En EspaŅol

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?

Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
    
 
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
 
rate this answer
1 rating

Thursday - May 27, 2010

From: San Antonio , TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Pests
Title: Something eating leaves of Eastern Redbud in San Antonio
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I know you had this question a few years back but no answer. Something is eating the leaves of my Redbud (Eastern, I think. There are varying sizes of bites, but most leaves stripped, some to stem. Plant is fenced so not deer. I have looked at all times of the day and night but find nothing. Malathion seems to help but I'm not a big fan. Help!

ANSWER:

We had several previous answers in our Mr. Smarty Plants section similar to this. We believe you are suffering from an onslaught of leaf cutter ants. Two of those questions were from areas in Texas south of you. Here is an excerpt from one of those questions:

"We went looking for leaf cutter ants, and found that it is an enormous problem. Like fire ants, these creatures are imported from Central and South America and have no natural enemies in our area. This very comprehensive site from Texas A&M AgriLIFE Extension, Leaf Cutting Ants, has a lot of information that you should read. The pest control people you have been talking to probably either don't know how to approach the problem or realize it is bigger than they can easily control.

To quote from the above site:

'Defoliation by leaf cutting ants can resemble damage produced by several other leaf chewing insects, particularly sawflies and leaf cutting bees. Trees defoliated by the leaf cutting ant usually are within sight of an ant nest and the ants themselves may be seen carrying leaves. Foraging trails will be littered with pieces of leaf tissue that can be traced to a feeder hole. Considerable damage to a plant can occur in a few hours. Small- to medium-sized trees can be stripped in one night. One researcher in South America estimated that a large leaf cutting ant colony harvested approximately 13,000 pounds of leaves over a 6-year period. This same colony excavated 802 cubic feet of soil weighing over 44 tons.'

First of all, let's make sure we're talking the right bug. Take a look at this page of Images of leaf cutting ants and see if that is what is going on in your yard.

The most recent information we found on those ants was that they were threatening pine forests as near as East Texas and on east into Georgia and Florida. They apparently choose one particular plant to chow down on, but the reason they take so many leaves is not for food and not for nest lining but for their own version of farming. They go back to the colony, chew the leaves and spit them out and on this base a fungus grows which is the only food of the ants, including the young. When a queen ant flies, she takes a "starter" from this fungus, establishes a new little hole, and plants her garden. Then, the workers come in and begin the fresh tunneling. Because they eat nothing but the fungi, putting out bait is not successful. Because they have such a large and intricate colony of underground tunnels, spraying down the holes in the conical mounds doesn't go far enough to do any real good."

Since we are not entomologists and this falls outside of our expertise in native plants, we would suggest you contact the Texas A&M AgriLIFE Extension Office for Bexar County.  As these non-native ants seem to be getting a foothold in Texas, perhaps the County Extension office will have some suggestions.

 

 

 

 

 

More Pests Questions

Do white-tailed deer consume King Ranch bluestem?
October 25, 2013 - Will white-tail deer in central Texas consume King Ranch bluestem ?
view the full question and answer

Tree with brown spots on leaves containing caterpillars
July 14, 2011 - We have a new little tree we planted in our yard and I went over to admire it and on each leaf there is a brown spot in which little worms are living. They are alive and moving around in the pocket th...
view the full question and answer

Replacements for yuccas from Georgetown TX
August 07, 2013 - I have lost some softleaf and variegated yucca to a beetle grub destroying the root system - like the Agave snout beetle does. I have put an insecticidal drench on my remaining plants, but suspect wi...
view the full question and answer

White specks on unknown houseplant from Ridgeway SC
June 20, 2013 - I have an unknown houseplant that seems to have some sort of pest or disease on it. It has white snowy specks atop its leaf. I bought this purple fuzzy leafed houseplant from Walmart in Winnsboro, SC ...
view the full question and answer

Life with Voles
May 12, 2013 - Voles! We live next to a park and wildlife area: voles constantly invade our garden. We've tried, and cannot eliminate them: rather, hope to plant native forbs and shrubs they (might) avoid. Our site...
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP
© 2014 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center