It can be pretty frustrating when ants keep invading your fruit trees. They aren’t highly destructive and dangerous for your trees since they only consume the fruits, but the presence of a colony of ants is usually a warning sign of grave underlying problems. It’s best to get rid of them before they start causing trouble and to get to the bottom of why they’re there in the first place.
Here are a few ways to keep ants off your fruits trees:
- Remove damaged and rotten fruits from your trees.
- Reduce access points.
- Spray peppermint oil solution.
- Spray neem oil solution.
- Use granular ant baits.
- Drench mounds with insecticidal soap solution or hot water.
- Apply an insect barrier.
- Use inside-out packaging tape.
- Pour white vinegar on ant mounds.
- Sprinkle chili powder around your fruit trees.
- Sprinkle ants’ paths with Diatomaceous Earth (DE).
- Use boric acid traps.
- Trap ants with a cornstarch solution
We’ll talk about the many ways you can keep ants off your fruit trees, including how each method works in either driving away or killing these tiny critters. I’ll also give tips on which ways are more practical, straightforward, or aggressive. Let’s get the ball rolling!
1. Remove Damaged and Rotten Fruits From Your Trees
Ants invade trees because they are attracted to the leaves and the sweet juices in fruits. Ants can also attack flower buds, which are vital for fruit production. If unchecked, an ant infestation could lead to poor growth, leaf drop, low-quality fruits, and overall deterioration of the tree.
Make it a habit to remove damaged and rotten fruits from your trees. This will help keep ants away. Remember that if there is nothing attractive enough for ants to investigate, they wouldn’t even consider climbing your fruit trees.
Sometimes, ants invade trees because they’re searching for a safe home for their colony. In this case, they usually target trees in which they can build their elaborate tunnels and chambers. Trees ideal for nesting ants are generally weak, with hollow trunks and branches. They are safety hazards because they could topple over any minute. It would be best to consider taking these trees down and seek professional help.
2. Reduce Access Points
There are many ways for ants to gain access to your fruit trees. They can climb up from the ground through the trunk, transfer from one tree to another through branches that touch, or via walls or structures that branches may be leaning against. To reduce ants’ access points to your fruit trees, consider any of the following:
- Keep branches away from upright structures.
- Maintain a safe distance between trees to keep their branches from touching. Prune these branches if necessary.
- Cut off plants or weeds that are climbing up your fruit trees’ trunks.
3. Spray Peppermint Oil Solution
A potent peppermint oil solution will work in keeping ants away from your fruit trees. Furthermore, it will help get rid of other pests, particularly aphids, that are infesting your trees. Ants usually signal an ongoing aphid infestation.
Aphids and ants have a mutualistic relationship wherein aphids provide food for ants with the honeydew they secrete, and in return, ants protect them from their predators.
Peppermint is a potent ant deterrent. If you regularly spray your tree with peppermint oil solution, they will eventually get the message and abandon your tree. You will also be getting rid of aphids in the process because these pesky critters are deterred by the pungent, minty scent as well.
Here’s how to use peppermint oil solution to keep ants off your fruit trees:
- Mix peppermint and water in a jug. The solution can vary depending on required potency but a good baseline is 1 gallon of water to about 30 drops of peppermint oil.
- Mix well.
- Transfer the amount you need into a spray bottle.
- Seal the jar and store the remaining solution in a cool and dry area.
- Apply the solution. You should spray it directly on any visible ants, and in little nooks and crannies where they may have built a home.
- Repeat weekly until the ants are completely gone.
4. Spray Neem Oil Solution
Neem oil is one of the most reliable, potent, and safe insecticides. You can count on it to get rid of ants in your fruit trees and eliminate a more serious issue – scale infestation. Like aphids, scale insects and ants have a mutually beneficial relationship.
Ants collect and feed on the sugary substance scale insects secrete. In return, the scale insects are given some protection from their predators. The situation takes a turn for the worse when the scale population becomes overwhelming. These tiny insects usually feed on leaves and flowers, but they may soon go for your trees’ fruits as well.
This is where neem oil can step in to save the day. It works by coating the ants and scales and affecting their feeding and reproductive functions. Within just a couple of days, you will find that the ant population infesting your fruit trees has significantly declined, along with the scale insects quietly feeding on your trees’ leaves, buds, and fruits.
