Some gardeners are afraid of ants and view them as a possible danger to their cherished plants and trees, which is understandable considering the amount of effort required to create a thriving garden.
Gardens are also a source of pride and pleasure, and it can be a sorry sight to see damaged plants.
Can ants damage cherry trees? Yes, ants can damage cherry trees, but they almost never do! Most ants are beneficial to the garden and do far more good than harm. However, ants may spread wood rot, encourage an aphid or other insect infestation, or destroy healthy fruit if not kept in check.
Ants in the garden can be a polarizing subject. For this reason, we have set up both sides of the argument, outlining the causes of infestation and providing advice on prevention and treatment.
Sadly, ants are just one possible issue when growing cherry trees. Learn what to watch for and how to manage problems in my detailed article, Cherry Blossom Tree Diseases and Pests.
The Dangers of Ants on Cherry Trees
Ants can be harmful to cherry trees for two main reasons. They contribute to the gradual decline of tree health due to the spreading of wood rot. Secondly, ants maintain aphids, which can cause an infestation.
It should be noted, however, that ants are part of the natural ecosystem, and trees, cherries included, generally benefit far more from ants and other insects than they suffer.
Why Are Ants a Problem for Cherry Trees?
Ants can pose a problem to your tree when dead or rotten wood is taken by carpenter ants. This may contribute to more living tree tissue dying.
Some ant species “farm” insects such as aphids, scales, and mealybugs. This simply means they protect these insects in order to harvest a sweet residue produced by them.
This can, in some cases, lead to insect infestations on trees, resulting in unproductive and sick trees or in very severe cases, the death of a tree.
In the case of fire ants, what causes the main concern is not tree health, but the health of animals and humans. Their sting is extremely uncomfortable. For this reason, fire ant colonies are not welcome in a home garden.
Do Ants Eat the Cherry Tree Fruit?
Usually, ants are opportunists rather than active predators, and their diet includes mostly sick or injured insects and animals or decaying food sources like fallen fruit, vegetables, or organic plant matter.
However, ants have an excellent sense of smell, and if fruit is ruptured by heat or water, they may attack growing fruit.
Will Ants Kill Cherry Trees?
This is complicated, but overall, you should not expect ants to kill a healthy tree, so don’t worry! That being said, ants can be responsible for tree stress, which invites a whole range of other pests and diseases that may eventually kill a cherry tree.
How To Deter Ants From Cherry Trees
As with most things in life, well-meaning amateurs often exacerbate a problem with poor solutions, so the number one thing you can do when facing a serious ant problem is to call an expert.
Exterminators may not be the cheapest option, but it is the wisest choice as these professionals can give you the educated advice and management plan to keep your cherry tree healthy.
If an exterminator is not a viable option for you, then consider an ant barrier like Tanglefoot, which is a sticky coating designed to physically stop ants from accessing a tree. While this solution can be cheap and effective, it may not work for all situations.
Ant traps may also be useful for eradicating ant colonies, but be warned that most traps contain chemicals that are harmful to humans, animals, and beneficial insects in the gardens.
Natural Ways To Stop Ants Climbing Your Cherry Tree
One of the most called-upon remedies for repelling ants is the use of peppermint oil as this pungent aroma has been reported to be highly disliked by ants.
Peppermint oil can be soaked into cotton balls and strewn around an affected area, ant hills, or the base of a tree. A bonus is that rodents like rats and mice are also strongly repelled by this.
Another natural way to stop ants is by placing coffee grounds (from real beans only!) around the base of trees, which is reported to be a repellant to these little critters.
Another natural scent repellent is cucumbers, and their peels are also regarded as an ant deterrent.
It is important to remember that these natural and home remedies are not scientifically proven, and they might never eradicate or stop ants 100%.
The best way to avoid and manage ants is by bringing diversity into the garden, and a range of highly scented and varied plants will bring a healthy balance.
How To Deal With Cherry Blackflies (Aphids)
Cherry blackflies represent a real nuisance to gardeners, but thankfully, prevention and treatment are usually successful.
Because blackflies form clusters of discolored, wilted leaves, it is mostly ornamental gardeners who see this insect as a threat.
The first line of defense should always be maintaining a healthy ecosystem in the garden so that blackflies remain in proportionate levels to predators.
Blackflies, while sometimes unsightly, will not prevent cherry trees from flowering or fruiting; however, if spraying is necessary, use organic neem oil.
Other Cherry Tree Pests & How To Treat Them
At one point or another, no matter how well cared for your cherry may be, you’ll likely have to deal with problem pests. The following outlines the most commonly encountered and what can be done to eradicate them.
These guys are just downright nasty and are notorious for killing trees. Fortunately, they are rare and usually only affect trees already suffering from stress or other weaknesses like wounds.
Their presence is easily identified by raised trails beneath the bark of tree trunks. Treatment for borers may be successful with applications of a pesticide like organic pyrethrin concentrate or direct removal of insects.
Leaf miners attack leaves, create trails that damage tissue, and reduce the capabilities of a tree to photosynthesize.
Beneficial insect predators are key to controlling small pests like this. Try setting up insect hotels like this one, or simply make your own organic pesticide.
Spider mites can be difficult to spot and are usually only found once an infestation has occurred.
Luckily, they can be treated with a strong blast of water to knock off most bugs. Follow this with an application of neem oil to prevent further reproduction.
Can Ants Damage Tree Roots?
Ants rarely damage tree roots, especially large, established trees. Ants only pose a problem when roots are dying from water stress, but even then, they usually aid in the growth of trees by breaking down organic material — so they compost for you! Amazing!
What Causes Holes in Cherry Tree Leaves?
Certainly not ants! You may find that other insects, such as caterpillars, leaf miners, cherry thrips, sawflies, cherry fruit flies, mites, and aphids, are most likely the guilty culprits when you find holes in your cherry tree leaves.
Overall, ants should not concern gardeners. Rather, they should be seen as natural members of the environment that are doing their job in nature and have done so for a very long time.
They are responsible for cleaning up waste in the garden and for creating thriving soil. When gardens are healthy, infestations very rarely occur.
In extreme cases, organic pesticides like neem oil, pyrethrin, or even home remedies can be effective in controlling ants.
Now that you know how to tackle ants on your cherry tree, discover what to do about these common problems: