Are you tired of seeing ants crawling on your tomato plants? Do you wonder why they are there and what they are doing? Are they harming your plants or helping them? How can you get rid of them if they are a problem?
If you have these questions, then you are not alone. Many gardeners face the same issue of ants on tomato plants. Ants can be a nuisance, but they can also be beneficial in some cases. In this blog, we will explain everything you need to know about ants on tomato plants and how to deal with them.
Why Are Ants Attracted To Tomatoes?
Ants are attracted to tomatoes due to their interactions with other pests, especially aphids. Aphids are small sap-sucking insects that feed on the juices of tomato plants. As aphids feed, they excrete a sticky, sugary substance known as honeydew.
This honeydew is highly attractive to ants, which feed on it for its rich carbohydrate content. Thus, if you notice ants on your tomato plants, it is often a sign of an aphid infestation. The ants, while not interested in the tomatoes themselves, are there to harvest the honeydew.
Additionally, ants can be attracted to the damp conditions that tomato plants often provide. Tomato plants require consistent watering and the moist soil provides a favorable environment for ants to thrive. The rich, organic soil also serves as a good nesting place for ants to establish their colonies.
Will Ants Eat Tomato Plants?
No, ants do not eat tomato plants. They are primarily attracted to the honeydew produced by aphids feeding on the plants. However, their presence can indirectly harm the tomato plants.
How to get rid of Ants on Tomato Plants?
Ants on tomato plants can be annoying, but they can also be controlled with some natural methods. Depending on how many ants you have and what they are doing, you can choose from these 11 options to keep them away from your tomatoes:
Ant barriers are a simple and effective way to stop ants from reaching your tomato plants and their aphid friends. Ant barriers are materials that you can apply to the stem or the base of your tomato plants that ants will avoid or get stuck in.
Here are some examples of ant barriers:
- Copper tape: This is a tape that has copper on it. Copper is a metal that ants don’t like and won’t cross. You can wrap copper tape around the stem of your tomato plants .
- Diatomaceous earth: This is a powder that comes from fossilized algae. It has sharp edges that can cut and kill ants and other insects. You can sprinkle diatomaceous earth around the base of your tomato plants . Be careful not to harm beneficial insects with it.
- Petroleum jelly: This is a thick, sticky substance that you can apply to the base of your tomato plant. It will create a barrier that ants won’t cross because they don’t like the texture or the smell .
- Tanglefoot: This is a sticky material that you can apply to the base of your tomato plant. It will trap any ants that try to climb the stem and prevent them from reaching the aphids.
You should reapply any of these ant barriers after it rains or when they lose their effectiveness.
We prefer diatomaceous earth, but it doesn’t work well when it’s wet. I wait for the soil to dry out, then we sprinkle it again around the base of my plants.
Borax Bait Traps
Ant bait traps are a very effective way to get rid of ants on tomato plants. They work by luring ants with sugar and poisoning them with borax. The ants will take the bait back to their nest and share it with other ants, including the queen. This will kill the whole colony.
To make your own ant bait traps, you will need:
- A plastic bottle
- A funnel
- A knife or scissors
- 0.5 cups (118 ml) of sugar
- 1.5 tablespoons (22 ml) of food-grade borax
- 1.5 cups (360 ml) of warm water
- Cotton balls (optional)
Here are the steps to follow:
- Using the funnel, pour the sugar and the borax into the plastic bottle.
- Add the warm water and shake well to dissolve the sugar and the borax.
- Cut some small holes in the bottle with the knife or scissors. Make sure the holes are big enough for ants to enter, but not too big for them to escape.
- Place the bottle near your tomato plants or where you see ant trails or nests.
If you want, you can also soak some cotton balls in the bait solution and place them around your plants.
You should check the bait traps regularly and replace them as needed until the ants are gone.
Citrus peels are a natural way to keep ants away from your tomato plants. Ants don’t like the smell of citrus and it can confuse their communication. You can use peels from grapefruits, lemons, oranges, or limes.
However, this is not a permanent solution. Citrus peels will only deter some of the ants and they will decay over time. You may need to use other methods to get rid of the ants completely.
Companion planting is a way of growing different plants together to help each other. Some plants can help tomatoes by repelling or attracting insects, improving the soil, or enhancing the flavor. Some of the best companion plants for tomatoes are:
- Basil: Basil has a strong smell that aphids and ants don’t like. It can also make tomatoes taste better.
- Garlic: Garlic also has a strong smell that can keep aphids and ants away. It can also protect tomatoes from fungal diseases.
- Catnip: Catnip can scare off aphids and ants, while bringing in beneficial insects like ladybugs and parasitic wasps. These insects can eat aphids and other pests.
- Chives: Chives have a similar effect as garlic, repelling aphids and ants with their smell. They can also prevent tomato blight, a disease that causes the leaves to rot.
- Dill: Dill can deter aphids with its smell and attract beneficial insects like lacewings and hoverflies. It can also improve the growth and flavor of tomatoes.
