Ants usually suck out the sugary juice in the sugarcane stems. They attract molds and aphids which could damage the plants. This is why many growers find ways to get rid of them. Let's see some ideas how.
#1. Strip off the outer leaves of the stem
The ants usually come and build their nests near the top of the sugarcane plant. This is where there are many leaves growing so they have a nice place to hide and cover their eggs, food and babies. This unfortunately may attract the symbiotic aphids, which give the ants some sweet treat in exchange for a safe place to live.
Sometimes, you'll see mealybugs running around near the tops:
Because of this, growers strip off the outer leaves near the top of the sugarcane stem. This is to make the place more exposed, which discourages the ants and therefore the aphids and other insects.
Inside a sugarcane leaf:
The yellow stuff is the undigested sugarcane fiber! Probably some worms or insects left it behind. At first, we thought it was some kind of eggs. And yes it does not look the top-10 pretty. We came to realize there's more surprising stuff inside the leaves than just the ants.
You'll find older leaves much easier to pull off than the younger ones. For some varieties, you can pull the leaves straight down and they'll come right off easily. For some others, it might be a bit more difficult to pull them down. Use gloves if you have some. There are tiny tiny needles on the sugarcane leaves. You'll feel them there but they don't hurt too bad.
#2. Spray the ants away
Using mild organic sprayers may be safer than the heavy-dose chemical ones. For this, you could try mixing some soap with optional essential oil. Use a high-pressure hose to spray the ants away.
From our experience, we have found that the yellow whey (extracted from cheese-making or yogurt-making process) works quite well to keep the ants away. This stuff doesn't kill these little insects. It gives off some smell that the ants don't like. They'll just move far away. For us humans, it just smells like sour cheese, which is bearable. And it won't harm the sugarcane.
#3. Use sweet traps
Use some sweet traps at the base of the sugarcane to distract the ants' attention. On a small scale, a jar of sugar works fine.
We have found though that these ants are some darn smart guys. We used some dextrose (the sugar for baking) to lure them away. When we added some new sugarcane cuttings nearby, these guys quickly turned their backs to the dextrose and came running for the natural sugars.
So clearly they know how to tell nature-made sugar from synthetic one. Moral of the story is, if you're going to use some sweet traps, make sure they come from a natural source which can attract the ants.
#4. Kill the ants
If the ant problem gets really bad, you may need to use a stronger measure. Try this recipe:
- 3 tablespoon boric acid
- 3 cups sugar
- 1 gallon water
Mix this in a bowl and put it near the sugarcane bases. When the ants eat this stuff, the boric acid will get back to the queen and get the colony destroyed.
#5. Sprinkle some chalk
You could also try sprinkling some chalk, diatomite around the sugarcane plants. These repel insects effectively, including ants.
Letting nature help you
When the ants come, the next visitor to your garden may be the predator of the ants. For example, the lizards. If you find them around, then you don't have to do anything much. The lizards will 'zzooop' the ants for you and the natural balance is regained.
Hope this brief post has given you some ideas for dealing with ants on your sugarcane plants. Thanks for stopping by & Tschüss!
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