Plant growers and farmers do have this specific love-hate relationship with ant colonies. I mean, they’re not precisely cute, but these tiny creatures are the epitome of the saying “small but terrible.” Not just because they are capable of carrying loads that are 20 times their weight, but also due to their incomparable service to our pepper plants, and the reason that we love them is that they are doing it for free.
However, we all have an evil streak in us, and ants are not an exemption. Despite their good deeds, these organisms can turn into pests themselves and can wreak havoc on our beloved peppers in an instant. Hence, the chaotic relationship. But, thankfully various methods can help manage ant infestation when they start turning to the dark side.
What makes an ant good?
Ants are one of the best biological control agents you can ask for. They prey on other insect pests, even those that are larger than their size. Whether they are out in our gardens or farms or inside our homes and on buildings, these small insects have a penchant for their fellow six-legged peers. What’s more, when it comes to pollination, ants are the best assistants, or should I say army for this ordeal.
Pollination can be quite a headache, and we often resort to hand pollination methods to achieve a tremendous fruiting season. But thankfully, with ants around, they can spread your pollens without you asking them as they unintentionally do it when trying to search and scavenge for food.
What makes an ant bad?
Despite having a beneficial mutualistic relationship with our pepper plants, ants can become a destructive force as well if left unchecked. And the same we turn into rabid hungry possessed humans whenever we’re served with our favorite food, ants also start dancing into a different tune if they are given sugar.
Ants are the ultimate insects that have a sweet tooth for any form of sugar, especially honeydew. When you find your peppers infested with even just a couple of aphids, Annoyingly, expect that a colony of ants is not far behind, ready to double up the pest infestation. You see, ants would go as far as protect aphids from predators as long as they are provided with a never-ending source of honeydew. And they wouldn’t hesitate to bite or sting even humans who try to upset their comfortable settlement.
Read more on 5 Effectives Ways To Control Aphids on Pepper Plants.
Methods in Managing Ant Pests
SIMPLE CULTURAL PRACTICES
The smartest move when it comes to pest management is to be always a step ahead. And that means practicing a few cultural methods to prevent ants from destroying your peppers. Some of which includes the following:
- Get rid of any aphid or honeydew-producing insects that are sucking the life out of your pepper plants. Ants tend to be a secondary pest infestation when these insects are hanging around your plants.
- Make it a habit to trim down and prune trees and bushes in the surrounding area to discourage ants from living in them.
- Remove weeds periodically that are growing around your garden, especially near your pepper plants. Tall and lush weed vegetation often encourages ant colonies.
- Regularly water and keep the soil on your pepper plants and its surrounding moist but not flooded. Ants are not very keen to wet conditions and prefer dry soil to build their nest and tunnels.
- Try growing plants that deter ants on the perimeter of your garden or just around the periphery of your pepper plot or pots. Some significant ant deterrents are lavender, mint, tansy, thyme, rosemary, and catnip.
Another right way to manage ant populations is to use non-toxic products available in the market, one of which is diatomaceous earth. If it’s the first time you’ve heard of this wonder powder, then don’t worry, as it’s super easy to use and does not give off toxic effects to humans or plants. Diatomaceous Earth or DE is a white chalk-like powder made from the fossilized shells of diatoms that have been crushed finely. This cheap soft sedimentary powder is a very effective method of killing ants and cockroaches, beetles, ticks, slugs, and earwigs.
Simply scatter DE all over the areas where ants usually frequent on or typically pass by on. The jagged crystal-like particles act like extremely sharp glass that gets into the legs, joints, and up to the exoskeleton of ants. The painful piercing material eventually gets into the lungs and other organs of the ants leading to breathing and eating problems that kill them. Although it’s non-toxic to us, be sure to use a mask when scattering this powder, as it can still harm your lungs when inhaled.
If you want a more DIY insecticide using household products that you can easily find at home, then the oil mixed with dishwashing soap is your best bet. Don’t judge this simple mixture as gardeners and farmers swear by its efficacy in dealing and killing ants. Add half a tablespoon of dishwashing liquid and a half tablespoon of oil to warm or boiling water about one quart in volume. Put the mixture on a bottle with a nozzle and spray on the ants. The mixture will soak into the insects’ bodies and suffocate them in the process.
Another effective DIY household mixture is the one using vinegar along with hot water. You can either use a 50:50 combination or simply spray pure vinegar both on the ants themselves and all over your garden. This mixture also kills ants and keeps the surviving ones away as these insects detest vinegar pretty much the same way we hate getting a waft of muriatic acid.
Sodium tetraborate, more commonly known, is more like Borax, is that same material used in toothpaste and soap to give its cleaning power. And it’s probably one of the favorite go-to ant killers. Now, there are several variations of the borax ant trap that you can whip up at home. It often depends on the availability and cost of the materials. But either way, they all provide excellent results in managing ant populations as the chemical itself is lethal to the insects when ingested.
The basic idea in creating the trap is to mix up the borax powder with something that will attract the ants. And that’s none other than sugar, but you can also use honey or any other sweet food that would surely catch the ant’s sweet tooth. Once you made a paste by adding a few drops of water, put the mixture in small containers. Then strategically place these containers on places where there is the most concentration of ants. And you can also place some around your pepper pots or plots. What’s more, if the ant colony’s nest is somewhere within your garden, then you can also put some of the mixtures at its entrance.
CAYENNE OR CINNAMON POWDER
Another easy yet effective kitchen product that you can use in managing ant populations is using some of our favorite spices if you have some to spare. Cayenne and cinnamon powder are very useful ant repellants. But take note, they can only be used to drive away ants but not harm them. Sprinkling either of these powders all over the periphery of your pepper plants like a band will effectively prevent ants from bothering your crops.
If all else fails, you can still turn to ant baits. There are several readily available commercially made ant baits that you can purchase in pest control stores. Using these baits to control ant populations when they become too bothersome is a preferred choice rather than going directly to harmful insecticides. And they come in various formulations such in liquid, paste, or powder form with the use of multiple materials for attractants but usually are sugar, oil, or protein. Always consult first a pest control expert before buying and using ant baits to get the right one for your ant problem.
Although ants are quite a common problem for most pepper growers and farmers, their presence in your gardens or fields is still a much welcome sight. After all, you can never doubt their advantages and service to your crops, especially on pollination. This is why we advise you to simply use methods that will regulate their population and not eradicate them all. So before you use any of the methods mentioned above, do check and assess the damage before taking unnecessary actions.