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How to Get Rid of Ants on a Lemon Tree (Australian Guide)

The ants that are crawling all over your lemon tree will not cause any damage. However, the sap-sucking insects that secret the honeydew that attracts the ants, can be a problem.

You’ve gone out to your prized lemon tree to collect a few lemons and notice your tree crawling with ants. Why does this happen and is it a problem for your tree?

Why are ants attracted to lemon trees?

The reason that you have ants on your lemon tree is the result of another pest problem that you may not yet be aware of.

You will usually find ants congregating on your lemon tree if there are sap-sucking insects such as aphids, mealybugs, and scale present.

lemon | Pest control

These insects secret a sticky sap called honeydew. It’s this honeydew that attracts the ants because it’s a good food source for them.

In fact, you might find that the clever ants will even protect the sap-sucking insects from any natural predators that may be nearby.

Are ants on lemon trees a problem?

The ants that are crawling all over your lemon tree will not cause any damage.

However, the sap-sucking insects that secret the honeydew that attracts the ants, can be a problem.

Therefore, the presence of ants on your lemon tree should alert you that you have a more serious pest problem that should be taken care of.

How to get rid of ants on a lemon tree

To get rid of the ants on your lemon tree, you first have to get rid of the aphids, mealybugs, or scale insects.

To check for an infestation of these pests, have a close look at the undersides of the leaves or at the new growth.

Aphids are tiny green or black insects that are most likely found on the tender new growth in large numbers.

aphid | Pest control
Aphids

Mealybugs are more commonly found in the undersides of the leaves and along the stems and look like tiny bits of cotton wool.

Scale insects usually appear as brown, black, white, pink, or orange scaly bumps on the stems and on the undersides of the leaves.

You might also notice a black sticky substance on some of the leaves. This is called sooty mould.

Scale insect | Pest control
Scale

If you notice only a small amount of scale insects and sooty mould on selected leaves, you can just trim these off and throw them in the rubbish bin. You could also just wipe the scale insects off the tree with a moist cloth.

You can also treat the entire lemon tree fairly easily by spraying it with an oil-based pesticide such as Yates PestOil, Eco Oil, or one of the many white oil products on the market.

Make sure that you coat the leaves and stems where the insects congregate including the undersides of the leaves.

Products that are oil-based will smother the offending sap-suckers so that they’re not able to breathe and causes them to die.

However, you might need to repeat the application a few times in order to get rid of the pests completely.

How to prevent ants on your lemon tree

Although you might not be able to stop pests from attacking your lemon tree entirely, there are things that you can do to reduce the problem.

Firstly, you want to ensure that your lemon tree is in excellent health.

This means making sure that it receives plenty of water during dry weather and giving it a good prune to create more airflow around the branches.

Lemon tree with one lemon | Pest control

Keeping your tree well trimmed will also ensure that you will be able to spot any possible pest problems much easier. 

You also want to ensure that your lemon tree is getting all the nutrients that it needs by feeding it regularly.

FAQ

Can ants destroy a tree?

In general, common ants will not destroy your tree. However, if you have a problem with fire ants in your area, these can definitely cause harm to your tree. Not only will they destroy the flowers but they can also chew through the bark and ringbark your tree.

Are ants attracted to citrus?

In most cases, ants are only attracted to the honeydew that is secreted by sap-sucking insects such as aphids, scale, and mealybugs. However, sometimes ants can also be attracted to the nectar in the citrus blossoms. This is not a bad thing because the ants will help to pollinate the flowers.

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Annette Hird

Annette Hird is a gardening expert with many years of experience in a range of gardening related positions. She has an Associate Diploma of Applied Science in Horticulture and has worked in a variety of production nurseries, primarily as a propagator. She has also been responsible for a large homestead garden that included lawn care, fruit trees, roses and many other ornamental plants. More recently, Annette has concentrated on improving the garden landscape of the homes that she has lived in and focused a lot of energy on growing edible plants as well. She now enjoys sharing her experience and knowledge with others by writing articles about all facets of gardening and growing plants.

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