Rick
Newly Registered
Posts: 2
Joined: Mon Dec 11, 2006 2:31 am

Ants on Chilli Plants

Hi,

Can someone please help with a problem ?

I have just started growing my own vegetables and my first experiments are with Chilli plants on my balcony here in Hong Kong. I grew the plants from seedlings and now they are about one foot high.

Some chillies have already started to appear. They are green at the moment but I assume that they will ripen to red ? When is the best time to pick them and how exactly should I do it ?

Also, I have noticed an increasing number of what look like regular black ants crawling on the plants. There also seem to be small clusters of small black 'dots' on the undersides of some of the leaves. I did read on the internet somewhere that ants can 'farm' aphids or similar as food on certain plants. Is this is what is happening to my chilli plants ? I can try and post pictures if people need more visual clues ? Am I still able to eat these chillies ? They currently don't look affected.

I did buy some Neem oil from the gardening shop although I have not used it yet. Is it safe to use on fruits and vegetables which you will be eating ?

Any help would be appreciated.

Rgds
Rick

opabinia51
Super Green Thumb
Posts: 4659
Joined: Thu Oct 21, 2004 9:58 pm
Location: Victoria, BC

We have discovered through previous discussions that Cinnamon seems to work for Ants. And there were some other organic methods as well.

Ha ha! Found it, according to greendude; ants also hate mint so plant mint around you garden to detur them.

Here is the link to the discussion: https://www.helpfulgardener.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=1748&postdays=0&postorder=asc&highlight=ants&start=15

Just keep in mind that mint can be incredibly invasive so, if you do plant it, you'll want to keep on top of it and pull up (including all the roots) any offshoots.

Mint will even take over you lawn if you are not careful. But, it is manageable.

Newt
Greener Thumb
Posts: 1868
Joined: Wed May 26, 2004 2:44 am
Location: Maryland zone 7

Hi Rick,

Great suggestions from Opabinia. It does sound like you have aphids and the ants are farming their honeydew. You can use the neem oil but you might find insecticidal soap would work to get rid of the aphids as well. Combined with the mint and/or cinnamon you should be fine. Here's a recipe to make your own insecticidal soap you can use on your edibles.
https://www.care2.com/channels/solutions/outdoors/194

Newt

opabinia51
Super Green Thumb
Posts: 4659
Joined: Thu Oct 21, 2004 9:58 pm
Location: Victoria, BC

Now, I think that Newt has hit the nail on it's head! That's nature at work for you. So, the real question is: Do you want to be rid of the ants?

They are actually (most likely) keeping the aphid population at Bay, though some careful observation need to be done.

If you do use cinnamon and/or neem oil you will be rid of the ants but, I can almost garuantee that the aphids will be back and then you'll be stuck using neem oil (which does have negative effects on bee populations (see the thread in the general forum)) until the end of time to be rid of aphids.

However, working with nature and accepting the natural processes that keep things working, you can mind the ants and observe these really neat processes at work! (And if you have children,they will have a ball watching the ants tending the aphids.)

Anyway, something to think about.

PS
Make sure that the Ants are actually farming aphids before making a decision here.

Newt
Greener Thumb
Posts: 1868
Joined: Wed May 26, 2004 2:44 am
Location: Maryland zone 7

I'd say if you see ants somewhere, and they aren't just passing through, then they are there for a reason. If they are on a plant then they're getting something out of being there. I'd wager they are farming the aphids and keeping aphid predators away. I watched an interesting program about them just recently about how they gang up on other predators and get rid of them. And after seeing them at their finest in the Amazon, I wouldn't want to be their enemy! They hurt when they bite! Scroll down here about 2/3 of the page to 'Herder Ants and Aphids' for some interesting facts.
https://nationalzoo.si.edu/Publications/ZooGoer/2004/4/antfarmers.cfm

Newt

Rick
Newly Registered
Posts: 2
Joined: Mon Dec 11, 2006 2:31 am

Thanks

Thanks for all the advice.