Here’s how to use neem oil to keep ants off your fruit trees:
- Fill a jar with 1 gallon (4.5 liters) of water.
- Add ⅓ cup (79ml) of pure organic neem oil.
- Add 1/2 teaspoon (2.5ml) of Castile soap. This will act as an emulsifier to help oil and water bind more strongly.
- Mix well.
- Pour the amount you need into a spray bottle.
- Seal the jar and store the remaining neem oil solution in a cool and dry area.
- Spray thoroughly all over your fruit trees, paying close attention to areas you usually see ants congregating. Apply during the late afternoon because neem oil burns leaves when it’s exposed to harsh sunlight.
Reapply weekly or until you’ve noticed that all the ants have disappeared. Neem oil spray can also be used as a preventive measure. It’s effective in repelling various types of insects, including ants.
5. Use Granular Ant Baits
Granular ant baits offer an effective and practical way to keep ants off your fruit trees. Some ant baits are meant only for food crops, while some are best for fruits and vegetables. As a result it’s best to check your purchase before you make it to ensure that it’s suitable for your needs.
Generally, you will get at least some indication of its intended use from the manufacturer’s label on the side of the bottle.
Note that ant baits can’t get rid of these tiny pests quickly. Although they work quite well, they act over time rather than immediately. Ant baits work by penetrating deep into the colony and unleashing their attack on the ants from within.
This is how granular ant baits work:
- The bait is gathered by worker ants while outside the colony.
- These ants then carry the bait back to their young. To feed, the worker ants regurgitate food in the form of liquid. As a result, the bait is passed on to the infants.
- Granular bait impedes the development of young ants. It doesn’t kill the worker ants that brought it back to the mound.
Worker ants, which are actually female ants, can live for 1-3 years, while the winged male ants live for just a few weeks. On the other hand, queens can survive for up to 30 years. #
However, this slow but effective strategy will hack at the ants from their infants, impeding their ability to reproduce and eventually killing off the majority of the population.
You’ll see the effects of granular ant bait within 2-3 months. It’s important to remember that you must reapply the bait at least twice a year for the best results.
Here are some additional tips for granular ant bait application:
- Follow the instructions on the label as closely as possible.
- Pick a day when it most likely won’t rain within the next 2-3 days since rainfall could easily wash the bait away. If it rains within 6-12 hours of application, you must reapply as soon as the leaves and ground are dry.
6. Drench Mounds With Insecticidal Soap Solution or Hot Water
These methods are great if you want to eliminate ants quickly. You flood their mounds to drown most of them and force the rest of them out. You might have to repeat the drenching until you no longer see any mounds sprouting up anywhere on your property. Ants are resilient, and any surviving ants will waste no time trying to build a new colony.
This is how to make an insecticidal soap solution for eliminating ants:
- Fill a large bowl with 2 gallons (7.6 liters) of water.
- Add 10 tablespoons (148ml) of insecticidal soap. You can use Castile soap or liquid detergent.
- Carry the bowl to an ant mound and pour near the side, letting the insecticidal soap solution completely flood the mound.
This is how to use hot water to keep ants off your fruit trees:
- Fill a large pot with about 2 gallons of water.
- Heat it above the stove until the water reaches boiling point.
- Carry the pot to the ant mound and pour near the side, allowing the scalding hot water to flood the entire mound.
Note that these methods aren’t advisable for ant mounds near trees or plants. Hot water and insecticidal soap solution will be absorbed by the roots and may cause burns. You could seriously damage your plants and trees if you aren’t too careful.
7. Apply an Insect Barrier
Applying insect barriers can make it a lot more challenging for ants to gain access to your trees and their fruits. These are bands of sticky, gooey substances wrapped around the trunks of trees to stop ants in their tracks, whether they’re going up the tree to collect food or on their way down to bring food back to their mound. If they attempt to climb over the goo, they will get stuck and should eventually die.
Here are some options you may consider if you want to use insect barriers for your fruit trees:
- Tanglefoot Tree Insect Barrier Tub (available on Amazon.com)
- Maple syrup
- Corn syrup
Here’s how to place ant barriers around your fruit trees:
- Start early in the morning when ants are probably still inside the safety of their mounds.
