Sunday, April 17, 2011

Ants love my citrus trees - I don't love that!!!

The pomegranate tree that
I planted when Aurelia was born.
 Ahhhh.... spring is in full swing.

I am taking a stroll through our fruit tree alley with my morning coffee and enjoy the beauty of my fruit trees blossoming and the air being filled with sweetness.

I am inspecting each tree, (yes, I do talk to them) while Roberto waters them with the water from our duck pond (reduce reuse recycle).

BUT WHAT IS THIS??? Ants on my dwarf grapefruit....

OK, true. What's not to love about a citrus tree?

I understand why they are so fond of my Oro Blancos. Or, technically they are Roberto's Oro Blancos because he looves this fruit.

However, I do not approve that they are on it and most probably already have a plan to put their NASTY aphids on it and ruin my tree.

What can I do? And no, I do not want to bring out the big guns.

Well, I found some general rules to discourage ants from invading yummy citrus trees:  
  • Heavy pruning: Keep any branches 30 inches from the ground. Since this is a small dwarf (barely 30 inches in height) Oro Blanco and it is spring and the fruit is just starting to settle (only prune when no fruit is on tree), this is not an option for me.
  • Application of sticky material on trunk, something that contains polybutenes but is not oil-based, because the oil will cause harm to the tree. Reapply according to the directions, but generally the sticky material will last from two to 10 months. This still sounds not natural enough for me.
  • Watering away from the trunk. Prevent water from pooling underneath the trunk by building a circular mound around the trunk area with dirt.I will start doing this.
  • Set ant baits around the citrus tree. Ahaaa!!! Now we are talking.
Hmmm... I don't want to go out shopping to berid ants; I am looking into beridding these crawlers with stuff that I find around the Suburban Homestead. So, here is my plan of attack or the recipe for the ant traps:
Here is what I used:
Small plastic containers
Granulated sugar

In two of the small plastic containers which I have amassed (Philadelpia, Hummus, Pudding) with lids, I drilled about 5 or 6 holes evenly spaced around the outside of each container about an inch from the top. These holes should be about the size of a pencil to allow the ants to enter the containers of death easily. 

Mix Borax with granulated sugar in a 1:3 ratio.  

BTW: Borax, can be found in the laundry detergent section of any large grocery store.
Fill the plastic container about half full with the powdery mix.
Make sure to keep the levels about 1/2 an inch below the holes in the container.
Now, take the whole production to the sink.
Add enough water to make the mixture slightly soupy.
The exact amount of water is not important. The mixture will become like syrup over time.
Add about 1 teaspoon of jam or honey to the mixture. I read some people use peanut butter.
Stir until mixed and place the lid on the container.
Set the traps in ant invaded areas.
The bait works in two ways:
1. It is toxic to ants that ingest it immediately.
2. Ants will transport the bait back to the colony where other ants will ingest the bait and die.  
A word of caution: Borax is toxic. Do not place the traps in areas where animals (like the family pet) or children can accidentally open the lid and ingest the poison.

Here is some more information on ants:

"Nature never says one thing and wisdom another." Decimus Junius Juvenalis

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