What to do about ants on your tree

​While pests are generally something you don’t want to have around your trees, ants are a little bit different. Some ants aren’t a problem at all and some can even help your tree in certain situations. Other ants? Not so much. So to help cut through the ambiguity, this week’s discussion is going to center around what to do about ants around your tree.
Ants damaging a tree
Are they good? Or bad?

Ants like trees for two primary reasons. The first is that they’re looking for the honeydew left behind by other insects and often like to make their homes inside worn out holes and cavities in the trunk in your trees. While they’re certainly not the most aesthetically pleasing feature of your tree –they’re not likely to cause any real harm in most situations. 

What you DO need to keep in mind is that if there are ants all over your tree – the tree might be in trouble. Long story, short – they’re a big, red flag that there could be other problems with the tree and you should probably seek treatment soon. 

But what about roots?

While ants on the branches and trunk aren’t necessarily an issue, if they’re hording around the root system, they can present an enormous issue. Especially when it comes to carpenter ants – you’ll see piles of sawdust scattered around your tree. If you see this sawdust, then it’s likely the ants are burrowing into the tree. That means that the bark is weak and you might have rotting that could mean the end of the line for that particular tree. 

How you get rid of them

While ants aren’t always harmful to your trees, they can be harmful to other aspects of your landscape. They’ll use your tree as a base of operations, so to speak. When this occurs and you don’t want to risk damage to other plants, you can spray your tree with 30 or so drops of peppermint oil and a gallon of water. Ants hate peppermint and as soon as they get a whiff, they’ll be gone. 

There are some other options your can explore as well, including setting ant bait at the base of the tree so you can capture them while they’re traveling to and from their home. If they’re feeding on the sap on the tree, you can use horticultural soap or insecticide. That being said, anytime you’re using a chemical, you should probably call a pro! 

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