If you have a polytunnel, one of the questions you may have is which of the many bugs and beasties that you find within it pose a problem, and which will do no harm to your food crops and other plants. Many polytunnel gardeners find that the dry conditions lead ants to move in. But are ants a problem in a polytunnel?
Are Ants a Problem in a Polytunnel?
Unfortunately the answer is yes, they can be. Fortunately, there are measures that organic gardeners can take to discourage ants from taking up residence in the first place, and to encourage ants to move on to a less troublesome location if you do have a problem with them in your polytunnel.
Why Ants Can Be a Problem in a Polytunnel
Ants do not usually eat your crops. By themselves, they will not do much harm and so elsewhere in your garden it is often possible to adopt a live and let live approach. Unfortunately, ants do something rather weird – they ‘farm’ aphids. If they ‘farm’ the aphids they herd them onto specific plants – if those plants are ones you want for food, this can pose a problem, damaging and even killing those plants in extreme cases. The ants stroke the aphids to get them to release a sugary liquid for the ants to drink.
Ants can also simply be a nuisance to the polytunnel gardener, swarming out whenever the soil around their nest is disturbed.
How to Discourage Ants from Taking Up Residence
Ants do not like wet soil – they prefer a very dry, sandy environment. So to discourage ants from taking up residence in your polytunnel in the first place, try to keep the space well-watered and mulch well with plenty of organic material.
Planting certain aromatic herbs and flowers can also help to repel ants from your polytunnel. Plants said to repel ants include:
Encouraging Ants To Move Elsewhere
You can encourage ants to move elsewhere by making conditions worse for them.
- They will not enjoy being disturbed so turning the compost could encourage them to move. If you see a big pile of eggs, dispose of them somewhere they will not be in the way.
- Dowsing the area with water can also lead them to seek a new home.
- Salt, cinnamon or strong spice like cayenne at their entrances will sometimes make them move to a more suitable location.
If ants are not causing a nuisance, it is best to leave them alone as if a colony is disturbed it is often the case that new queens will try to come in and make even more new nests.
Trap Crops for Aphid Farming Ants
Another option, rather than trying to get rid of ants altogether is to plant trap crops, so ants will herd aphids onto those rather than your precious crops. One example of a trap crop for ants that herd aphids is the sunflower. Ants often herd aphids onto them in preference to herding them onto other plants.
How do the ants in your polytunnel behave? Are ants a problem in your polytunnel? Let us know below.