The sight of ants on sunflowers can be disheartening for any gardener.
This blog will serve as your ultimate guide to understanding the connection between these insects and your prized blooms, providing you with actionable strategies to safeguard your sunflowers.
Do Ants Harm My Sunflowers?
Ants themselves usually won’t directly hurt your sunflowers. The real troublemakers here are aphids, not the ants.
If you notice ants on your sunflower and there are no aphids present, rest assured that it is not a cause for concern. In fact, it can be beneficial.
Large black ants can be helpful to plants. They get rid of harmful insects like caterpillars and clean up any dead or dying parts of the plant.
Some types of ants make tunnels in the soil that let in more air, which helps plant roots get the oxygen they need to grow well.
Other types of ants help plants grow by picking up seeds to eat a part of them called the elaiosome. This causes the seeds to start growing.
Most types of ants (but not all) won’t harm plants. However, red fire ants may damage sunflower plants through direct feeding, even though ants generally don’t consume these plants.
Why are Ants Attracted to Sunflowers?
Sunflowers make a special kind of nectar in glands on the undersides of their leaves.
Ants love to eat this nectar, which is why you often see lots of ants on sunflower leaves, drinking the nectar up.
The young, fresh leaves of the sunflower make even more of this special nectar, and ants will crowd around them until the leaves are damaged.
The nectar and pollen of sunflowers are big reasons why you see ants and other little bugs always around these pretty flowers.
The sticky, clear substance on the sunflower plant is referred to as honeydew.
This sap, composed of sugar and other components from the plant, has a sweet taste that ants find irresistible.
Mostly, black ants (Monomorium minimum) are the ones that like honeydew on sunflowers.
Once these ants find a sunflower field, they leave a trail of special scented signals called pheromones between the sunflowers and their nest.
Aphids are tiny bugs that eat the buds of sunflowers.
While aphids don’t directly bring ants to sunflowers, they do play a part in attracting them. Aphids live on the backs of sunflower leaves or on their stalks.
9 Ways Get Rid of Ants on Sunflowers
The following methods have been tried and tested, some of which I’ve personally used in my own garden to great effect. Let’s explore.
Surround Your Sunflower Plant with Scents That Ants Don’t Like
Cinnamon and mint are fantastic at keeping ants at bay. Place cinnamon-flavored gums or sprinkle powdered cinnamon around the plant base.
For mint, grind dried leaves to create a powdery texture and scatter it around the base of your sunflower.
Set Up Ant Traps to Catch Them
Create a simple ant trap using paper and Vaseline petroleum jelly. Cut an 8-inch wide circle from a sheet of paper and make a small hole in the center to fit the plant base.
Smear Vaseline around the edges and place it around the base of your sunflower, sticky side up.
Ants approaching the plant will find themselves stuck.
Grow Plants That Keep Ants Away
Garlic, aster, geranium, calendula, chrysanthemum, rosemary, peppermint, lemongrass, thyme, and tansy all have scents that ants can’t tolerate.
Planting these near your sunflowers will keep the ants at bay.
Use Ant Bait to Get Rid of Them
Combine sugar with borax and scatter the mixture around your sunflowers. Cornmeal mixed with sugar is also effective.
The sugar will lure the ants in, and the other ingredients will eliminate them.
Remove Aphids from Your Sunflower
By eliminating aphids, which produce the honeydew that ants are attracted to, you can significantly reduce the chances of ants invading your sunflowers.
Sprinkle Food-grade Diatomaceous Earth Around Your Sunflower
This natural product works wonders in keeping ants away. Just sprinkle some around the base of your sunflower plants.
Try Homemade Ant Repellents
Create your own ant deterrents using ingredients like lemon or black pepper. Spray these solutions around your sunflower plants to keep ants at a distance.
Put Cornmeal or Baby Powder at the Bottom of Your Sunflower
Place cornmeal or baby powder around the base of your sunflower.
The cornmeal will expand inside the ants, while the baby powder will mask their scent trails, preventing them from finding their way back to their food source.
Use Sticky Tape to Stop Ants
Wrap a section of sticky tape around the stem of your sunflower, just below the first set of leaves.
The ants will either avoid crossing it or get stuck to it.
Combine this with bait traps loaded with ant bait at the base of the plant, and you should be able to eliminate the entire colony.
In conclusion, ants on sunflowers are a frequent problem, but by comprehending the causes and employing our suggested methods, you can substantially alleviate the issue.
Also, be sure to check out other informative posts from Pestweek to expand your understanding of pest management and help your garden flourish!
Calina Mabel has over 15 years of experience in the field of journalism and communications. Currently, Calina Mabel is the Content Writer for categories such as Cockroach, Ants, Bed Bugs, Mosquito, Rodent, Termite, and Flies on Pestweek.com. She aims to build content for these categories with a focus on providing valuable and accessible information to readers, in order to create the world’s largest knowledge community about Pests.
All content written by Calina Mabel has been reviewed by Emily Carter.