Most people will see ants and their involvement with trees as a negative relationship. They assume the ants are attacking and killing the tree. Only with carpenter ants is this assumption actually true. There are other species of ants that do nest inside tree trunks but don’t pose a threat to the tree. Milam’s Tree Services would like to share the interesting relationship between ants and trees and how they co-exist with each other.
Ants & Trees Have a Mutualistic Relationship
Ants that are seen crawling up and down trees often don’t nest in the tree. Some ants will feed off of the dew on the tree’s leaves. Many ants are actually hunting. Aphids and other smaller insects that also like the dew on the tree are targets. Beetles that like to bore inside the tree often become an ant’s major prey. Ants will kill small insects that can pose a serious problem for trees. For example, aphids will suck out the moisture on the tree’s leaves, killing the leaves which are important to the trees health. Some ants like to feed on the tree’s seedlings and can even be seen taking the seeds back to their nest or hive. Nature has its way of balancing out. While there are many insects that can harm the trees, there are ants to eat them.
Can You Save a Tree from Carpenter Ants?
However, there are those species of ants that may pose a problem to trees. Some ants feed on the tree‘s honey dew like aphids; and can therefore cause problems for the trees. The ants that drain the leaves of their dew will cause the leaves to turn yellow and become dry. These leaves will eventually turn brown or black. Often they will fall off the tree as they turn yellow. Another major threat to trees is carpenter ants. Many people think carpenter ants feed on wood like termites. However they only cut galleries or tunnel systems going to their hive, which can be in the ground or inside the tree. They can completely hollow out a tree and eventually kill the entire tree. Carpenter ants are very large. They are about a ½ inch long and are either solid black or half black and half red. If you have carpenter ants infesting one of your trees, know this poses a serious problem for the tree and your home. Depending on how severe the damage, the tree can become hazardous and could fall or break during a good storm or over time. If you had a tree infested with these ants and is now weak due to destruction have the tree removed immediately before the tree falls over.
Ant Barrier & Other Ways to Protect Trees from Ants
To help protect trees from ants, trim back the infested branches or tree limbs along with any other branches that make contact with other trees or plants. Ants will use these intersecting branches to get around. Another way to help protect your trees from ants is by using tree guard bands. You can find the kits where you wrap a flexible band around the trunk of a tree about 4 to 6 feet off of the ground and then you apply a sticky substance on the surface of the band. This will trap ants as they climb up the tree and kill them. This will also work on other pests that climb up from the ground and damage your tree. However make sure you know what species of ants are found on your tree and see if their friend or foe. If your tree is under attack from aphids and ants are crawling up your tree to eat those harmful insects, you should leave the ants be.