An Incredible Pest: Any Good Suggestions?

http://www.motherearthnews.com/homesteading-and-livestock/an-incredible-pest-zbcz1309.aspx

leaf cutter antAs stated in a previous blog, we had nearly ten very enjoyable years in Australia. We are now home in Texas. Jim has retired and is building out the homestead while Julie has transferred within her company and is working in the IT industry. While many of our blogs will be about finishing the barndominium and lessons learned, this one is a quick post about a nasty surprise we had Sunday night.

We’ve planted three citrus trees and one peach tree adapted to the climate we face (hot, South Texas weather).  Despite the lateness of the planting, we’ve managed to nurse them along well and they were doing quite well.  However as can be seen from these pictures, in one night, three of them were entirely stripped of leaves.  The culprit – as pest called leaf cutter ants “also known as “the town ant, cut ant, parasol ant, fungus ant and night ant. Atta texana can be extremely destructive to landscape plants, gardens and some agricultural crops in Texas.” (Source, Insects in the City, Texas A&M GriLife Extension. The link for the article is as follows: citybugs.tamu.edu/factsheets/landscape/ants/ent-1002/

We’ve put every ant bait we had in our inventory.  The problem though is that these pests really eat only the fungus produced from the leaves they strip and carry to their rather large nests, making them resistant to normal sugar-based or oil-based ant baits.  Nonetheless, the ants didn’t return last night and the remaining tree is still OK.  During the summer months, these pests do their damage in the dark.  It’s only the following morning that you know if you’ve been attacked again.  With future gardens and other growing projects coming up soon, we want to do whatever we can to convince these pests to go away (from what I’ve read, you only control the pests – you don’t really remove them).  I’m headed for Wal-Mart as the Ampro brand and bait was recommended in the attached article.peach tree/ant

If any of you have experience with this nasty pest and have ideas or solutions, let’s share them as comments to this blog and see what we can do to help protect gardens from this difficult pest.  Here’s his picture (photo credit Seth Patterson).

Jim Christie graduated with a PhD from Kansas State University in 1971 and spent over 40 years in the military and in the IT industry.  He and his wife have been building a sustainable homestead in Texas while living ten years in Australia.  Now retired, Jim is now building out the homestead and developing livestock while Julie continues her career in the IT industry, but also enjoying the homestead and guiding the strategy in raising food.