Answer: The ants are either feeding on the fruit, the sap oozing from the tree, or are in your tree because there are aphids feeding on the leaves. 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!
You can also place ant baits near your tree. A good least-toxic method is the use of boric acid baits. Boric acid baits can eliminate some ant colonies in about one week. The trick is to not kill the ants at the bait station, but to get the ants to carry the boric acid back to the nest, poisoning the members of the colony that never leave the nest. Most ants feed either on sugars or on protein, fats, or oils. To see which type you have, place small dabs of jelly and peanut butter (not mixed) where ants are seen and watch which food they are attracted to. If they are attracted to the jelly, you can make a boric acid bait by mixing one-half cup jelly, such as apple jelly, with 1 1/4 tsp boric acid powder. Punch several holes in the lid of the jar, then screw the lid on tightly and seal with tape. The holes should be large enough for the ants to pass through to reach the bait. Place the bait jar on its side where the ants will come in contact with it. If the ants are unable to gain footing on the jar lid, you might want to scratch the surface with sandpaper or a pebble. If the ants are attracted to peanut butter, use that for your bait rather than jelly. If you find many dead ants around the bait station, which ever bait you use, lower the amount of boric acid in the mixture. If you are still finding live ants after a week to 10 days, increase the amount of boric acid. Although boric acid is of very low toxicity, it is best to place bait jars where children and pets cannot reach them.
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