Tuesday, 27 August 2013

The Evil Empire - Leaf Cutter Ants

We’ve planted three citrus trees and one peach tree adapted to the climate we face (hot, South Texas weather).  Despite the lateness of the planting, we’ve managed to nurse them along well and they were doing quite well.  However as can be seen from this picture, in one night multiple trees can be stripped.  This picture has only one stripped tree (the peach tree) and one citrus they hadn't yet stripped. Three trees were entirely stripped of leaves. 

The culprit – as pest called leaf cutter ants “also known as “the town ant, cut ant, parasol ant, fungus ant and night ant. Atta texana can be extremely destructive to landscape plants, gardens and some agricultural crops in Texas.” (Source, Insects in the City, Texas A&M GriLife Extension. The link for the article is as follows: http://citybugs.tamu.edu/factsheets/landscape/ants/ent-1002/.  A picture of the nasty pest is here:

We’re put every ant bait we had in our inventory.  The problem though is that these pests really eat only the fungus produced from the leaves they strip and carry to their rather large nests, making them resistant to normal sugar-based or oil-based ant baits.  Nonetheless, the ants didn’t return last night and the remaining tree is still OK.  During the summer months, these pests do their damage in the dark.  It’s only the following morning that you know if you’ve been attacked again.  With future gardens and other growing projects coming up soon, we want to do whatever we can to convince these pests to go away (from what I’ve read, you only control the pests – you don’t really remove them).  I’m headed for Wal-Mart as the Ampro brand and bait was recommended in the attached article.

If any of you have experience with this nasty pest and have ideas or solutions, let’s share them as comments to this blog and see what we can do to help protect gardens from this difficult pest. The above photo is credit Seth Patterson and was copied from the Texas A&M article referenced above..

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