Ants can farm aphids, holding them over in the hill for the winter.
I have had a particularly bad time with aphids around the plum trees well before any ripe fruit materializes. What I gradually remembered, in addition to lady bugs, praying mantis, and birds, was that my grandmother used traps. Asking around to other family members, I finally found the formula, and decided to try it last year.
2 cups cider vinegar
2 cups sugar
2 cups water
1 gallon jug wth lid
add all to the jug, swirl until the sugar is dissolved. then drill 3 small ant sized holes in the lid. replace the lid on the jug and distribute to trees and aphid prone veggies (broccoli here). even covering the broccoli, I was getting aphids.
My first lid holes were too big and I was getting small pollinators in it. The second ones were smaller and i had mostly ants, aphids, fruit flies and other non identifiables. But had no insects inside the fruit this year. It was successful enough I will expand the traps for next year. I used two traps for each plum tree and two for each bed of broccoli. I also put two in the greenhouse, as well as ladybugs and small lizards I find around the property.
Nice post! I will try this. Last summer the ants and aphids were destroying everything, okra, peppers, long beans etc. I have never had such a terrible ant/aphid problem. I could see the ants carrying the aphids to the plants. They really went to town on everything right when the plants started to give food. I hate those little monsters, I hope this works in my garden.
Thank you Nancy and thank your relatives for remembering! I just whipped up half a recipe, distributed it to 3 containers smaller than a gallon and am anxiously waiting the results. I only had brown sugar in the house though so the mixture is quite dark which will inhibit my ability to see what may have dropped dead in there. I'll get some white sugar for next time. I put some rocks around each container to prevent lizards, the wind, and whatever else might go bump in the night from knocking them over. I sure don't want the traps to fall over and have the contents leak out...what a party that would be. I do like this manner of controlling ants better than any of the others i've tried, although sometimes emergency efforts are needed during a full out invasion. I'll let you know the results. :-D