June Bugs, Fireflies and Alien Ant Farms by Garden Girl Dawn-Jane Guay



This spring seemed to zoom right by. To my embarrassment, although it could happen today (lol!), we have yet to plant our corn, squash and melons. Also, it appears we have fallen off the tomato sucker wagon this year… Again…

Besides all that, my newest lesson in gardening is that ants, yes, ANTS (!!!!!!!) FARM!

Earlier in the week I was doing some weeding and I moved a stone. Underneath that stone there were at least 8 beige capsule looking things with very organized ants surrounding them and when I didn’t put the stone back I witnessed the ants carry off the capsules into the ground. It was kind of mesmerising to see! At the time I had no conception that I was aiding the pests and parasites that are decimating my rose bushes and at this point completely skeletonised one of them!

DJ 2In the fall of 2014 we had 9 different rose bushes growing and after this spring’s thaw we were left with 8. Survival of the fittest I guess, but I learned, the hard way of course, it is also very important to do some research on the places that you purchase roses. Great nurseries will grow stock in their own fields for the first 2 or 3 years and then sell them in their 3rd or 4th year. Amazingly, those places usually give a full year guarantee on the survival of the roses or perennials they sell. Damn hindsight… As well, some nurseries provide free grafting courses! I plan on getting to one of those soon…

DJ 1The first rosebushes we planted were both from the Upper Canada Village heritage plant sale. One is “Grand Maiden’s Blush” and the other is called “Tuscany”. Both are old roses with imperfect blooms and wonderful fragrance. I love them both, maybe more so because they were our first.

However, both those rosebushes have had a yearly aphid attack for the past 3 summers, not discluding this one. In the past few weeks when I have been watering them and checking for activity I noticed ant debris on our walkway. Something I had failed to notice ever before. And then when I saw the capsule activity earlier this past week, in another area, it hit me that I should do some more research. It was obvious I was overlooking something…

DJ 3Apparently ants love the secretion that aphids leave behind in their destruction. Because of their love of this secretion, ants have evolved to farm them! I have since learned that when the aphids hatch, the hormones secreted by the ants’ keep wings from developing on the aphids so that they don’t fly away!!! And to top that off, ants will actually carry the aphids to new plant victims!!! Such an operation!

I had no idea that this is what I’ve been up against. It makes sense now that my measures this spring didn’t cut it. I used dormancy spray on the rose canes a couple of times before they woke up this spring, I worked up the ground around the rosebushes deep enough to kill any over-wintering cocoons/insects and I swear I was keeping a close watch this past month, but not close enough. The problem was crawling literally under my feet. And to think, if I had just had the foresight to save some of those stinky ladybugs that found their way into our home over the winter I could have had some allies in this battle! The Internet tells me I can have them shipped to me, but I can still smell them in our vacuum filter. Ugh.

Friday night I had to look twice when I saw ants congregating on my Winchester Cathedral’s forming blooms and then I noticed that the blooms themselves were discoloured and misshapen. This was the first time I had witnessed ants on an actual rosebush. When I had a moment later in the evening I looked it up and discovered that my problem was way deeper than just aphids. It is the ants that have been perpetuating my problem. Mind blown.

Looking back a few days, I am terribly upset with myself that I didn’t try to study those capsules closer before the ants made off with them. However, something tells me they are still in that “neighbourhood”. The next clear day, I plan to start my attack with complete rose sprayings, tops and bottoms of leaves, of dish detergent mixed with water and I plan to compound the sprayings until there is no sign of the aphids. The ants will get no mercy either.

On another note, something is now killing my violas and leaving eggs on the undersides of its foliage. I noticed the same eggs on the underside of a poison parsnip’s foliage. I love violas, such pretty flowers… Let the war begin…

Wish me luck!

1 Comment

  1. Great pics Dawn. Enjoy your articles
    Don’t be too hard on yourself – I’ve gardened for a number of years and this year am having many challenges with rabbits eating my veggie patch and rose bush leaves – I cannot imagine the leaves are that tasty!

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