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Seattle Pest Control Company Tackles Ants in the Garden

DSCN3785: Aphids and Ants

Seattle pest control companies warn that if you have aphids in your garden, there’s a good chance that there are ants nearby – and vice versa. The two insects have a symbiotic relationship, which means that in order to practice the most effective ant control, Seattle residents must also learn to control aphids.

Ant and Aphid Mutualism

Aphids excrete a sweet, sugar-rich fluid called honeydew from the plants on which they feed. Ants love this honeydew and offer aphids their protection in exchange for it. Some honeydew-loving ants have driven native ants out of their own territories, as well as aphid predators and parasites, to protect the aphids. Some species of ant are so loyal to the aphids that they’ll carry aphid eggs into their own nests during the winter to protect them and then bring newly hatched aphids back to the host plant in the spring to feed.

Some ants herd aphids like cattle, keeping them protected and well fed. If the host plants no longer have nutrients, the ants will physically carry the aphids to a new food source. Ants are known to “milk” aphids to make them excrete more honeydew. They’ll also destroy the eggs of predators, like ladybugs, to keep the aphids safe.

Controlling Ants in Your Garden

When ants carry aphids to your garden, or aphids make their own way there and are found by ants, your flowers and vegetables can be in big trouble. The best way to control an ant problem is to take action before you have one.

  • Check your plants for aphids and remove weeds twice a week.
  • Check for the presence of ants around trees and shrubs.
  • If you do notice aphids on your plants, prune the infested areas.
  • Introduce the following beneficial bugs into your garden: ladybugs, praying mantises, lacewings or syrphid flies.                
  • Prevent ants from climbing up trees by wrapping a special sticky material from a garden store (e.g., Tanglefoot) or a Teflon product for trees around the trunk.
  • Limit the use of nitrogen in your garden.
  • Grow seedlings under protective covers, in a greenhouse or in your home.
  • Use aluminum foil mulches around vegetables.
  • Hose aphids off your plants with a garden house. The aphids won’t be able to return, and you’ll wash off the honeydew.        

When considering chemical methods for ant control, Seattle homeowners should keep in mind that these are generally only short-term solutions, and some can harm beneficial insects or your plants. If you need help controlling ants or aphids in your garden, call a local Seattle pest control company, like Eden. Our Natural Choice Program uses the least toxic, most effective methods to control garden pests and prevent re-infestations. Our eco-friendly approach offers proven results and helps keeps your plants, pets and family safe.

[ Photo by: knickinoptik, on Flickr, via CC License ]

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