- Marigold: Marigold can repel aphids and other insects with its bright color and smell. It can also release a substance that kills nematodes, tiny worms that can damage the roots of tomato plants.
- Nasturtium: Nasturtium can repel aphids and other insects with its color and smell. It can also attract beneficial insects like ladybugs and lacewings. It can also act as a trap crop, luring pests away from tomatoes.
Insecticidal soap is a natural and effective way to kill ants on tomato plants. You can buy it from a garden store or make it yourself with some liquid soap and water.
To make your own insecticidal soap, you will need:
- A spray bottle
- Liquid soap
- A measuring spoon
Here are the steps to follow:
- Fill the spray bottle with a gallon of water.
- Add 1-5 tablespoons of liquid soap to the water and shake well. The amount of soap depends on how severe your ants problem is.
- Spray the solution on the leaves and stems of your tomato plant, covering both sides of the leaves.
- Repeat the spraying as often as needed until the ant are gone.
It is important to spray the solution directly on the ants, as it will not affect them if they don’t touch it. It is also advisable to spray your plants in the evening or when the sun is not too bright, as insecticidal soap can harm beneficial insects as well.
Ant Mound Drench
Mound drench is a natural and effective way to kill ants and their nests.
To make your own mound drench, you will need:
- Compost tea
- Orange oil
- A bucket or a watering can
Here are the steps to follow:
- Mix equal parts of compost tea, molasses, and orange oil in the bucket or the watering can.
- Find any ant mounds in your garden and pour the mixture slowly over them.
- Repeat as needed until the ants are gone.
Mound drench is better than boiling water for killing ants, because it won’t harm your plants. You can use it on any ant mounds that you see in your garden beds.
Neem oil is one of our favorite methods to control pests in garden. It comes from neem trees (Azadirachta indica), which grow in Africa and Southeast Asia.
Neem oil is a natural and powerful insecticide. It affects the bugs’ body systems, making them sick and unable to reproduce. You can also use neem oil to soak the soil and kill the ants in their nests.
Here is how to make your own neem oil soil drench:
- Mix a gallon of water (3.8 liters) with 2 tablespoons of neem oil (30 ml) and 1 tablespoon liquid soap (15 ml) in a bucket or a watering can.
- Pour the mixture slowly and directly on the ant mounds or around the base of your plants.
- Repeat as needed until the ants are gone.
Orange oil is a natural and effective way to keep ants away from your plants. It is made from orange peels and has a citrus smell that ants don’t like. You can buy orange oil sprays from online or local garden stores and spray them on the ants or around your plants.
However, the best way to use orange oil is to soak the soil with it. This will kill the ants and their nests.
You can make your own orange oil soil drench with these ingredients:
- A gallon of water
- 1-2 ounces of orange oil
- 2-3 ounces of liquid soap
Vinegar and Water
Vinegar is a natural way to keep ants away from your plants. It has a strong, acidic smell that ants hate and that masks their scent trails. Scent trails are how ants communicate and find their way.
To make your own vinegar spray, you will need:
- A spray bottle
- Distilled white vinegar
Here are the steps to follow:
- Fill the spray bottle with four parts water and one part vinegar.
- Shake well to mix the vinegar and water.
- Spray the solution on the ants or near their trails or nests.
Vinegar spray is not a permanent solution. It will only deter some of the ants and they may come back later. You should also use some other methods to get rid of the ants completely.
Water is a natural and easy way to remove ants and ants from your plants. It works by washing them off with a strong spray of water. This method is only suitable for small infestations, so if you have a lot of bugs, you may need to try something else.
You should spray the plants with enough water to dislodge the bugs, but not too much water to hurt the plants.
Keep in mind that this is only a temporary solution. It will only help you when you see a few ants on your plants.
Cornstarch or Cornmeal
Cornstarch bait is a simple natural control measure for reducing the number of ants on tomato plants over time. Even though cornstarch can kill ants, it will need patience since it does not terminate them instantly. Simply mix it with sugar in equal amounts and spread it in the garden. Give it time and let the insects have it.
Cornmeal comes in different colors, which are attractive to ants. In 100g cornmeal, there is 1.6g of sugar, an effective solution to distracting ants from the aphids on the tomato plant. This is placed some meters from the tomato plant to attract them. Cornmeal is an easy target for ants since adults cannot digest it.
You can use a hosepipe with a strong water jet to flush the insects away. However, this is not a good control measure since you may water the ants away, but this will not kill them since ants cannot drown like that. Overwatered tomato plants may die due to rotten roots and brown leaves that cannot photosynthesize.
It can take up to 1 day or more to drown an ant, which will only leave you with too much water in your garden. Additionally, only hot water can kill ants on contact, and this can also harm your plants. Hot water can also destroy tomatoes and should never be used when removing any ant infestation. Your best bet is to use soapy water for ants. However, this should be used moderately.
How to Protect Tomato Plants from Ants?
As the saying goes, “prevention is better than cure.” Protecting your tomato plants from ants can be less taxing than having to deal with an established infestation. Here are a few preventative measures you can put into action:
- Keep your garden clean: Regularly clean up any fallen fruit or plant debris in your garden to eliminate potential food sources that may attract ants.
