Ants on your artichoke plant? Your plum tree or leafy vegetables?  They’re a prime  indicator that sucking insects are feasting on your plants. 

There’s a group of soft-bodied insects — aphids, mealybugs, soft scale and whiteflies being the most common, that feed by sucking juices from plants. The direct damage they inflict on the plant can cause spotted, bleached or curled foliage, and stunted growth. Indirect damage comes from the waste they produce. The pests can’t utilize all the sugar in the rich sap they draw from the plant, and excrete the excess in the form of honeydew, that looks just like drops of honey on foliage.

That honeydew is a favorite of ants, and they will fiercely protect those soft-bodied producers, especially aphids, from predators, in order to keep that sugary stuff coming. Learn how to keep ants from crawling up your plants

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