If there is a heavy presence of ants in your tomato plantation, it means that there is an infestation of other insects like whiteflies or aphids that produce honeydew. Honeydew excretion contains a sugary component that ants can feed on. Therefore, ants can live on tomato plants so that they can easily access the sugary excretions.
Ants do not feed on tomato plants. However, they may destroy the leaves if they invade the plantation in large numbers. A good number of ants in the roots can also hurt young tomato plants that are not established on the ground. They can dig into the soil and make the plants unstable.
Sometimes, a limited number of ants that nest into the soil nourish the plants with different minerals and nutrients. Since they are omnivorous, ants search for food and help in breaking down organic matter as they access their nests in the tomato roots. They deposit different types of stools and waste that are rich in nutrients from their nests. Digested deposits from ants also form nutrition for the plants.
If they make several holes around the roots, the soil may lose its stability due to excessive aeration. For example, an increased humidity change in the environment can easily get into the roots which might affect the plant. On the other hand, a hot temperature in the environment easily adjusts the humidity levels in the soil, which might also dry up the soil and kill your tomato plants after some time.
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How to get rid of ants on tomato plants without killing the plants
In most cases, ants are attracted to honeydew on tomato plant leaves that are produced by other insects. The first step to getting rid of ants is to remove those insects. This can be done by applying Diatomaceous Earth on the leaves and soil around the roots.
Commercial pesticides can also be used to control the aphid population on the plant. However, commercial pesticides have to be controlled and used with care due to the potential dangers it poses to the plant and humans.
In most cases, black and red ants are the major species that are attracted to tomato plants. Ant accessing the roots offers the advantage of increasing the movement of air into the roots. However, a huge colony of ants boring into the soil may affect its PH and nutrients’ stability. Here are some natural solutions for ants on tomato plantations:
To kill and deter ants on tomato plants, mix equal amounts of white vinegar and distilled water in a spray bottle. Then shower the leaves with the solution in order to remove ants plus other insects that produce honeydew. White vinegar can kill ants because it has a strong, pungent smell that makes it hard for insects to breathe.
Tomatoes can also be grown in pots as long as they can fit in there. A mixture of apple cider vinegar and clean water in equal proportions can be sprayed on infested potted tomato plants. This will also keep the ants away since cider has a smell that can make the ants’ pheromones weak. Applying it to the pot’s exterior would also discourage the ants from accessing the plant.
2. Cornstarch or cornmeal
A simple natural control measure for reducing the number of ants on tomato plants over time is cornstarch bait. 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 an attraction to ants. In 100g cornmeal, there is 1.6g of sugar, which is 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.
3. Orange and lemon peels
Another simple solution to repelling ants from the tomato plants is placing orange and lemon peels near the plants. Orange and lemon peels emit a strong odor that can deter ants when placed along their trails. This can distract their movements and eventually, they will leave the area. However, this depends on food availability plus the colony’s size.
Ants depend on pheromones that other ants leave along a route they follow while searching for food. Introducing the lemon and orange peels will dissolve the pheromone scents along the ant trails, making it hard to access the plants.
Other strong odor simple home remedies that can be used include white and black pepper, cinnamon, and coffee grinds. Each of these can be placed near the plant or on the paths of the ants to help repel them from the area.
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. Over-watered tomato plants may also die due to rotten roots and brown leaves that cannot photosynthesize.
It can take up to 1 day or more to drown an ant and therefore this 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 the tomatoes and it should never be used when removing any ant infestation on them. Your best bet is to use soapy water for ants but this should be used moderately.
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 which is 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 in order to clear the pheromones which 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 harm to the plants. Agricultural experts can advise on which ones to use on tomatoes since they are sensitive and delicate.
Another natural control measure is to grow plants that ants hate. Plants such as rosemary, thyme, peppermint, cucumber, and lavender produce scents that repel ants plus other pests. Planting these near your tomato plantation does not affect their ability to grow.
Essential oils like neem or lavender combined with water to make a solution can also work when keeping ants away from tomato plants. Neem oil and lavender oil can also be mixed with water to form an ant deterrent solution.
Add 5 drops of neem and lavender essential oil to 125ml of distilled water in a small spray bottle and shake well. Then spray the solution directly on the leaves to rid both aphids, whiteflies, and ants. When ants are exposed to the solution, their skin dries up. This destroys the wax coating that protects and keeps them moist.
However, this solution might burn the leaves if it is too concentrated. Therefore, after the first application, you have to look for signs of burns on the leaves and adjust the essential oil concentration in the solution before spraying again. To avoid any accidents. Always try any DIY method on one plant or a single leaf and give it a day or two before you use it on the entire plantation.