark. Allow an overlap and cut with scissors. If there are valleys or indentions in the tree bark, fill these with waterproof caulking (must be waterproof), such as DAP, before wrapping.
Wrap your tree with a tight, water-resistant fabric band (20 cm wide). Unlike methods using tape, the fabric band does not have the potential to damage the trunk. Pull fabric band outward, as pictured.
Wrap fabric tightly with a slight overlap, and secure with insulating tape Make sure the tape fits tightly as this is your rope to dispose of climbing ants. Ants have an ingenious way of figuring different ways to get up your fruit trees. Be sure to put the fabric upward on the tree, at least a foot or higher.
Pull slitted bands outward, to act as a trap for ants and caterpillars. Apply birch tar essential oil or a mixture of equal parts peppermint, clove, thyme, and rosemary oils at tree band. Apply a thin layer all the way around the tree. The fabric band attached to the tree with a rope (insulating tape) allows you to bend out the fabric ends.
Apply this treatment to all fruit trees. Citrus trees are a favorite of this pest combination. If there are ants on the property, none of the trees are likely to escape the ant and aphid attack. This method is far superior to the tape and sticky substance method.
Additional Measures to Remove Black Ants
After applying this treatment to your fruit trees, there will likely be other ants on the ground. Look for large moving lines of them or just a few which are likely in search of food. If you are fortunate enough to find their nest, you can treat there with Diatomaceous Earth (DE), one of the most often-used and successful organic products.
Once the ants are gone, the lacewings, predatory wasps, and ladybugs will come. These beneficial insects remove aphids and other bad insects from your landscape. If ants are still there, they will continue to protect honeydew-producing insects. If you don’t see beneficial bugs after ants are gone, purchase them and release into your landscape.
If you have not located the nest, keep looking, following ants returning with food for the colony. In the meantime, sprinkle DE around the base of your fruit trees and any ant hill you see.
This treatment normally lasts about a year, but keep a check to make sure fabric bands remain pulled out and that ants are no longer crawling on the tree. You may use more of the herbal mixture at any time or adjust the bands. You may also add a new band if necessary. Keep them high on the tree. Those located at the bottom may be covered with debris, providing a bridge for ants to climb.
Surrounding trees may provide a bridge for them if limbs are touching. Keep branches pruned back to avoid this situation. This is another good reason to use this method to band all nearby trees.