Ants are found in large numbers and are among the most common insects in gardens. But are there negative implications to having ants in the garden? Do they do no harm or do ants kill plants and flowers?
Yes, Ants do kill plants if they nest in them. By nesting in the base of the plant, ants will damage the roots ultimately killing the plant.
While ants are unlikely to do direct damage to plants, they farm pests such as aphids and whiteflies.
Ants are fond of the sweet nectar that these pests produce, therefore protecting them from predators such as ladybugs.
As a result, the pests grow in population and destroy your plants by sucking the sap. So, even though ants might not be directly killing your plants, they are facilitators in your garden, encouraging other pests to do their dirty work.
Are Ants Eating My Plants?
Ants can nest in plants and may then attack the roots. However, this is rare. In fact, it is rare for ants to actually eat your plants directly.
Instead, they rely on small insects such as aphids to draw sweet nectar out of the plant. Aphids will then excrete honeydew which is full of sweetness from the sap they pull out of the plants. This is what ants are after.
So, even though it’s highly unlikely that ants are eating your plants, they will be encouraging other insects such as aphids to eat your plants instead.
Are Ants Bad for Plants?
Ants in your garden can cause several problems for your plants.
The first way ants harm plants is by attacking the roots. This is a persistent problem that can destroy not only plants but entire trees. They don’t necessarily eat the roots but they will set up their nests as the base of plants, devoiding the soil of any goodness.
Moreover, ants also protect insects like aphids and whiteflies so that they can continue to cause damage to your plants. These pests produce honeydew which is a sweet nectar that ants love. The pests suck the sap out of plants, voiding them of nutrients.
The Ant and Aphid Relationship
It’s a quid pro quo relationship. The ants protect the aphids and in return get honeydew as a treat.
If you do not get rid of both ants and aphids, your plants will suffer from a lack of nutrition. The leaves turn yellow and curl, and the plant has stunted growth. Eventually, your plant can also die because of an aphid infestation.
Ants also attack beneficial insects like ladybugs. Ladybugs feed on aphids which help contain their population. However, ants have a life mission to protect the aphids, so they keep getting the sweet nectar.
Since ladybugs feed on aphids, ants will kill them.
In addition to ladybugs, ants will also kill pollinators like bees which are essential in your garden. We all know how important bees are on the planet and are also aware that their population is declining.
Is It All Bad News?
However, despite the disadvantages, there are some benefits when it comes to having ants. For instance, ants also act as pollinators. Ants help to pollinate potted plants as they move pollen between plants on their legs.
Apart from protecting pests like aphids and whiteflies, ants can also attack some pests which approach your plants. In an attempt to protect the aphids, ants will find any insect which comes near them as a threat.
Therefore, your plants can be safe from other pests, however, just not aphids.
Another benefit of having ants is that they aerate the soil. When ants move through the soil, they aerate it, opening up the texture, enabling moisture and air to reach the roots of your plants.
Like many pests, it’s not always 100% bad news and it’s always worth weighing up the benefits that those pests may bring with them. Ants, like many pests, are not completely bad so you might not want to get rid of them at all.
Ant infestations are a hassle to deal with. Ants can adversely affect the health of your plants by attacking the roots. But ants are more of a problem as they also protect insects like aphids and whiteflies because of the sweet nectar they produce.
Aphids will damage your plants by sucking out the sap and voiding it of nutrition. This can ultimately lead to the demise of the plant they call home.
While ants negatively affect gardens, they can also be beneficial as pollinators, killing pests and aerating the soil.
Ryan is a keen gardener from the UK who’s spent years dealing with countless, common pests over the years so knows the ins and outs of how to deal with pests in the garden