Certain ants are major indirect pests in citrus orchards. Although they do not damage the trees, they are associated to honeydew-producing insects such as soft scales, aphids, whiteflies, blackflies and Ants 1mealybugs. Natural enemies often keep these insects under control; however, ants feeding on the honeydew give them indirect protection by disturbing natural enemies. As a result numbers of these honeydew producing insects, and indirectly other pests such as armoured scales, may rise to damaging levels.

Ant management does not imply eradication of all ants. There are many different types of ants in citrus orchards. Many of them are important predators of other insects, including pests of citrus. Some of the species that could be a problem due to their association with honeydew-producing insects (e.g. the big headed ant Pheidole megacepAnts 2hala and the pugnacious ant, Anoplolepis custodiens are also beneficial preying on a variety of insects, and are valuable predators on the ground. Therefore these ants should not be destroyed but kept off the trees.

"Ants and aphids share a well-documented relationship of mutualism. Ants feed on the sugary honeydew left behind by aphids. In exchange, the ants protect the aphids from predators and parasites. In fact, honey ants will go to unusual lengths to ensure the health of the aphids in their care.

Aphids suck the sugar-rich fluids from their host plants. Because these liquids are low in nitrogen, the aphids must consume large quantities of them to gain adequate nutrition. The aphids then excrete equally large quantities of waste, called honeydew, which is high in sugar content.

Where there's sugar, there's bound to be ants. Some ants are so hungry for the honeydew, they'll actually "milk" the aphids to make them excrete it. The ants use their antennae to stroke the aphids, stimulating them to release the honeydew. Some aphid species have lost the ability to poop on their own, and now depend on their caretaker ants to milk them."

Ants Milking and Farming Aphids


Aphids are the bane of gardeners, but there are a host of insects that depend on them for food. Some ants, for example, milk aphids for honeydew and then there are aphid lions, aptly named for their ravenous appetite. Empowered with close-up lenses attached to our camcorders, Karen Finch and I documented the drama of an aphid lion's life. Be forewarned, however, insect predators can be ruthless in how they kill their prey

Attack of the Aphid Lions


Ants defending aphids from ladybeetles (#103)


Alex Silber of Papaya Tree Nursery in Granada Hills California shows you how to keep ants off of your fruit trees without using pesticides. Controlling the ants allows natural predators to control common insect pests includingl aphids, mealy bugs, and scale using flagging tape and tree tanglefoot paste.

Organic Ant Control For Fruit Trees



Managing Garden Insects Begins with a Question: Friend or Foe?