The Q&A Archives: Black Ants on My Corn

Question: I tried to grow extra sweet corn last year. By the time the silk came to the top of the corn and the ears were almost ready to eat, black ants, (they look like carpenter ants) were eating the silk, the corn and even eating the stalks. they were drilling holes in the stalks. I was afraid to put anything on it because it was too close to picking time. When it came time to pick it, there was no corn left. All summer, I took care of it, and looked forward to eating it. Needless to say, I was very upset to find that the ants beat me to it! I would like to try again this year, but how does a person outsmart a colony of ants?? Help!!!

Answer: You were right not to spray too close to picking time, but it must have been discouraging to have the ants take control of your corn after tending it all summer! This year be ready for them. Ants love sweet foods, so when they first appear on your corn, offer them something sweeter?pure sugar or sugar water as diversion from your corn. Set it out close enough for them to find it, but away from the corn. Don't put it out until you see the ants, so you don't attract them to the corn!

Of course the ants could be a sign that your corn was being attacked by aphids. Aphids are tiny insects which often cluster on the undersides of leaves. Ants are attracted by 'honeydew' which the aphids secrete. They can be controlled by hosing them off, or with an insecticidal soap spray. Once the aphids are gone, the ants should leave also.

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