If you’ve ever grown lettuce, you might have seen ants crawling along the leaves. This can obviously cause concern, as the last thing you want is for insects to feast on the plants you worked so hard to grow! But are the ants eating your lettuce, as so many other pests do? Or are they just passing through?
It turns out that ants actually don’t eat lettuce—or any other garden plants. Only one type of ant, the leafcutter ant, damages plant leaves. Since ants don’t eat lettuce leaves, they aren’t harmful to your plants unless they are protecting nearby aphids.
Keep reading to learn more about why ants don’t eat your lettuce leaves and how to keep them away from your plants if they are protecting aphids.
Do Ants Eat Lettuce?
Many pests that destroy garden plants do so by eating the leaves of the plant. Rabbits, caterpillars, and aphids all damage leaves by chewing and sucking on them.
Surprisingly, though, ants don’t hang out on your leaves to get a snack. Instead, they will typically frequent your lettuce plants to drink any drops of water that may collect on the lettuce leaves.
The only type of ant that may cause harm to your lettuce plants are leafcutter ants, but even these don’t actually consume the leaves themselves. They carry the leaves back to their nest, where they use them to grow a fungus that feeds the colony.
When Should I Get Rid Of Ants On My Lettuce?
Even though most ants won’t directly cause any damage to your lettuce plants, there are two situations where it’s best to encourage the ants to find a new home.
One of those situations is when you’ve got leafcutter ants frequenting your lettuce plants. While they won’t actually eat the leaves, they will destroy them, greatly reducing your lettuce harvests.
If you notice ants farming aphids near your lettuce plants, it’s also a sign that you should help the ants find a new home. Ants love to drink the milky fluids excreted by aphids, so they will protect the aphids from predators.
Aphids will wreak havoc on your lettuce and other garden plants. Because of this, it’s important to get rid of any ants who may be protecting the aphids.
How To Get Rid Of Ants On My Lettuce
Thankfully, there are many easy ways to keep ants off your plants if they’re causing problems. Here are a few of them:
- Create a trap using Borax and sugar. Borax will quickly and effectively kill ants, but you’ll need to add sugar to make it appealing. Be cautious when working with boric acid, as it’s harmful to people, too.
- Sprinkle cayenne pepper around the base of your plants. This may help keep ants from frequenting your plants, but it won’t harm them. You also need to make sure there are no ants on the plants when you apply the cayenne pepper.
- Spread food-grade diatomaceous earth around the plants and ant hills. Diatomaceous earth is safe for humans to be around, but it will slowly kill the ants as they ingest it. Make sure the diatomaceous earth stays dry, or it will become ineffective.
Ants don’t eat lettuce, but they may protect aphids who will. If you notice aphids in your garden, it may be best to encourage any ants to find a new place to hang out. Using diatomaceous earth, borax and sugar traps, or cayenne pepper are all great methods of eliminating ants from your garden.