- Wrap your fruit trees’ trunks with flagging tape, ideally below the first branch from the ground. This is a non-adhesive tape typically used for marking boundaries or objects.
- Wrap upward and around the trunk, creating overlaps until you have a 4-inch (10 centimeters) wide band around the trunk. Secure the end of the tape under the last overlap.
- Using an old paintbrush, coat the flagging tape with a layer of your choice of a gooey barrier.
- Keep about half an inch (1.3 centimeters) at the top and bottom of the flagging tape clear of the gooey substance. This is to ensure that the goo doesn’t get in contact with the tree bark since direct exposure may cause burns.
- Replace and reapply insect barriers every 3 months or so or whenever you feel like the barrier is getting too dirty with dead ants, insects, and other debris.
8. Use Inside-Out Packaging Tape
You can also use some packaging tape as ant traps for your fruit trees. Simply wrap the packaging tape, inside-out so that the sticky side is showing, around the bark of your tree, ideally below the first branch from the ground.
Ants will quickly get stuck in the tape and will die with time. Remember to replace your ant barriers when they get dirty with ants, dust, and other debris.
9. Pour White Vinegar on Ant Mounds
This is probably one of the simplest ways of getting rid of ants in your fruit trees and around your garden. You wouldn’t have to deal with dead ants or any icky, gooey substances for traps. All you need is a spray bottle, water, and white vinegar.
Here’s how to get rid of ants using this kitchen staple:
- Mix vinegar and water in a spray bottle. For the best effectiveness try to mix this solution in a 1:2 ratio of water to vinegar.
- Spray the white vinegar solution around and on top of ant mounds. While the solution won’t kill them outright, it is a potent deterrent. Consequently, the ants will not venture out from their nest and will eventually starve to death.
10. Sprinkle Chili Powder Around Your Fruit Trees
The capiscum in chillis and other peppers is a very potent ant deterrent. A little sprinkle of chili powder around the base of your trees will work wonders to keep the ant population down. Do this in the spring, when ants are most active, and also when the harvest season is fast approaching.
11. Sprinkle Ants’ Paths With Diatomaceous Earth (DE)
While Diatomaceous Earth (DE) isn’t as much of a poison as potentially harmful insecticides, it gets the job done just as well. While insecticides attack the nervous systems of their target parasite, DE works by drying them out.
Sprinkle a good amount of DE over ants’ pathways and around your fruit trees. Apply DE when it hasn’t rained for a while, and the ground is dry. Wet soil can absorb it, and rainwater can quickly wash it away.
It would be best to wear gloves and a face mask whenever you use DE as it can cause mild irritation when it contacts your skin.
12. Use Boric Acid Traps
What’s good about boric acid is it’s safe to use around plants and trees. It’s toxic for ants but entirely safe for greenery. It works by destroying the outer shell and the stomach. Boric acid can kill worker ants and their queen within about 3 weeks of exposure.
Here’s how to use boric acid to keep ants off your fruit trees:
- Mix boric acid with something sweet that will attract ants. Consider using maple syrup, corn syrup, or sugar.
- Spread the mixture on a piece of old cardboard.
- Place the cardboard where you usually see ants.
Replace the boric acid-infused cardboard when you see quite a number of ants already trapped in the goo. Don’t worry about the ones that got away – boric acid’s toxicity will eventually work its magic on them.
Always wear gloves whenever you’re dealing with boric acid. Keep it away from young children and pets since it’s a dangerous substance linked to many adverse effects on humans and animals.
13. Trap Ants With a Cornstarch Solution
This method only works if you apply it directly to ants. Wait until you see a bunch of worker ants marching in line around your fruit trees or on the ground. A cornstarch solution will harden over any ants it comes in contact with, making it easy for you to dispose of them.
Of course, this isn’t as effective as the other solutions here since it only works on the applied ants but it’s a good option if you have a minimal infestation and can quickly solve it by killing a few ants yourself.
It would be best to inspect your fruit trees for signs of ant infestation regularly. Prevention is always better than cure, especially when it comes to pests. However, if you find yourself and your fruit trees right in the middle of an ant infestation, quick action is necessary to save your harvest.
There are many ways to keep ants off your fruit trees. Pick an elimination method that works best for you and your garden setup.