The Q&A Archives: how to get rid of ants on cherry tree

Question: We have a cheery tree in the front yard that we covered with netting so that birds could not beat us to the fruit like they did last year. However, this seems to have made it a haven for very agressive rather large ants which have taken up residence among the leaves. The ants have the leaves all curled up to the point we are worried about the tree being able to survive. The fruit is almost ripe now, what is safe to use to kill the ants? They actually drop out of the tree onto anything that comes near and start pinching mercilessly. Thanks, D.C., Bridgeville PA

Answer: I believe the ants are in your tree because there are aphids feeding on the leaves (the curling is the give-away). The ants 'herd' aphid colonies and milk them of honeydew, a sugary residue that they excrete while feeding on the leaves of your tree. Spray your tree with a strong stream of water to dislodge any aphids you find. If you could somehow spray all the aphids with insecticidal soap, that would take care of them. But it's difficult for a homeowner to do - you may have to hire a professional. Insecticidal soap is lethal to aphids but won't hurt you or your fruit. To keep ants from climbing up your tree, place 'Tanglefoot' at the base of the trunk. Tanglefoot is an extremely sticky substance that traps insects if they fly or walk onto it. To protect the trunk of your tree, first wrap it with paper and apply the Tanglefoot to the paper. You may have to remove the paper coated Tanglefoot trap and replace it as it becomes filled with ants - if there are enough dead ants trapped, live ants will use them as a bridge and cross the Tanglefoot barrier!

Best wishes with your cherry harvest!

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