Sempervivum and Jovibarba forum: Ants in my plants.

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Name: Tim Stoehr
Canby, Oregon (Zone 8b)
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tcstoehr
Apr 7, 2016 12:52 PM CST
Ants are increasingly numerous around where I live. I'm talking about the tiny red ones that sometimes come into the house, maybe they're called Sugar Ants but I'm not sure. They will destroy Brassica starts if left unchecked. I have been vigilant this year and sure enough they began their mischief attacking my Collards and Kale roots. So I'm killing them in that part of the veg garden.

I have also noticed them in a couple of semps, as you can see below. The tell-tale mounds of fine soil have alerted me to their activities. Need I worry? The fact that they set up shop right underneath each plant seems like trouble to me. Anybody else with these issue? I don't know if these ants are for killing or if I should just live and let live.

Thumb of 2016-04-07/tcstoehr/22ff5c Thumb of 2016-04-07/tcstoehr/06543b

Name: Lynn
Dallas, OR (Zone 8b)
Charter ATP Member Garden Sages I helped plan and beta test the plant database. I helped beta test the Garden Planting Calendar I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Plant Database Moderator
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valleylynn
Apr 8, 2016 4:52 PM CST

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Hey there Tim.
I have been finding them under plants that I have been moving. Seems every spring I find them under plants. I have never had them harm any of my plants. I think they winter over under them for protection.
And they can be feeding on or farming colonies of other pests, like aphids and such.
Name: Tim Stoehr
Canby, Oregon (Zone 8b)
Sempervivums Region: Pacific Northwest Vegetable Grower Cactus and Succulents Sedums Bee Lover
Region: Oregon Dragonflies Keeper of Poultry Cat Lover Composter Apples
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tcstoehr
Apr 10, 2016 9:40 AM CST
Hmmmm... no harm no foul I guess. Innocent until proven guilty I suppose. They don't seem to be doing any harm to the semps... yet... but I'll be keeping an eye on the situation. But I do have to kill them all where I grow Collards and Kale because the ants will destroy those plants if left alone. And where would I be without my fresh greens? Big Grin
Name: Lynn
Dallas, OR (Zone 8b)
Charter ATP Member Garden Sages I helped plan and beta test the plant database. I helped beta test the Garden Planting Calendar I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Plant Database Moderator
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valleylynn
Apr 10, 2016 9:40 PM CST

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Tim if you check it closely you will notice the ants are not eating your collards, they are farming the hidden aphids that are sucking the life out of the plants. I know, I had that happen. Now if I see ants on the collards I go looking for the aphids, sure enough there they are. I give them a good blast of water and that seems to keep the aphids at bay.
I love collards. Yummmmm
Name: Tim Stoehr
Canby, Oregon (Zone 8b)
Sempervivums Region: Pacific Northwest Vegetable Grower Cactus and Succulents Sedums Bee Lover
Region: Oregon Dragonflies Keeper of Poultry Cat Lover Composter Apples
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tcstoehr
Apr 11, 2016 10:35 AM CST
Not so much for discussion here, but suffice to say I have spent extensive time and effort observing and analyzing ant activity on my young Collard, Kale and Cauliflower plants. The ants underground chew on and ruin the main stem, causing wilt and collapse of the plant. Here are some examples.

Thumb of 2016-04-11/tcstoehr/771007

Why they do it I cannot say, but I know they do it as I have watched. Getting rid of the ants results in this:

Thumb of 2016-04-11/tcstoehr/8569af

I do use Soy Bean meal as a fertilizer and that may initially attract the ants who then work their mischief. Next year I won't do that and see what happens.
Name: Lynn
Dallas, OR (Zone 8b)
Charter ATP Member Garden Sages I helped plan and beta test the plant database. I helped beta test the Garden Planting Calendar I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Plant Database Moderator
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valleylynn
Apr 11, 2016 10:44 AM CST

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Tim I can see some very tiny white dots in your photo, in the soil around the roots. Check them out.
https://www.google.com/search?q=ants+and+root+aphids&biw=145...
Name: Tim Stoehr
Canby, Oregon (Zone 8b)
Sempervivums Region: Pacific Northwest Vegetable Grower Cactus and Succulents Sedums Bee Lover
Region: Oregon Dragonflies Keeper of Poultry Cat Lover Composter Apples
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tcstoehr
Apr 11, 2016 4:14 PM CST
Bin dar, dun dat. Scoured with a high powered magnifying glass. Not this year though yet.
Name: Jo Ann Mc Brayer
NW Oregon (Zone 8a)
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ricos
May 30, 2016 10:44 PM CST
Tim I have this problem on some brasicas too. The systemic that i use for root aphid on semps cannot be used on food crops. I have never had a problem with these tiny ants before. What to do????? Grumbling
Name: Chris
Ripon, Wisconsin
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goldfinch4
May 31, 2016 1:32 AM CST

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I can't believe how many ants there are this year! It's not unusual to come across 1 or 2 anthills in the yard or garden each year, but I've already found 7 pretty large ones! Some of the ants are black, some tiny red ones and some medium sized red ones. The hills are about 12-18" across, and in my perennial garden they almost covered one of my plants as it was coming up this year as the hill was about 6" high. I usually don't have a problem with them, but not happy about it this year.
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Name: Lynn
Dallas, OR (Zone 8b)
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valleylynn
May 31, 2016 8:04 AM CST

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Same here Chris and Jo Ann. The ants are everywhere. All of mine are the tiny dark ants.
Name: Connie
Willamette Valley OR (Zone 8a)
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pardalinum
May 31, 2016 9:33 AM CST
Anthills everywhere here. When I am out on my daily walks around the neighborhood I see many hills emerging from the cracks and joints of sidewalks. I suspect this undermines the sidewalks to a certain extent.

