In the vegetable garden, ants sometimes cause some damage…
The fact remains that they play an essential role in a permaculture garden.
Let’s try to reconcile our laudable goals of protecting our crops with respect for this vital insect, the ant.
Ants (there are more than 12,000 species around the world, but only 285 in France) have managed to colonize the entire planet (except the seas and oceans), from the coldest to the warmest regions.
And this is no coincidence!
They live not only in community, but for the community (even to sacrifice themselves for the good of it).
Some altruism, right?
I couldn’t take an example (well, maybe not so much that you sacrifice yourself…).
For this solidarity is indeed the main reason for this tremendous development… while man’s individualism may well lead to his loss…
Ecological roles of ants
Ants invented agriculture long before us
To feed themselves, the ants mainly breed aphids (I know you don’t necessarily like that… we’ll get to this later), which will provide them with good honeydew.
Some species protect trees from pests.
Others scatter and sow!
Still others are even responsible for growing mushrooms (organisms necessary for the life of the soil, etc.) to feed their fellow creatures.
They help pollinate plants.
And so on…
Knowing that ants have been on Earth for about 120 million years (and even more according to recent research), I think it’s safe to say that these tiny insects simply invented agriculture (livestock and crops) long before us!
Ants already play a major ecological role through their agricultural activities… but that’s not all.
Ants and Biodiversity
Ants are omnivores.
In the wild, they feed on honeydew from aphids, insects (eggs, larvae or adults) or other small invertebrates (dead* or alive), plant or fruit juices, etc.
For example, ants contribute to the regulation of certain populations through their own diet.
But they themselves also serve as food for many animals: insects (spiders, centipedes, etc.), birds, amphibians, bats, certain rodents or even humans (whether these are communities that have always lived in harmony with nature, or , more recently, in this insect-eating trend, in protein foods that consume and pollute less energy than those from mammal farms destined for slaughter, etc.).
* Also note that some species of ants are scavengers. They feed on small dead animals, limiting the spread of pathogens, while enriching the soil (via their droppings).
In short, ants play as important a role as any other animal (except humans… who strive to destroy it) in terms of biodiversity.
Their presence in the garden is therefore an advantage, both ecologically and healthy.
Do not forget it !
And if they sometimes become particularly invasive in certain regions of the world, or more locally in a vegetable garden, it’s because some of their predators are missing (again our fault…).
Well, the purpose of this article is not to know everything about ants…
The Wikipedia article will complement it in an already very interesting way.
And, in a more entertaining yet equally documented way, I can only recommend Bernard Werber’s Ant Trilogy.
Damage caused by ants
They sometimes destroy the seedlings…
If they’ve decided to build their anthill in the middle of your bed, you’ll probably hate them, especially if you’ve just seeded or the plants are just rooting.
Because yes, by building their dome, the ants will turn everything upside down… turn your seedlings upside down or uproot a few young seedlings.
They breed aphids
They breed aphids for the honeydew they produce…
Well, you’ll tell me the gardener could do without aphids.
But these aphids make up a large part of the ladybug diet, which are themselves very useful to the gardener…
So, without aphids, no or few ladybugs…
Too bad isn’t it?
They feed on the juices of plants and fruits.
By sucking up the sap, ants will sometimes weaken certain cultivated plants.
They also like the sugar in the fruits very much…
Even if they can cause damage, as we have seen before, they play an essential role in terms of biodiversity.
Also, don’t count on me communicating with you about means, even natural ones, to eradicate them (the term used by a reader who recently asked me “how to eradicate ants from her garden”).
In a natural vegetable garden, we just try to keep them away from growing areas or fruit trees.
Ants are smart…
Make it clear to them that they are not welcome in your grow rooms.
Abundant and repeated watering of the anthills on the breeding beds will encourage them to move elsewhere…
Ants don’t like rotten lemon
Cut a fresh lemon in 2.
Place the 1/2 lemons (without squeezing them…) in the problem areas.
Let them rot in place…
Ants hate that rotten lemon smell and will normally wander away from the areas you are going to protect.
Plant aromatic plants in your garden
They also don’t like scented plants (probably because it severely disrupts their sense of smell, an essential sense for them).
So by planting various aromatic plants with strong odors (basil, mint, garlic, laurel, lavender, etc.) here and there in your vegetable garden, you considerably reduce the risk of invasion.
Using lavender fertilizer as a repellent?
As I do my research for this article, I see that lavender fertilizer can be used as a repellent against ants and other insects.
It is advisable to spray it purely on anthills, passages of ants or plants to be protected…
This would keep the ants away.
But we can also read that the same fertilizer would be an insecticide by using it diluted (only 10%) directly on the insects…
However, if this product is lethal when highly diluted, it goes without saying that it will be used all the more pure!
And of course, if you spray it on anthills, passages or plants, there’s a good chance that ants, or other insects, visible or not visible to the naked eye, will succumb to it….
In short, I don’t recommend it… because the goal is in no way to kill a beneficial insect, but only to protect our crops from the damage it could cause (this respectful approach to living things is also a central idea of Mon Potager au Natural).
Tree glue for fruit trees
For fruit trees, aromatic plants can also be useful, but this will not necessarily be sufficient.
Brush the trunks of your fruit trees with tree glue.
This creates a physical barrier that prevents ants from climbing into the antlers.
However, I remind you that ants protect trees from certain parasites…
So, in my opinion, the tree glue can only be used if the tree is seriously damaged by our friend…
Well, I hope this article helped you at least take better account of the ant…
Feel free to send us your comments below.