MrsK0915
Newly Registered
Posts: 6
Joined: Mon Jul 08, 2013 5:45 pm
Location: Green Bay, WI (zone 4)

ants swarming bee balm

I just planted some bee balm in my flower beds about 2 weeks ago. They seem to be doing fine, but they are constantly swarmed by black and brown ants. We have quite a few ants in our yard, and they don't seem to be doing any damage to the plants (yet). But, there are literally dozens on each plant every time I go out there and it's not very attractive. They started just on two particular plants, but now they are on all five that I planted and that is between two separate beds across the yard from one another. Is this something I should be concerned about? If so, what can I do to get rid of them? I have heard of pouring boiling water over the ant hill, but it's in the middle of our yard so I'm concerned about killing the grass.

User avatar
rainbowgardener
Super Green Thumb
Posts: 25303
Joined: Sun Feb 15, 2009 11:04 pm
Location: TN/GA 7b

Re: ants swarming bee balm

Whenever I hear about ants swarming an otherwise live and healthy plant, especially one like bee balm that tends to be insect repellant, I think aphids. The ants would not be attracted to the bee balm, but they are attracted to aphids, which secrete a sweet, sticky substance called honeydew, that the ants love. So check your plant closely, stems and undersides of the leaves.

If you find aphids, your first step is to get rid of them. The simplest way to do that is just to squish them, which they will just sit there and let you do. Or you can spray them with a soapy water solution (being sure it is actual soap, not detergent, which can harm your plants). After that rinse your plants with a hard spray of water to get rid of any remaining ants, aphids, and honeydew.

Then you might want to put some diatomaceous earth down around your plants to help keep the ants from coming back, because sometimes they actually bring the aphids and "farm" them.
Twitter account I manage for local Sierra Club: https://twitter.com/CherokeeGroupSC Facebook page I manage for them: https://www.facebook.com/groups/65310596576/ Come and find me and lots of great information, inspiration

imafan26
Mod
Posts: 11420
Joined: Tue Jan 01, 2013 1:32 pm
Location: hawaii, zone 12a 587 ft elev.

Re: ants swarming bee balm

Put out ant bait. Not only are there probably aphids, scale or mealy bugs on your bee balm, the ants are probably tending them. You can get a bait called terro. It contains boric acid. It comes in traps for outdoor use or as a liquid that you put on a card. Someone told me she used the liquid bait. She got a small 6 inch section of pvc pipe. Put a wad of cotton ball in the middle and dropped the terro bait onto the cotton and put the pvc pipe out where the ants could find it. The pvc keeps the bait out of the weather and it works.
Happy gardening in Hawaii. Gardens are where people grow.

MrsK0915
Newly Registered
Posts: 6
Joined: Mon Jul 08, 2013 5:45 pm
Location: Green Bay, WI (zone 4)

Re: ants swarming bee balm

Went out and looked for aphids, didn't see any. I've never seen an aphid so I don't know how big they are. Would they be inside the actual petals? Because that is definitely where the ants are congregated. They go inside the petals but I can't see what they are doing in there.

I'm a very green gardener - I appreciate any help you can offer! Thanks!

User avatar
rainbowgardener
Super Green Thumb
Posts: 25303
Joined: Sun Feb 15, 2009 11:04 pm
Location: TN/GA 7b

Re: ants swarming bee balm

They are very small and often (but not always) they are green and blend in pretty well and don't move, which is why I said look closely:

Image
https://www.donnan.com/images/aphids.JPG

Image
https://growmycitygreen.com/wp-content/u ... sgroup.jpg

There could possibly be some aphids inside the flowers, but I would doubt only there. If you have aphids, they would mainly be on stems and leaves as illustrated.

I would want to pry open some flowers and see what is going on!

I have lots of bee balm blooming right now and none of it has ants.
Twitter account I manage for local Sierra Club: https://twitter.com/CherokeeGroupSC Facebook page I manage for them: https://www.facebook.com/groups/65310596576/ Come and find me and lots of great information, inspiration

MrsK0915
Newly Registered
Posts: 6
Joined: Mon Jul 08, 2013 5:45 pm
Location: Green Bay, WI (zone 4)

Re: ants swarming bee balm

I took another look, and there are absolutely no aphids that I can see anywhere. And I was wrong that the ants don't seem to be doing much damage... the petals on two of my plants are almost completely gone. :( Does anybody have any other ideas? And what is diatomaceous earth? I could use some general ant advice as I mentioned we have a lot of ants all over our yard, garden, driveway, and flower beds. They were an annoyance before but now they've gotta go! I prefer organic/natural methods whenever possible.

User avatar
applestar
Mod
Posts: 28026
Joined: Thu May 01, 2008 11:21 pm
Location: Zone 6, NJ (3/M)4/E ~ 10/M

Re: ants swarming bee balm

Since bee balm is favored by nectar-feeding bees, butterflies and hummingbirds, it's possible your particular ants have discovered they could get at the nectar by tearing open the base of the flower like bumblebees do.
Learning never ends because we can share what we've learned. And in sharing our collective experiences, we gain deeper understanding of what we learned.

philio
Newly Registered
Posts: 2
Joined: Mon Jun 16, 2014 4:06 pm

Re: ants swarming bee balm

No, no, no ...no aphids. Black ants are "swarming" the stems at the ground (about 2cm up the stem!) ....like cattle grazing in a field. All spring the smaller Monarda shoots have been wilting and dying!! :O( I hope they are not in the roots as well. I have three varieties; none thriving (the rest of the bed looks fabulous) ..the "JACOB KLINE" variety I got at a local Oregon plant sale seems the most afflicted. Today I used a TERRO (take-to-nest ant bait) in a jar lid near the plant; I hope that solves the mystery of my weak Monardas.

philio
Newly Registered
Posts: 2
Joined: Mon Jun 16, 2014 4:06 pm

Re: ants swarming bee balm

Further reading: could be suggested "root aphids" that I have not seen. I have not dug into the soil near-or-at the afflicted Monarda. Still ..... the ants were ringing the stems at about 2cm and no aphids in sight.

imafan26
Mod
Posts: 11420
Joined: Tue Jan 01, 2013 1:32 pm
Location: hawaii, zone 12a 587 ft elev.

Re: ants swarming bee balm

The only other thing I can think of is that your plants are planted near the ant nest.
Happy gardening in Hawaii. Gardens are where people grow.

User avatar
applestar
Mod
Posts: 28026
Joined: Thu May 01, 2008 11:21 pm
Location: Zone 6, NJ (3/M)4/E ~ 10/M

Re: ants swarming bee balm

There's that possibility -- sometimes ants make their nests at the base of a plant and mound up loose grains of soil up the basal stem. In doing this, they create chambers in the root ball, exposing the roots and drying them out. Easy fix is to just flood the colony with water from the hose -- this will settle the soil around the roots and they'll move out :twisted:
Learning never ends because we can share what we've learned. And in sharing our collective experiences, we gain deeper understanding of what we learned.

Return to “Perennials”