For ants to maintain their superstrength to haul food and defend their nest, they need calorie-rich food. Sugar is an edible form of energy, and that is why ants recognize any sweet substance and exploit that source as much as they can. Often, ants are attracted to cherry trees because cherries have extrafloral nectarines that secrete nectar.
Another possible reason ants might be attracted to your cherry tree could be that the tree is infested with plant-eating aphids, small sap-sucking insects. Ants protect aphids from other predators, allowing them to feed uninhibited on your cherry tree and produce honeydew, a sweet substance that all aphids secrete.
Now that you know why ants have moved in, how do I keep them off your cherry tree?
Trim Your Branches
When you trim tree branches away from fences and other structures, ants can only reach the aphids by climbing the tree’s trunk. With ants no longer available for protection, other predators, like ladybugs, will move in and reduce or eliminate the infestation.
A certified arborist, such as Mr. Tree Services, can help you by trimming your trees effectively.
Glue Banding Trees
Glue-banding is also an effective way to keep ants off your cherry tree. A waterproof band covered with aggressive, long-lasting glue is wrapped around the tree’s trunk, creating a barrier that prevents ants from making their way up the tree.
Ants (and a lot of other insects) can’t stand peppermint oil and will abandon the tree as soon as they smell it. Create the mixture by adding 30 drops of peppermint oil to a gallon of water, shake to mix well, and spray on your tree.
Some spices can effectively eliminate ants. Chili powder and black pepper are potent repellants. Just sprinkle them around the base of your tree. This should deter the ants from climbing the tree.
Diatomaceous earth, or DE, is not only inexpensive and effective, but it is also non-toxic to kids and pets. It will only aid in keeping ants off your cherry tree. Mix one cup of DE into a half-gallon of water and paint the trunk of your cherry tree like a whitewash.
You can also reduce the water content to create a thicker paste and create a border at the base of your tree. The ants will chip away bits of the DE and bring it back to the nest. This will poison the entire colony.
Dish Soap and Water
Mix dish soap and water into a spray bottle and shake well. Spray the mixture on the ants. The dish soap sticks on the ants and suffocates them. The same mixture can be used for aphid removal.
White vinegar is also a great option. It is readily available in most grocery stores and is a cheap and effective way to kill and repel ants. Try using a 1:1 ratio mix with water and spray the mixture on the ants or the path they take to and from the cherry tree. Ants can still smell the vinegar even after it dries.
Line the bottom of the tree with bait traps to capture them. Bait traps contain pesticides that are enclosed as opposed to sprays. The ants are attracted to the pesticides, and they eat the bait and bring some back to their nests, killing off other ants.
A great way to use leftover coffee grounds is as an ant repellant. Ants are incredibly susceptible to caffeine. This works because it confuses the worker ants when they lose their scent trails.
Leave used coffee grounds where the ants are, and they will carry it home and eat it instead of proceeding back and up your cherry tree. This method may take time, but you should see a decrease in their population within a few weeks.
Ants are very sensitive to pheromones. When you line your tree’s base with cinnamon, the ants will not cross that line. When their pheromone trail gets disrupted, the scent trail they followed gets broken, and they can’t get to your tree.
Horticultural Soaps and Insecticides
A horticultural soap or insecticide will kill off ants feeding on tree sap. Insecticides kill by asphyxia. They appear to disrupt the ant’s cellular membrane and remove protective waxes from its skin, causing dehydration and death. You can also use insecticidal soaps to clean leaves and remove any sticky sap from the tree.
Note, however, that these products can be harmful to kids and pets and should be used with care. Be sure to keep kids and pets away from the trees immediately after application. And during treatment, always protect yourself by using gloves, eye protection, and a face mask in case any fumes blow your way.
Mix 1 teaspoon of boric acid with three teaspoons of powdered sugar. Mixing boric acid with equal parts sugar kills the ants more quickly.
Hire a professional
If nothing seems to be working or you’d rather not use harsh or potentially dangerous methods of removing ants, hiring a professional arborist is another great option. Look for one that avoids using toxic products if possible, particularly if you have any concerns about children and pets. A professional tree car company like Mr. Tree will be able to inspect your trees, assess the ant infestation, and come up with an effective solution. It’s always possible to tackle a problem like this more effectively with guidance and advice from certified and competent arborists. If you live in Oregon, get in touch with Mr. Tree right away to find out how we can be of service to you.