The Q&A Archives: Ants Eating Cucumber Leaves

Question: I planted cucumber and noticed the leaves being eaten by something. First I thought it was the birds, but know I have second thoughts, I think it's red ants. What is the best thing that will take care of the red ants eating the leaves?

Answer: I know a Master Gardener who is an entomologist and her speciality is ants. She says there are very few instances of ants actually eating plants--if they are found on plants they are probably more interested in other plant pests that are found there. For example, ants "herd" aphids, protecting them from predators in exchange for honeydew, the sweet excrement the aphids produce. It'll be obvious if this is the case in your garden - you'll see ants on plant stems and leaves and clusters of pale green/brown soft-bodied aphids nearby. You can control them by first blasting them off the plants with a strong spray of water. You may have to do this daily. However, the first thing you need to do is monitor/inspect the plants carefully to see who's really causing the damage. Use a magnifying glass. You might want to put a piece of damaged plant, with any suspected culprits, in a jar for a day. Does the damage continue? When we know exactly who's doing the munching, we can help you with a solution! Please write again and good luck with your sleuthing!

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