Ants: carnivores, omnivores or vegetarians?

Discussion in 'HortForum' started by mike anders, Mar 1, 2010.

  1. mike anders

    mike anders Active Member

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    Are ants carnivors, ominivors or vegitarians? They do a lot to help convert the vegetable matter in the soil the same as worms. Are they harmful to plants? I do not have many worms yet although they are on the increase. They only live in my compost heaps at the moment.
     
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  2. bedixon

    bedixon Active Member

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    Re: Blossom end rot on tomatoes

    Ants have never bothered me. We had a huge nest once that might have been a problem had it been nearer to the house, but it was far enough away that we let it be. It made a very large mound in the grass, was a thriving hub for years and eventually died out, or moved on. There are so many different kinds of ants in every part of the world, I think you'd need to find out what kind you're dealing with before you know if they could be a problem.
     
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  3. vitog

    vitog Well-Known Member

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    Ants are generally omnivores, but there are all kinds of specialists among the many species. Some, like the leaf-cutters, grow fungi for consumption. They can be harmful to plants because they often spread and encourage aphids that suck the juices out of various plants. I have to protect almost all of my fruit trees from them.
     
  4. lorax

    lorax Rising Contributor

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    Generally omnivores, but watch out for some of your tropical species. I have a particular problem with leafcutters, which are fungivores, but which can strip my garden of leaves overnight if I'm not vigilant about them. (The leaves go to the nest and are food for the fungus). Black ants are generally the worst offenders on citrus - they bring both aphids and snowy scale to collect honeydew from the plants. I've also had problems with army ants when I lived in the Amazon - those just strip everything bare; this is sort of a good thing because they'll eat all the cockroaches and whatnot, but they also eat all the plant matter in their path. It's really something to see, but from a distance.

    However, 99.999% of ant species are either benign or beneficial - I guess we'd need to see pics of yours to tell you more. If you plants aren't being damaged or covered in aphids, I wouldn't really worry about it all that much.
     
  5. mike anders

    mike anders Active Member

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    Hi Everyone

    The ants here in my garden are very tiny red ones. They do not bite but they will consume anything ediable to them which has been left on the patio outside; candy, meat, dead insects etc. If you leave a plate with anything on it outside for about ten mins an army of them will arrive in great numbers. But they do not seem to hurt the plants in my garden.

    They can be kept under control using DDT. I wonder sometimes if the DDT can get into fruit via the roots of the plants and be accidently consumed. I do not put it on the fruit because I have another insecticide for that which is supposed to be harmless to humans.

    Any comments please?

    regards Mike Anders
     
  6. Liz

    Liz Well-Known Member

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    We have some that appear to damage gum trees. They are not termites which are another problem altogether. We do have a few that really bite if disturbed and of course the good old Argentinian ant (imported) that likes the house and what is in cupboards in the kitchen. (chickens help with control by scratching around the house pylons) Here it usually depends on what soil one is on and how much cultivaton. The raw bush has plenty of ants. On the whole they have not been a problem.

    DDT is banned here as a dangerous chemical. I think it was in the 70's. Place your patio table legs in containers of water which should help. Some people use talcum powder in the cracks of patios there are also some ant rid preparations available that are much safer.

    Here are some ideas
    http://www.oztion.com.au/Community/topic.aspx?t=help&tid=299940

    Liz
    Liz
     
  7. mike anders

    mike anders Active Member

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    Thanks Liz

    Although ants are everywhere in the fruit trees they do not seem to eat any of it. I was just worried that they may damage the roots of plants. The plants do not show any signs of attack from below!

    There are some termites here but Thai people eat their nests!! They are cooked together with the eggs, so not too many now.

    I had them in the house in Gambia. They ate the roof so had to put new all steel on it instead. I think the termites will get toothache now!

    We have a chalk block which contains an insecticide to use in the kitchen in Thailand. It is quite efective but have to use about 3 times a week.

    Do you think I ought to stop using DDT?

    Regards Mike Anders
     
  8. lorax

    lorax Rising Contributor

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    Sweet lord, DDT?!?! I thought that had been banned worldwide - it's a really nasty toxic chemical! Stop using it! It may kill the ants, but it also kills birds, cats, and other higher predators, since it bioaccumulates. Check out the Wikipedia page on DDT for the scientific reasoning behind why it's a banned chemical in 99% of the world.

    If you want ant control that won't wipe out your local birdlife as well, try Pyrethrum, which is extracted from Chrysanthemums. Ants (at least the ones here) hate it and it has zero environmental impact. Essential oil of Mint is also a great ant deterrent.
     
  9. bedixon

    bedixon Active Member

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    I would also urge you to not use ddt when you have alternative choices. ddt is broad spectrum and kills many creatures, including beneficial ones.
    I'm not in the tropics, I think your having a case of ants in the house is quite a bit different than mine... generally here they don't bother us, they're outside everywhere although if we found carpenter ants in the house we wouldn't lose any time getting rid of them in whatever way we had to... but there are other things to try before nasty chemicals. For the small type of ants that go after food, peppermint oil can divert their path; simply keeping crumbs and bits meticulously cleaned up, putting food like sugar in closed containers and sealing any entrances up can eliminate a problem; diatomaceous earth can help in some cases too. If you do choose an insecticide, get an organic one that breaks down completely, like the one Lorax mentioned called Pyrethrum... although remember this should not be used around waterways or fishponds as it is lethal to fish. good luck!
     
  10. Liz

    Liz Well-Known Member

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    I think it was Rachel Carson's book "Silent spring" back in late 60's that first bought DDT to the public's notice. I remember everyone in the library wanted to read it.
    Liz
     
  11. mike anders

    mike anders Active Member

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    One other thing about ants.

    Do they carry disease?

    Also: It is not DDT which I have. It is 'Chaindrite Steadfast 4 sc'. It looks like PVA glue & you water it down to what you need to use. My Thai friend Got it for me & did not know how to pronounce it. He called it DDT! So OK now!

    Mike Anders
     
  12. lorax

    lorax Rising Contributor

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    The ants themselves, no. The aphids, sometimes. Watch out particularly on your bananas and keep those aphid-free; otherwise you run the risk of Banana Bunchy-Top Virus infection, which is spread by the aphids.
     
  13. ellaYu

    ellaYu New Member

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    This is my biggest concern too.

    I have a little hill of small, black ants in my garden bed. I don't know what species but they are probably native to Michigan, where we live. They are not aggressive. I thought I had driven them out with cinnamon and coffee grounds but today they were back, pulling some sort of hornet along with them, business as usual. I sprinkled some more cinnamon and they abandoned the bee but I'm certain they'll return. I don't think the presence of cinnamon is enough to deter them.

    Our fear is not that they'll eat the plants. I've seen only minimal damage to my plants since transplanting them. If the ants were interested, they would have stripped them already.

    Our fear is that in building and maintaining the hill they will either damage the root systems or leave them without enough soil.

    I do however like that they are carnivorous. It means they'll eat pests that DO feast on my plants.

    Not sure if we should let them stay or get aggressive about evicting them.
     

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