Fire Ants & Aphids

Last summer I mentioned the discovery of the relationship between fire ants and aphids. Fire ants will protect and raise aphids to produce nectar for the ants to eat. The ants will carry the aphids to a plant that will provide nourishment, thus feeding both insects at the same time. I found this to be fascinating even though it can be devastating to my garden crops.  

I hadn’t noticed any aphids at all this year until after I had planted my Cushaw winter squash. I noticed the ants were moving into one of the squash hills, so I sprinkled wood ashes and coffee grounds on each of the five hills. I started checking the plants morning and evening in hopes of keeping the squash bugs at bay that had killed off our yellow squash at the other end of the garden. That’s when I noticed a few ants on the underside of the leaves. Then I realized that the beginning of an aphid infestation was occurring. I also discovered tiny, tiny little winged insects as well. From everything I’ve been able to read, I think these winged insects are the adult aphids, but I’m not sure. If you know what they are, please let us know.

Here is a close-up of the ants pouring out of the ground.

So I put coffee grounds on them.

Here is an ant tending to the aphids. There is one above him by one of the leaf veins.

Here is that aphid, enlarged.

Tiny winged insects. Does anyone know what they are?

Here is one of them enlarged. I think it is an adult aphid, but I’m not sure.

We really enjoy the Cushaw squash and hope to have a decent harvest. It looks like we will have plenty of competition from the squash bugs (I have squished a few each day), ants and aphids. I just hope we win the battle.

Until next time – Fern

12 thoughts on “Fire Ants & Aphids

  1. I agree, Ruth, the coffee grounds do seem to deter the ants. We had several large anthills that got the coffee ground treatment that either moved, though I didn't see them anywhere close by, died or at least were great diminished in numbers. I am still treating the new hills that show up. We have made it routine to keep the grounds, just for the ants. It's nice to find something that was originally discarded, that can be of such a benefit. Thank you for sharing.Fern

  2. Yah they do, I don't have fire ants here, but the ants I do have farm aphids. I will say, the coffee grounds sprinkled heavily over their entrances does seem to drive them to move (at least the ants I have here!).

  3. I have a bottle of soapy water mixed up, I just haven't tried it out yet. I guess I have been concentrating more on the ants. Thank you for reminding me of that technique.Fern

  4. Last night as I was checking the plants again, I found some lady bug nymphs on the underside of the leaves munching away on the aphids. Yea! Now if they can just keep up with the ants. I wonder if they talked the ants into serving them lunch? Sorry, I couldn't help it. (-:We have a few slugs here, but the only thing I have seen them on is the strawberries and I put Epsom salt out there. It's good for the plants and bad for the slugs.Thank you for sharing.Fern

  5. I think I remember reading in my children's book, Storybook of Science, that other kinds of ants do this too.

  6. You need some diatomaceous earth for the ants. Non-toxic, no chemicals, only kills bugs. I use it here north of Dallas all the time to get rid of fire ants.

  7. I had a heavy infestation of aphids one summer season on (maybe roses) and decided to try soapy water in a small spray bottle. That killed them off in no time. From then on I have had success with using this in our garden. Perhaps that might work for you.

  8. Around the Denver area we use Ladybugs to eat the aphids. We buy them at the local garden shops a couple hundred at a time and they do a good job of keeping the aphids under control. The bigger problems we have are earwigs and slugs. They both get into the root systems of the plants and kill them.

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