This past weekend I gave my Maxillaria tenuifolia a bath. It is on a wooden plank and the roots are wrapped in Sphag. Poured a little water over the roots and out popped a colony, eggs and all. I also have ants in a number of pots. Is this bad for the plants? I have not seen any ill effects. Or is it just a pain when you're trying to work in the garden
Ted, In some cases, ants and orchids have a simbiotic relationship. That being said, they do tend the mealies, aphids, and anything else that creates honydew, and you certainly don't want to bring an ant colony in the house with a plant... I suppose they could spread viruses also. Just my opinion.
I agree with Carol. Ants are usually a warning signal that honydew producing plant suckers are at work. The ants will spread them from leaf to leaf and plant to plant. However, I found this on Andy's web site: "Many genus are either excreting sap to attract ants as protection (oncidiums, catts…) or even providing housing (myrmecophylla to name one…) with some sugar excretion to feed them or even depends on them for pollination (Leporella fimbriata)". So, it is not always a bad thing. My advise is to inspect ant infested plants closely and regularly for signs of aphids and their ilk. If none are found, pour a glass of wine and relax.
I get scale every now and then and always find ants transporting it so i always try to get rid of ants, we have alot around were i live though.
I did loose a plant (not an orchid) once that the ants had colonized. When I tipped the pot over, the drain hole was completely blocked with a yellow fungus, which the ants also farm for food. The plant rotted due to lack of drainage. Now if it looks like they've moved into a pot, I check the hole!
So, while ants in and of themselves may not harm plants, there livestock will. Begs the question then. How do you get rid of them outside or in.
I have had a lot of positive results using Terro ant killer on my orchids. I just place a few drops on the edge of the pot and it seems to do the trick to get rid of the entire colony inside the pot. They are attracted to the honey-like substance and take it back to the nest. I do not place it on the medium or the roots in order to avoid any possible problems.
The concensus on my carpenter ants in the cork mount is that I need to submerge the whole plant in a tub of water for a couple of hours to drown them or force them to abandon ship . They won't take sweet bait like Terro, or the Amdro protein bait either, right now.
For the little black ants that farm the aphids and scale, I agree, sweet bait works. Our entomologist at the Extension office taught us to dilute the Terro by at least half with bottled or distilled water because sometimes it is too strong, and kills the workers before they can carry it all the way back to the nest. Makes your bottle of Terro last twice as long, too!
But you have to then get rid of the aphids and scale or the ants will come back.