My neighbor Jodi told me that there were ants all over her artichoke plants and she asked if that was O.K. I said that she didn’t want ants on her plants because usually ants on plants meant aphids on plants too. She said she hadn’t noticed any aphids and I told her I would go over and check out the ants.
Here’s what I found:
Aphids everywhere—and look who’s protecting them. I showed Jody all the aphids along with the ants. Jody is an organic gardener so she asked me if it would be a good idea to get some ladybugs. I said “Nope.” This is the problem with ants. Ants will keep the ladybugs away. They protect the aphids because you see, ants will work for food, a special food that the aphids produce called “honeydew” it is sweet and sticky and ants love it.
Aphids feed by sucking the juices from plants at the same time they inject their saliva into the plant—which is toxic to the plant. The plant will eventually weaken, become stunted and may even die. The aphids also transmit diseases to their host plant. If this isn’t bad enough, the honeydew also encourages a fungus to grow called sooty mold.
What to do, what to do? Since I am an organic gardener, I don’t use bad chemicals in my garden. Most of the time a strong blast of water will get rid of aphids. If this doesn’t work then try a spray made of soapy water.
I make mine from one part Dr. Bronner’s peppermint Pure Castile Soap and nine parts water. I like Dr. Bonner's because it's simple, non-toxic and I like to read the label.
Good Golly, I think this is the third time I’ve mentioned Dr. Bronner’s in my blog. You’d think I would be getting a piece of the action, hmmm, there’s an idea.
I take this process one step further. After I get rid of the aphids, I look for the ant colony. When I locate the colony I dig it up and flood it. Then I run in the house and pray that the ants haven’t seen “The Ant Bully.”
I periodically check my veggie garden for ant colonies, figuring it can’t hurt to make it unpleasant for them, and it will perhaps cut down on my ant and aphid incidents.