Many gardeners worry about seeing many ants around the bamboo plants as these destructive pests usually cause significant damage to the plants. People want to know about bamboo’s safety after seeing these nuisance insects crawling on the stalk, leaves, and other areas.
Can Ants Eat Bamboo? Ants can eat bamboo to consume cellulose fibers, get honeydew, interact with other insects, and kill termites on the tree. In addition, it attacks decomposing bamboo to obtain nutrition and make nests or tunnels inside them. They can cause indirect damage to trees by interacting with aphids or mealy bugs.
Ants are usually not considered a pest for bamboo because their source of attraction is generally other plant pests and secretions.
Why do ants eat bamboo?
Some species of ants attack bamboo trees due to the presence of insects on their stems, leaves, and other plant parts, including mealy bugs, aphids, termites, and other scale insects.
It provides nutrition to a few of these tiny creatures looking for an organic food source. They are attracted to cellulose in bamboo, which is a good source of carbohydrates.
Bamboo shoots are highly nutritious, making them one of the favorite food sources for these insects, as these provide a good content of vitamins and fiber.
Almost 13% protein content is present in its leaves, including higher content of leucine and proline but lower percentages of histidine and tryptophan.
Some other minerals and essential elements are also present in it, like calcium, magnesium, iron, phosphorus, potassium, and zinc.
Interact with other insects
They attack these trees to interact with other insects and engage in symbiotic relationships sometimes. This interaction benefits their survival and other tiny insect living on trees.
Various insects infest bamboo, like whiteflies, mites, aphids, mealybugs, termites, and other scale insects that can entice ants to reach there.
They engage in a mutual relationship with aphids and mealybugs to obtain food sources, while they attack other insects to eat them as predators.
Many mite species use them as hosts and live on their bodies, so ants can reach this tree to interact with mites.
In addition, termites also attack this versatile plant to eat cellulose fibers and chew the material. They also build deep nests within the shoots by chewing fiber and digging tunnels.
Accordingly, these insects reach there to kill termites, add protein to their diet, and use their tunnels to live inside the tree.
Decaying or decomposing bamboo
Ants get attracted to decaying trees because they release many nutritive elements at a stage of decomposition and produce sugars.
It is easy to chew the cellulose fibers from a decaying plant because the decomposition process brings a lot of structural and biochemical changes to the plant.
I found ants on a potted bamboo plant on my lawn when it was decaying due to fungal attacks. After that, I tried to keep the insects away from it that are responsible for fungal growth.
So, these decaying structures draw insects toward it and allow them to feed on the decomposing tree shoots and leaves to obtain organic nutrients.
Sometimes, ants are not attracted to eating bamboo, but their source of attraction is honeydew present on the leaves, stems, and shoots.
Sap-sucking pests living on the trees produce sweet excretions that are alluring for ants and attract them. These sugary secretions provide plenty of energy and keep them active for long.
This sticky material on shoots or tough leaves of the tree grabs the attention of the nearby living insects when their odor receptors detect sweet or pleasant odors.
So, they do not eat bamboo when sticky honeydew is available for nutrition, as it is easy relatively easy to consume liquid food than breaking cellulose fibers.
Do ants make nests in bamboo?
These insects are attracted to bamboo mainly for two purposes; food and shelter. They eat cellulose fiber, honeydew, and other plant pests to seek nutrition.
In addition, ants create tunnels in the stalks by chewing the outer layer with their strong mandibles. It can become a suitable spot for living and reproducing without the risk of predator attacks.
A few wood-chewing species of these insects also chew it to make their hidden nests within the stalk. Commonly, they utilize hollow or decaying stalks and get inside them to hide.
They look for tiny gaps in the nodes and cracks in the decomposing internodes that can become entry points inside hollow stems. These hollow structures can become nesting sites for them.
Moreover, these insects choose this hard and stable structure to build nests because it provides a secure environment from adverse climatic conditions.
It also protects from predator attacks when their colonies hide inside the hard stem that works like a shield or cover. Carpenter ants are common bamboo-dwelling ants that live inside them.
Accordingly, their bigger bodies and larger mandibles support the chewing or dwelling process, while smaller insects cannot chew its hard stalk.
So, it is common for these insects to establish their colonies within bamboo because they get food, shelter, and protection from them.
However, their preferences vary among different species as their local ecological location and the condition of bamboo also matter, like their size, age, and location.
Do ants cause damage to bamboo?
Ants do not cause significant damage to bamboo because they use it as a source of food or shelter, so they are not responsible for intentional destruction.
However, indirect damage can occur when they build mutual relationships with the plant pests. These pests can cause structural damage by growing to a large population without risks of attacks.
Excessive production of honeydew from a large group of aphids can lead to the growth of black sooty mold on the sweet or sticky secretions.
This mold grows well in moist locations, feeds on sweet secretions, and covers a large surface area on bamboo. So, ants support aphids for growth that produce secretions and mold attacks.
This is an indirect way of causing harm to the integrity of the trees and destroying their structure. The presence of mold and ants attracts many other pests to trees and poses a risk of infestation.
Mold infection leads to the formation of black spots on the stalks, which sometimes cover the entire stalk when not controlled at the proper time.
In addition, these plants are quite resilient by nature and resist pest attacks like aphids, scale insects, and ants, but their structural integrity gets affected in the long run.
How do you keep ants away from bamboo?
Keeping ants away from bamboo plants is essential to avoid reducing their durability and resilience against pests, as recurrent infestations lead to early death.
You can use ant deterrent powders to deal with the infestation problem naturally. Spread chalk powder or diatomaceous earth around trees to deter these insects when they try to climb.
In addition, excessive watering or submerging of a plant can also lead to quickly removing insects as they cannot live in highly humid conditions.
A soapy water spray can also help remove the plant pests responsible for drawing ants, as their exoskeleton cannot protect them against detergent or liquid soaps.
Use a garden hose to wash them away with a highly pressurized water jet to help remove the mold spots and sticky aphids from the stalks.
Moreover, some people also use baits or insecticidal sprays to kill them immediately, which gives quick and long-term results.
One of my friends uses Terro liquid ant baits around potted bamboo at the time of infestation, which helps kill their colonies permanently.