Just to follow up. I haven't actually seen any aphids but only these black dots. I'm assuming that the ants are 'farming' them as this is what I read that they sometimes do. Does this process result in any harm to my plants ? or to the fruits/chillies ? Am I still able to eat the chillies ?

I was under the impression that the farmed aphids may be feeding off the plant and hence not doing it any good ?

Also can you suggest how I should use cinnamon to keep them at bay ? Can I make up a solution of cinnamon powder using normal tap water and maybe spray the plants twice a day ?

Thanks again,
Rick

Newt
Greener Thumb
Posts: 1868
Joined: Wed May 26, 2004 2:44 am
Location: Maryland zone 7

Rick, you are so very welcome!
I haven't actually seen any aphids but only these black dots.
Aphids come in many different colors including black. Here's what the black ones look like.
https://images.google.com/images?hl=en&q=black%20aphid&btnG=Google+Search&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8&sa=N&tab=wi
I'm assuming that the ants are 'farming' them as this is what I read that they sometimes do. Does this process result in any harm to my plants ? or to the fruits/chillies ?
Usually the ants do not do any damage such as chewing or sucking on the plants. The damage they do is keeping the predators of the aphids away, and sometimes even cultivating the larvae of the aphids so they multiply.
I was under the impression that the farmed aphids may be feeding off the plant and hence not doing it any good ?
Correct Here's info on aphids.
https://woodypest.ifas.ufl.edu/aphids.htm
Also can you suggest how I should use cinnamon to keep them at bay ? Can I make up a solution of cinnamon powder using normal tap water and maybe spray the plants twice a day ?
Uh oh, you aren't doing your reading assignments! :wink: The link that Opabinia gave you for the discussion about ants explains how benjaminstarr uses it. You still need to get rid of the aphids as the ants will come back as soon as there is rain to wash away the cinnamon.

If you look at those sites and feel you don't have aphids then there are leaf spot diseases, but they don't attract ants.

Newt

opabinia51
Super Green Thumb
Posts: 4659
Joined: Thu Oct 21, 2004 9:58 pm
Location: Victoria, BC

Yes, and keep in mind that not all ants are predators of insects or other animals. Some ants are indeed herbivores, or at least can be thought of as herbivores. So, observe the situation to see what the ants are indeed doing. If they are eating your plants then, you'll probably want to be rid of them.

Newt
Greener Thumb
Posts: 1868
Joined: Wed May 26, 2004 2:44 am
Location: Maryland zone 7

Opabinia, I thought only leaf cutter ants ate plants. Actually they don't eat the plants, they cut sections of the leaf, chew them and eat a fungus that grows on the chewed leaves. Some ants eat a protuberance on seeds and I've seen posts about ants eating peas, which are a seed. I know that some are omnivores, but didn't realize there are some that eat plants besides the leafcutter ones. I know that some ants eat/drink the nectar of plants but don't chew them. The relationship between peonies and ants comes to mind. Here's an interesting read.
https://unews.utah.edu/p/?r=031406-1

Newt

opabinia51
Super Green Thumb
Posts: 4659
Joined: Thu Oct 21, 2004 9:58 pm
Location: Victoria, BC

Exactly! I was worried that someone would point that out and was going to mention that but, didn't

They actually farm the fungi and eat that.

It's a great little system...... little, anything but little. In the tropics a colony of leaf cutters and defoliate an entire tree!

Newt
Greener Thumb
Posts: 1868
Joined: Wed May 26, 2004 2:44 am
Location: Maryland zone 7

We saw them by the thousands in the Amazon Jungle. They were amazing how high in the canopy they can climb. One of those sites I read mentioned that they are so prolific at farming aphids and harvesting leaves that they are defoilating parts of the jungle at an alarming rate. Having seen them in action I can understand why.

Newt

opabinia51
Super Green Thumb
Posts: 4659
Joined: Thu Oct 21, 2004 9:58 pm
Location: Victoria, BC

That would be something worth looking into but, I don't have the time to do it right now.

Return to “Vegetable Gardening Forum”