- Encourage Natural Predators: Promote a biodiverse environment in your garden to keep ant populations under control. Natural predators like birds, spiders, and other insects can help keep the ant population in check.
- Barrier Methods: Consider creating a barrier around your tomato plants using materials that ants find difficult to cross, like diatomaceous earth or a band of sticky material around the base of the plant. Be sure to keep the plant’s foliage from touching fences, structures, or other plants that could provide a bridge for the ants.
- Use Ant-repelling Plants: Certain plants, such as mint, garlic, and marigold, are known to repel ants. Planting these near your tomato plants can help keep ants at bay.
- Regularly Check for Aphids: Regularly inspect your tomato plants for the presence of aphids or other pests. If you catch an infestation early, it’s much easier to control.
How to stop Ants from nesting on Tomato Plants?
Ants can be prevented from nesting on tomato plants by blocking their entrance and exit areas. This can be done by trailing their movements dictated by pheromones that lead to their food source and nesting areas.
The first option would be to spray their paths with white vinegar and water solution to clear the pheromones they use to trail each other.
Organic insecticides also offer a solution to getting rid of ants while preserving the tomato plant. Those pesticides are manufactured and refined to reduce any potential plant harm. Agricultural experts can advise which ones to use on tomatoes since they are sensitive and delicate.
Points to Consider When Eradicating Ants on Tomato Plants
Before you take steps to eradicate ants on your tomato plants, consider these points:
- Assess the Situation: Before resorting to drastic measures, assess the severity of the situation. A few ants here and there may not be a problem and could even be beneficial. However, large numbers or signs of damage to your plants could mean it’s time to take action.
- Natural over Chemical: Whenever possible, opt for natural methods of control. While chemical pesticides can be effective, they can also harm beneficial insects and potentially disrupt the ecosystem of your garden.
- Effect on other Pests: Remember that eradicating ants may lead to an increase in the pests they predate or control. If you eliminate ants, be prepared to manage potential increases in other pests.
- Long-term solutions: Rather than seeking a quick fix, aim for long-term solutions that make your garden less attractive to ants. This could include improving soil health, increasing biodiversity, or modifying watering practices.
- Seek expert help: If you’re struggling to manage an ant infestation, don’t hesitate to seek help from a local extension service or pest control expert. They can provide advice tailored to your specific situation.
Remember, ants are a part of the natural ecosystem, and while they can sometimes cause problems for gardeners, they also have roles to play. The goal should not necessarily be to completely eradicate ants, but to achieve a balanced and healthy garden environment.
Are Ants Bad for Tomato Plants?
Ants, in and of themselves, are not necessarily bad for tomato plants. They are part of a balanced garden ecosystem and can even contribute positively by breaking down organic matter and enhancing soil health.
However, issues arise when ants form a symbiotic relationship with plant pests like aphids, mealybugs, and whiteflies.
These pests feed on the sap of tomato plants and excrete a sweet substance called honeydew, which is a prime food source for ants. In exchange for this honeydew, ants protect these pests from their natural predators.
This symbiotic relationship can lead to an explosion of pest populations that can severely damage or even kill your tomato plants.
Additionally, ants can disturb the soil around the plants, affecting their stability and overall health. Therefore, while ants themselves do not harm tomato plants directly, their activities can indirectly lead to significant plant stress and damage.
Do Ants Protect or Harm Tomato Plants?
As mentioned earlier, ants have a dual role when it comes to their interaction with tomato plants. On the one hand, they can protect tomato plants by preying on certain pests like caterpillars and other insects.
They also help in breaking down organic matter, contributing to the overall health of the soil in which tomato plants grow.
On the other hand, ants can foster harmful pests such as aphids and whiteflies, defending them from their natural predators to keep their source of honeydew secure.
This results in unchecked pest populations that feed extensively on the tomato plants, leading to plant stress and potential death.
Moreover, if the ant population grows too large, their nesting activities can disrupt the soil around the plants and affect the plant’s ability to absorb water and nutrients effectively.
So, while ants can play a beneficial role in your garden ecosystem, an overpopulation, or their association with certain pests, can lead to significant harm to your tomato plants.
Do Ants Eat Tomatoes?
No, ants are not usually interested in eating tomatoes, as they don’t have much nutritional value for them. They are more likely to be after the sweet honeydew that aphids produce when they suck the sap from the plants.
Ants won’t harm your tomato plants or their fruits directly, but they may be a sign of aphid infestation. Aphids are small insects that can damage your plants by feeding on their juices and spreading diseases. If you see a lot of ants on your tomato plants, check for aphids under the leaves or on the stems with a magnifying glass.
Ants on tomato plants can be a challenge, but they can also be managed with some natural. You should find out why ants are attracted to your tomato plants and eliminate the cause.
We hope this blog has helped you learn more about ants on tomato plants and how to deal with them. If you want to read more about pest control and gardening tips, please visit our website at Pestweek.
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.