Answer: Some gardeners assume that most bugs are bad and are to be eradicated, but in your case I think you've got it pegged -- the ants can be a nuisance, but they aren't causing any real harm. Ants sometimes indicate the presence of aphids -- the ants are attracted to the sweet "honeydew" the aphids secrete.
One way to cut down on the presence of ants in trees is to wrap tree trunks with a sticky substance that catches them when they travel up and down the tree. There are two types -- a sticky tape and a gluey substance that you spread on the bark. You'll need to check it often to make sure the ants haven't found a route around the sticky stuff.
A non-toxic way to deal with ant mounds in the garden is to pour boiling water on them. Be sure not to cook nearby plants.
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