Right now, you might be wondering why there are ants on your corn.
I’ve encountered the same problem a few years ago, so I decided to help you out with that.
Why are Ants Attracted to Corn?
Ants are attracted to corn, because of aphid presence. Aphids produce sweet honeydew that ants love to eat. Moreover, ants also help aphids survive, and they live in a symbiotic relationship.
Ants are attracted to corn, not without a reason.
It’s not about corn flavor, because ants tend to stay away from eating vegetables, and they prefer sweeter plants. Plus, ants prefer softer food, so they wouldn’t be able to bite corn.
Cornfield ants are attracted to corn because they eat honeydew that’s left on corn leaves. Honeydew is a sweet, tasty, liquid substance that is a viable part of ants’ diet.
However, honeydew isn’t produced out of nowhere. Honeydew is a by-product of aphids. Aphids are soft-bodied insects that use their piercing-sucking mouthparts to feed on plant sap. Once they eat sap, and can’t process all the sap, they produce honeydew that ants love.
Ants climb up on your corn plants to eat honeydew produced by aphids. They eat insects, but they don’t eat aphids, because they know that without them, they wouldn’t have access to their favorite honeydew. Some aphids don’t produce honeydew, though, and they are usually eaten by ants.
Moreover, ants tend to transfer aphid eggs from grass to the corn plant and protect eggs and aphids from other predators, for example, ladybugs.
So, if you see ants on your corn plant, you should know that they not only eat honeydew, but also farm aphids by transferring, and protecting them.
Will Ants Damage Corn?
Ants usually don’t do any damage to your corn, or any other plant. They feed mostly on insects, nectar, and honeydew. Thus, they’re not interested in biting corn leaves, stems, or fruits.
However, sometimes they can harm your corn indirectly. When ant colonies build their nests under corn plants, it disturbs the roots and deprives the plants of water.
In general, ants do more good than bad to your corn plant. If a corn plant is infested with insects that excrete honeydew, ants eat it. If the honeydew remained on the plant for a long time uneaten, it could support the growth of sooty molds. These molds have dark spores which turn the leaves black. The shading of the leaves by these spores reduces photosynthesis.
There is also one advantage of cornfield ants. When ants are not directly underneath plants, they can help by loosening the soil, thus improving soil structure and drainage.
So, ants are beneficial for corn plants. The problem is the presence of aphids. What can aphids do to your plant?
Their honeydew weakens the plant and causes a metabolic imbalance, twisting of the leaves, and, in extreme cases, leaf loss. Leaf loss affects the quantity and quality of the final harvest. They also introduce toxins into the plant, systemically altering its development.
The honeydew is a culture medium for various fungi, which form a barrier on the leaf, stopping it from taking in all the light that hits it.
Moreover, aphids can transmit dozens of viruses from a diseased plant to healthy in few seconds. The biggest problem with viruses is that there is no remedy for them.
Because of that, it’s crucial to get rid of aphids, as they are more dangerous than ants.
How Can You Keep Ants Off of Corn?
In order to keep ants off of corn, we need to treat the cause first. That being said, we have to get rid of aphids, and as a result, ants won’t have a reason to visit your corn plants.
There are many ways to get rid of aphids. Here are the best ones.
To get rid of aphids, you can use Isopropyl or Ethanol, but be sure they don’t have additives. Alcohol usually comes in 70 percent strength in stores, or 95 percent strength purchased commercially. To make an insecticidal alcohol solution, mix equal parts 70 percent alcohol and water (or, if using 95 percent alcohol, mix 1 part alcohol to 1 ½ parts water).
This solution should be sprayed only on the infested areas. It will only kill the aphids it comes into contact with, so repeated applications may be necessary.
Spraying infested corn plants with a strong stream of water is a good idea. Sometimes all aphids need is a blast to dislodge them. Typically, they are unable to find their way back to the same plant.
Neem oil is effective against aphids, but this substance needs to come into contact with the aphids in order to work. Be sure to follow the application instructions provided on the packaging. You can purchase neem oil here on Amazon.
Water and Soap Solution
You can also control aphids by wiping or spraying the leaves of the plant with a mild solution of water and a few drops of dish soap. Soapy water should be reapplied every 2-3 days for 2 weeks. You can also mix the solution with cayenne pepper. Stir together 1-quart water, 1 tsp liquid dish soap, and a pinch of cayenne pepper. Do not dilute before spraying on plants.
You can buy or attract predators like ladybugs to help control aphids. There needs to be a large enough aphid population to keep the ladybugs fed long enough to mate and lay eggs because it’s the larvae that eat the most aphids. Green lacewings also tend to eat aphids.
Natural predators are a great way to get rid of and prevent aphids. You can also do other things to prevent aphids on your corn plants, including onion planting, or catnip (aphids hate the smell of these plants), avoiding over-fertilization, and regularly controlling your corn plants.
Ants on your corn plants is a sign that your plant is infected with aphids. Ants feed on honeydew produced by aphids. Untreated aphids might be dangerous for your corn plants.
thespruce.com, gardening.which.co.uk, cannagardening.com, almanac.com