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
Not Yet Rated

Wednesday - May 25, 2011

From: Muskogee, OK
Region: Southwest
Topic: Non-Natives, Pests
Title: Ants in vegetable garden in Muskogee OK
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I have ants in my vegetable garden this spring - I think because of all the rain. I think they are the culprits that ruined my spinach and swiss chard. They have left all the lettuces alone..but you can see ants 'roaming.' How do I get rid of them?

ANSWER:

It's nice somebody is getting some  rain, we sure aren't down here in Austin. But, you're correct, ants do seem to be driven to the surface by too much water in the soil, making their beds visible. However, we don't think the ants are the primary culprits for the damage to your spinach and Swiss chard. Ants are also farmers, but they are not fond of vegetables.

Let's begin by seeing what is really causing problems with your spinach and Swiss Chard. On the page from the University of California Integrated Pest Management Program How to Manage Pests-Spinach, you will see a list of predators on spinach. Do you see ants listed? No, but you  see  aphids. Ants are very fond of aphids, but not to eat. They will protect or fiercely defend aphids so they can harvest the "honeydew," exuded by the aphids. That honeydew is a major food source for the ants. On outdoor (and sometimes indoor) plants, ants protect and care for honeydew-producing insects such as aphids, soft scales, whiteflies, and mealybugs, increasing damage from these pests. The aphid is also a major pest of the Swiss chard, so the ant farmers will visit that, too.

What to do about it? Most vegetables are non-native to North America or so hybridized that they are unrecognizable genetically, and so we have no information on them in our Native Plant Database. If you eliminate the aphids, the ants will move on to somewhere else they can practice their honeydew farming.  Obviously, if you intend to eat the products from your garden, you will not want to apply any pesticides. We recommend a good hard spray of water onto the affected plants, which knocks aphids and their eggs off and they can't get back up. Since this year's vegetable crop is probably a lost cause, the next best thing you can do is try to keep the aphids from wintering over in your garden. See this aricle on Controlling Aphids in Your Garden.

 

More Pests Questions

Problems with Live Oak in Boerne TX
April 24, 2011 - I had my large Live Oak trimmed last year. This spring there seems to be a problem with leaf growth. Most leaves are small in nature and appear to have been attacked possibly by bugs. Many of the bran...
view the full question and answer

Control of grasshoppers from Goldthwaite TX
July 07, 2012 - How long do grasshoppers live. They are eating our flowers, plants and trees.
view the full question and answer

Holes in leaves of wax myrtle from Austin
April 30, 2011 - I just purchased 4 of the 5 gallon Wax Myrtles at the last spring plant sale and after planting them, they are getting eaten by bugs leaving holes in the leaves. I can't find any of the bugs doing th...
view the full question and answer

Plants that donkeys won't eat
August 08, 2012 - What plants/trees do donkeys NOT like? I live in Hawaii on the Big Island and they visit once a week in my yard. I like them but would prefer that they stay just outside. Unfortunately they like my...
view the full question and answer

Cause of yellowing buffalo grass (Bouteloua dactyloides)
June 07, 2008 - We are getting large yellow areas in our buffalo grass lawn and think this is probably due to grub worms. Are grub worms the likely culprit and if so, what is the best way to get rid of them? We don...
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