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This is a discussion on Orchids, ants and extra-floral nectaries within the General Orchid Culture forums, part of the Orchid Culture category; Halloamey: I understand your concern about the consequences of digging into a colony of ants ...
Halloamey: I understand your concern about the consequences of digging into a colony of ants during re-potting. But even here, I wonder if the ants are actually beneficial to the orchid. In researching the Coryanthes orchid I purchased recently, I discovered that the roots of this group of orchids are invariably associated with ant colonies. A number of plants are known to benefit from the fecal waste of ants.
I never thought I would find a conversation on ants in regards to orchid culture to be this interesting, but this has lead to some thought provoking posts. I may never look at ants in the same way again. AL
My greenhouse is situated on a hill, bordering a forest reserve that provides me with a number of interesting tropical wildlife visitors. The most impressive and beneficial of these critters is the massive invasion of the army ants. I usually have at least two invasions per year and for a day, the ants dominate the property and I leave it to them to take whatever they want and enter any space that they think might hold something of nutritional benefit. I head for the beach or go on a fishing trip. By evening, they are gone and the house and greenhouse is totally rid of every bug, lizard, mouse, cricket, roach, spider, scorpion, snake or vermin that in one way or another is potentially harmful to me or worse, to my orchids and house pets.
Tropic: I would like to see that, but I don't think most people in this area would be ready for something like that. My wife, who is a nature lover, freaks when we get a small spider in the house. We have quite a few pest control companies, local and national, who keep our houses bug-free. Your way sounds cheaper and more eco-friendly. In the tropics, are pest control businesses a big thing or is the resident human population more tolerant of the wee critters? It occurs to me that you can't always depend on army ants to clean out the house before the big party.
As an aside, I've been all over North American and most countries in Europe. I had the opportunity to take a 12-day eco-tourism trip to Costa Rica three years ago. It was the best trip I've ever taken. I still get a warm, fuzzy feeling when I think about it.
we have some nasty ants here in california. we had a large hive of pavement ants for a few yesrs, that was bad enough, but they only invaded the building in october, then were gone for a year. now theya re replaced by 'crazy hairy ants' migrating from mexico. they are much more aggressive, and attack anything. people, pets, anything. they keep nesting in houseplant soil. i had a terrible time getting them out of my home. these ants have multiple hives and multiple queens. they took over the whole apartment building, but their nests were mostly in people's house plants. i have a ton, so it was really bad. i ended up spraying poisons into the walls to keep them from coming in, and have treated all my plants (my whole balcony too) with diatomaceaous earth. a month later, i have no ants. my neighbors still do. aside from them biting me all the time, they also farm mealies and aphids and were devastating some of my cacti and orchids. i am now in the process of trying to kill off the main hive, but it is in a concrete wall on the property boundary and has been terribly hard to treat. this hive has infested my whole neighborhood with smaller hives. and they don;t fight, they all cooperate with each other, obeying whichever queen is nearest them. some of my neighbors are also trying the DE treatment, and having good luck, others don't believe i got rid of them. a ton of neighbors have moved out because of the ants. the diatomaceous earth causes little nicks and cuts on the ants that walk through it, or crawl through it, so they dehydrate and die. it is non-toxic, edible, but be careful not to breathe a cloud of dust. you can mix it into new soil or mix it into water jugs and water it in every time. it took me about a month to chase them from all my plants. i hardly ever see any ants even on my balcony now. and i got rid of the mealies and aphids in the process.
It sounds like a hell of a battle with those ants coeruleo and I'm glad you won. I can easily believe how persistent those ants can be. Thanks for sharing this information because you never know...........................AL
Yes indeed: when I began I also immediately noticed nectar in great glistening gobs in various sites all over the plants. Like you, my immediate conclusion was -aha, ants. Especially when I saw concentrations of nectar on important structures like bud-sheaths and such- classic candidates for some formic protection!
However I seem to remember I was met with scepticism when I said the same as you; which was very odd! Of course you are right: a plant is not going to use all that valuable energy to produce extra quantities of water and sugar UNLESS it is an investment bringing a reward. Like you, I knew of this trick among various groups of plants, but I was not expecting to see it in orchids- that was new to me.
(And it's not only nectar that is used: some epiphytic ferns grow nest-chambers for the ants to inhabit: the whole plant then becomes the ants' fiercely protected home. Neat.)
it has been about 6 months, and i am still basically ant free. every now and then a small hive tries to nest in a new plant, but i get my dust and water jug out and get rid of them. instead of spraying toxic poison into the walls i now just use the diatomaceous earth inside the walls. they will avoid this stuff like the plague and it never dissipates inside the walls and is nontoxic. anywhere i see an ant trail outside i am dusting the ground and bushes. i scattered a whole bag of the stuff around where i think the mother hive is. meanwhile some of the neighbors still have a ton of ants in their apartments. they are all angry and nasty to the manager about it, but seriously, a 12$ bag of DE would change their lives. some people are just too stubborn though i guess. now when i see an ant on the balcony, it is pretty rare.