Why are ants in my trees and shrubs?
We get a lot of calls about insects on their plants but don't worry about it! In most cases there is a natural balance between pest and predator and without insects down at the bottom of the food chain our species wouldn't be here! We tend to want to sterilise our indoor and outdoor space but this over hygienic approach can create an unhealthy imbalance. I was very troubled last week by seeing a bed of hidcote lavender in full bloom without a bee in sight. I planted about two square metres for them to prosper on but their decline is another result of human actions that will in turn bite us where it hurts further on down the line.
Ants forage on trees and shrubs for aphids which they squeeze like we would a tube of toothpaste. The sugars that the aphids are extracting from the plant are being milked by the ants for food. In simplistic terms, remove the aphids to remove the ants to remove the beetles to remove the birds to remove us! Don't worry about the odd notch or blemish on your trees and shrubs, that is what they are there for. The animal kingdom needs the plant kingdom to feast on for the health of all.
Planting a tree creates a great habitat for innumerable animals on which to thrive. Spraying insecticides should be the last resort to avoid disturbing the natural balance within your garden. Easy to say if you have an infestation of Lilly beetle or black bean aphid but in the main nature can look after itself without our intervention.
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