I also found a hill emerging from the base of my foundation and also where the driveway and apron connect. They got the boiling water treatment.

The lack of a true winter is probably behind this phenomenon.
Name: Tim Stoehr
Canby, Oregon (Zone 8b)
Sempervivums Region: Pacific Northwest Vegetable Grower Cactus and Succulents Sedums Bee Lover
Region: Oregon Dragonflies Keeper of Poultry Cat Lover Composter Apples
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tcstoehr
May 31, 2016 10:22 AM CST
Yes, the ant population seems to have exploded in the last couple years. I don't know why. Maybe mild winters but we have had numerous, serious, record-breaking cold events recently. But not this last winter for sure.
My ants are small brown ants that I believe to be Sugar Ants. They are everywhere except indoors. Oddly enough, in the past that's the only place they bothered me. These are likely the same ones Lynn has.

I use soybean meal for fertilizer in my vegetable garden. As soon as I work in into the soil I can look down and see it all walking away. Closer inspection reveals an ant under each grain of meal. What's left is food for the Finches. Angry I may have to get better at burying the fertilizer instead of top working it.

My Collards are now out of the woods ant-wise. If they can grow large enough the ants seem to lose interest. Along the way I lost a dozen plants. One strategy I use is water, plenty of it. These ants prefer a dry environment and seek sheltered nest sites. So I make a muddy slurry around the Brassica stems which seems to keep them from taking up residence there.

I had one Collard plant that I was trying to save from the ants. It was the last one left that was still under siege, and the ants would mass on the stem just above ground. I would come along and smash the ants off and maybe muddy up the area. Minutes later they would be back. It was basically wash, rinse and repeat. This went on for two days until I got a bright idea. I mounded some mud up around the stem to cover it and hopefully protect it from ants. Worked like a charm, immediately and permanently.

What I have learned. The ants are doggedly determined to eat/destroy the lower stem section of the plant above the roots and below the leaves. This portion is partly above ground level, partly below. Protecting this is paramount. Going forward I will plant my Brassica starts down into the soil so that the first leaf stems are buried. I think mounding soil up will work just as well. The soil around each plant is then made soupy wet on a regular basis to deter underground ant activity, and there will be nothing above ground that they want. Fortunately, Brassicas tolerate both deep planting and wet conditions.

I can see ant activity within semp plants here and there. All of their excavated soil gets pushed up in and around the plant. Easy enough to wash away. No harm, no foul... so far. Crossing Fingers!
[Last edited by tcstoehr - May 31, 2016 10:22 AM (+)]
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Name: Bev
Salem OR (Zone 8a)
Sempervivums Container Gardener Foliage Fan Garden Ideas: Master Level Photo Contest Winner: 2014
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webesemps
Jun 1, 2016 3:04 PM CST
Ooohh, the blow by blow by Tim Cosell...Interesting Report.

"The ultimate victory in competition gardening is derived from the inner satisfaction of knowing that you have done your best and that you have gotten the most out of what you had to give." Howard Cosell

Name: Lynn
Dallas, OR (Zone 8b)
Charter ATP Member Garden Sages I helped plan and beta test the plant database. I helped beta test the Garden Planting Calendar I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Plant Database Moderator
Forum moderator I helped beta test the first seed swap Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Plant and/or Seed Trader Garden Ideas: Master Level Sempervivums
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valleylynn
Jun 1, 2016 4:40 PM CST

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Rolling on the floor laughing Rolling on the floor laughing Rolling on the floor laughing
I can hear his voice just seeing the name in print. Big Grin
Name: Tim Stoehr
Canby, Oregon (Zone 8b)
Sempervivums Region: Pacific Northwest Vegetable Grower Cactus and Succulents Sedums Bee Lover
Region: Oregon Dragonflies Keeper of Poultry Cat Lover Composter Apples
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tcstoehr
Jun 1, 2016 5:38 PM CST
Well... someone did ask about how to deal with this very situation.
Name: Bev
Salem OR (Zone 8a)
Sempervivums Container Gardener Foliage Fan Garden Ideas: Master Level Photo Contest Winner: 2014
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webesemps
Jun 1, 2016 7:05 PM CST
Whoops, sorry! *Blush*
Name: Tim Stoehr
Canby, Oregon (Zone 8b)
Sempervivums Region: Pacific Northwest Vegetable Grower Cactus and Succulents Sedums Bee Lover
Region: Oregon Dragonflies Keeper of Poultry Cat Lover Composter Apples
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tcstoehr
Jun 1, 2016 7:57 PM CST
webesemps said:Whoops, sorry! *Blush*


Not at all! Seems like I was put in good company.
Name: Lynn
Dallas, OR (Zone 8b)
Charter ATP Member Garden Sages I helped plan and beta test the plant database. I helped beta test the Garden Planting Calendar I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Plant Database Moderator
Forum moderator I helped beta test the first seed swap Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Plant and/or Seed Trader Garden Ideas: Master Level Sempervivums
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valleylynn
Jun 1, 2016 10:25 PM CST

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Tim it seems as though my ant population might be diminishing. Hurray!
Name: Margo
Ohio (Zone 5a)
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ravenpickers
Jun 2, 2016 6:55 PM CST
Tim, several years ago I had a beautiful strawberry jar full of semps. There were several different varieties in there, and it was a few years old with no problems. One year an ant colony moved in, and they killed every plant in there within a month. There were no other problems with the plants. This is the only time I ever had this happen, but it did. I have had ants in my plants before with no damage, but they got those ones.

My sister swears by Bayer's spray, but I have never used it. She takes her houseplants out for the summer, and when she brought them in, they were full of ants. She said the Bayer's knocked the ants right out with no damage to the plants. I don't know about using it on veggies, though, I'm funny about that.

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