17 April 2012

Leafcutter Ants and Forester Moths

Our Virginia creeper vine is being completely stripped bare this year by the forester moth caterpillars. I've never seen so many of these caterpillars around. They are having a huge population explosion. As the little larvae munch away on the creeper that grows up the pecan tree hanging over the garage, they've been leaving their little black droppings (so called "frass") all over the driveway.

Yesterday, John noticed that our local neighborhood leaf cutter ants, Atta texana, were swarming all over the drive. Upon closer inspection, I discovered that they were collecting all of the forester caterpillar frass, pulling it into lines, dropping it into larger piles, and most likely taking it back to the colony to use for fungus fodder. Crazy!

The leaf cutter ants worry me from time to time. We don't have deer or rabbits; I guess our herbivores are these critters. The colony, or colonies, have been getting much larger and they are clearly expanding their foraging territory. Unlike plants labeled "deer resistant" at the nursery, there are none labeled "ant resistant." I do know they love the Mexican plum from past experience, and I'll be keeping an eye on that. Once they find a target, they are very voracious...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Amdro has a new product called "Ant Block" that is recommended for leafcutter ants by Texas A&M hort. It works. Unless you have had major portions of your yard stripped of leaves, flowers, and seeds you can't appreciate Ant Block.