Edna M Weigel (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Thu, 8 Jul 1999 12:47:20 -0700
Carl Spring asked about various kinds of ants in the Sornoran
desert and Bunny Snow offered some possible controls. I agree with Bunny
that they can be beneficial. For those that become troublesome, I've
tried some of her methods with varying success but I'd like to add one
that has worked for me: FEED THEM. All my recent experience has been in
Phoenix, Tucson, and Sierra Vista, AZ and I wonder if desert ants follow
the same rules as those elsewhere.
Obviously, my specific methods work only for vegetarian ants, but
the vegetarians have been the most troublesome to me. (The thought
occurs to me that this could be extended to non-vegetarian foods, but I
haven't tried it.) While I lived in Phoenix, I had an enormous hill of
large red ants trooping through my garden for days at a time. They
disappeared into my neighbor's weed patch and returned with pieces of pig
weed (amaranth). They discarded the twigs and bracts outside the hill so
I assume they wanted the seeds. I reached a truce with them by
harvesting (every few days) a large pigweed and delivering it to the top
of their hill. Then I didn't have to worry about accidentally making one
of them mad and getting stung.
After I moved to Sierra Vista, I learned about the kind of big
red ants (maybe the same species, for all I know) that can denude a good
sized tomato vine between sundown and sunup. I tried boiling water,
pepper, nasty words and a few other things--all to no avail. Then I
noticed they also collected mesquite blossoms. I put a bucketfull of
mesquite blossoms under a screen mounted on a wooden frame (to keep the
blossoms from blowing away). I repeated this daily for about a week.
This distracted them from my tomato patch. Later in the year, similar
ants from a different hill denuded some tree seedlings and a friend told
me to mulch with alfalfa. It worked! The ants busily carried away
alfalfa leaves and left my trees alone.
Baled alfalfa is a lot less seasonal than pig weed seeds or
mesquite blossoms and a heck of a lot less bother. I keep alfalfa around
all the time now and use it to mulch whenever I even suspect those ants
are headed for my plants. Besides the benefits of any mulch, it adds
nitrogen to boot.
Meanwhile, I may try some of Bunny's suggestions for the ants
that protect aphids; I long ago gave up eating black-eyed peas as green
beans because I got tired of being stung by the black ants (various
sizes, but always black, for some reason) defending their ants.
Best regards, Edna Weigel
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