Keeping Ants Off Fruit Trees

Ants, man. They are my garden nemesis. I’m getting better at killing them but they can still do a lot of damage if you let them.

They don’t just put aphids on my plants (I’m getting better at killing those too), they put scales on my fruit trees.

Scales are soft bodies insects that suck the life out of plants and put off a sooty mildew/mold that the ants like to eat, because they are gross. Scales look like this:

terrapin scale

I didn’t know about scales, so I didn’t know why ants were climbing all over my lemon bushes. By the time I figured it out, I had an enormous scale problem that has required a lot of care and patience to get under control.

Anyway, I have since learned of a great way to keep ants off fruit tree. The best part of it is that it’s non-invasive. It doesn’t coat the tree in chemicals and it doesn’t kill beneficial insects. Heck, it doesn’t even kill the ants.

It’s called Tanglefoot.
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Tanglefoot is a non-drying, sticky compound that forms a barrier against climbing insects. You put a paper collar around the tree–I use duct tape–and “paint” this sticky, honey-like glue all around the trunk, like so:


The ants can’t cross it. Their trail is disrupted and they can’t continue their evil scheme to colonize your tree with scales or aphids.

I’ve used Tanglefoot for almost a year now. It stays sticky for quite awhile. Eventually, the paper collar off the tree and you have to reapply it, but no big deal. It’s nice to have an organic insect control that actually works.

You have to watch those ants, though. They were trying to put citrus scales on my orange tree, so I put Tanglefoot around its base to stop them. The next day, I went out to check that it was working. It was. The ants could not climb up the trunk because the Tanglefoot was blocking their path.

So what did they do? They moved a piece of grass and used that as a ladder over the Tanglefoot so they could go back to putting citrus scales on my orange tree.
Ants, man.

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5 thoughts on “Keeping Ants Off Fruit Trees”

  1. I hate scale! Every year when I brought my citrus in for the winter, they’d develop scale and drop all of their leaves. This year I left them out in the greenhouse and they seemed much happier. Still going to make a note of this Tanglefoot product, though.

  2. I have quite a few hibiscus trees and bushes and one of them have really large(right at 1/2″) ants on the petals. Would this work on that as well?

  3. I can see how this could help me with my hummingbird feeders. The ants love the hummer syrup and always run a trail straight to my feeders.

  4. Pingback: » Ants farming aphids on your fruit tree leaves? at A Rocha - Inspiring Change. Caring for Creation.

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