Bug shenanigans on our lettuce (photos)

sqftsteveJune 8, 2009

I've notice the last couple of days that our Great Lakes lettuce in one planter was covered in ants. The lettuce looks healthy, so I didn't think much more about it. Today I saw the ants again, and they looked like they were doing 'something'. Not sure what, but they were on the lettuce, moving around with what I can best describe as a sense of purpose. So I watched for a while and took a few photos.

It wasn't until I got the supermacro shots on the computer monitor that I could see that the ants aren't alone. The ants are tiny, so these white things are REALLY tiny. Are these aphids? Should I just let the ants take care of the problem, or do I need to step in?

Boy, I hope whatever these things are, they wash off as easily as ants do - or are at least a good source of protein. I just ate a bit of this for lunch. Gulp. LOL

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Here's a better shot of one of the critters. They are nearly invisible against the lettuce. Actually, this looks different than the ones in the previous photos.

    Bookmark   June 8, 2009 at 8:30PM
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I feel silly asking, but how do you post a picture?

    Bookmark   June 8, 2009 at 10:13PM
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I'm sorry -- I have to say I don't know the answer to your question ~~ but I just wanted to say that those macro shots are truly incredible......great job with the camera!

I have read some discussion around the forums about ants 'farming' aphids, if that's what those are. You could do a search, or maybe someone with more know-how than me will answer. Thanks for the pics again though, I love the small stuff.

    Bookmark   June 8, 2009 at 10:18PM
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I'm not positive, but I think the first photos could show a kind of whitefly. I think the last photo is an aphid.

I purchased some organic leaf lettuce at the grocery store a couple months ago that turned out to be crawling with aphids. Actually, I did it twice - DH had washed the first batch and forgot to tell me about the aphids. Anyone who saw me purchase the NEXT head of lettuce probably thought I was nuts the way I was checking it out...

Here is a link that might be useful: Tales of a Transplanted Gardener

    Bookmark   June 9, 2009 at 2:21AM
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eaglesgarden(6b - se PA)

The last photo you posted is DEFINITELY an aphid. A little soap solution will take care of the aphids on the plants, BUT it will not stop the ants from bringing MORE!

Ants do in fact, "farm" aphids for a sugary "dew"-like substance they secrete. So, the ants put the aphids in places to feed, and then they are able to feed off the aphids.

I suggest you do something to get rid of the ants, and then you can successfully battle the aphids. If not, the aphids will just keep coming.

Ladybugs, especially their larvae, love aphids! But, they won't do much for the ants.

Sticky traps will stop the ants, but also any other insects that come across it.

A suggest a bait trap. The type that ants can take back to their nest would be ideal. You would eliminate only the ants that are "farming" the aphids, and then you can deal with the remaining aphid problem successfully.

Good luck!

    Bookmark   June 9, 2009 at 8:00AM
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ron48(z6 Mass. Essex)

I noticed aphids on two of the three lettuce types I am growing in window boxes on my porch. Soap detergent and water in a trigger bottle solved the problem just over night.

There are no ants farming these aphids, just aphids. I grow lettuce from spring on to frost, I never had aphids either in containers or the ground.

    Bookmark   June 21, 2009 at 10:32AM
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Thanks for the input, folks. I used an ant bait trap to get rid of the ants, and then sprayed the lettuce with Safer soap. So far, so good. :-)

    Bookmark   June 21, 2009 at 12:23PM
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Dan Staley

There is no need to kill ants in your garden. They are not primary consumers of your veggies and they perform numerous beneficial activities.


    Bookmark   June 21, 2009 at 1:27PM
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Hey Dan, what are the beneficial things the ants do? I have lots of them in my boxes, and they don't seem to cause any problems save for farming aphids. But I've been taking care of them with a spray bottle of water. I'd like to broaden my knowledge on the good versus bad bugs.

Here is a link that might be useful: Luke's SF Victory Garden

    Bookmark   June 21, 2009 at 2:28PM
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momma_s(9b, SZ14)

Do you remember if the white bugs were moving? If not, they were probably aphid skin casts left after molting...

If they were moving, they could've been a type of woolly aphid...

As far as beneficial aspects of ants, I know that some types will eat harmful bugs. Their tunneling aerates the soil, a lot like worms do.

Hope I helped...

Here is a link that might be useful: Gardening With Care

    Bookmark   June 21, 2009 at 11:04PM
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To get rid of the ants, could I just put down corn meal to kill the ants?

    Bookmark   June 18, 2013 at 5:18PM
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snibb(Salt Lake City)

Get rid of the ants. They do you no good. I've got pictures-and so do others-of the damage they do to radishes, eating the beginnings of a zucchini plant, etc. The other thing is the symbiotic relationship between ants and aphids. If you want to keep the ants, get ready for aphids to proliferate. Matter of fact-read what Mel has to say about ants in his new SFG answer book. He'll tell you to get rid of them...where there's ants there's aphids.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2013 at 3:08PM
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