Can Ants Kill a Japanese Maple?

Many gardeners are worried after seeing ants climbing a Japanese maple tree because these pests are strong enough to damage its branches.

Can Ants Kill a Japanese Maple? Ants can kill a Japanese Maple tree by causing leaf spot disease, cosmetic damage, wilting of leaves, inducing fungal diseases, and making galleries within the wood. You can get rid of ants from this tree by using sticky barriers, aerosol ant spray, baking soda or sugar bait, diatomaceous earth, using a strong stream of water, or trimming bridging branches.

Ants can reach plants for two reasons; food and shelter, so it means they have found a good source of food like aphids or are building tunnels within a tree trunk or branches.

Many natural and chemical methods can help protect the Japanese maple from these destructive pests that can lead to its death over time.

Most commonly, carpenter and leafcutter ants reach Acer palmatum to make tunnels and eat leaves, but a few come for aphids like argentine, acrobat, and fire ants.

How do ants kill a Japanese Maple?

Ants are responsible for causing damage to plants like a Japanese maple because these omnivorous creatures seek food from plants in the form of nectar, tree sap, leaves, and insects.

Commonly, they are responsible for causing indirect damage to the plant surface by promoting the growth of other damaging pests that can destroy plant structures and affect their stability.

Induce fungal diseases

Japanese maple usually contains sucking or chewing pests like aphids or mealybugs. They extract tree sap and use it to nourish themselves or their bodies.

These sap-sucking aphids produce sugar-rich secretions or honeydew as excrement, which ants use for nutrition. These secretions are sticky liquids and are released on the leaves.

Moreover, these sweet secretions allow sooty mold fungus to grow, and the black spots become visible on the leaves after mold growth.

This mold feeds on honeydew and covers the surface of leaves, expanding in different directions. This way, it creates a barrier for sunlight to reach leaves and affects the photosynthesis process.

So this damage occurs due to sooty mold or aphids releasing honeydew, and ants are involved in protecting aphids; that’s why they are the main contributors to this damage.

Cause cosmetic damage

Ants can also be responsible for cosmetic damage to the Japanese maple tree that looks amazing in the autumn when the leaves turn red.

It is usually grown to beautify the surroundings as its range of foliar colors makes it look beautiful. It grabs visitors’ attention due to its beautifully-shaped leaves and bigger size.

However, it can become prone to cosmetic damage because some damaging insects begin to live on it and cause disfiguring of leaves.

The leafcutter ants begin to chew the leaves with their sharp teeth, which can cause damage to the leaf structure and make it looks awful.

The presence of tiny holes and patches on the leaves affects its appearance ultimately. Some leaf feeders and sucking pests are responsible for such damage that is favored by ants.

Leaf spot diseases and wilting

You can see black, brown, or white spots on leaves due to fungal and bacterial diseases. These infectious agents are promoted by aphid honeydew because the fungus grows in moist places.

These diseases can lead to the death of Japanese maple trees because they cannot sustain their integrity after being attacked by infectious agents like fungi and bacteria.

Moreover, defoliation can also occur due to reduced vigor and reduced exposure to sunlight. This can cause wilting of leaves and even burning, leading to extreme damage to the tree.

Make galleries in tree

Carpenter ants chew wooden parts of the tree without any intention to eat them. These insects build internal galleries or narrow tunnels within the trunk to live inside.

Moreover, it can affect the tree’s stability because these insects make it hollow from the inside and chew the wooden material.

They attack rotting branches or infected wood parts that are easy to chew.

Accordingly, the whole tree can fall and die during heavy winds when they do not have enough mass to maintain its structure and resist the strong airflow.

How to protect a Japanese maple tree from ants?

There are some natural ways to protect the Japanese maple tree from damage by ants, as a few preventive measures and killing strategies can help avoid these destructive insects.

Use diatomaceous earth

You can spread diatomaceous earth power around a tree trunk in the form of a thick boundary. Sprinkle this powder on the leaves and other parts where these insects have made their nest.

It can help get rid of these insects because ants are afraid of touching the powder, which causes the drying of their exoskeleton and makes them die.

The amount of powder varies according to the level of infestation, as you have to spread it all around the infected areas of the plant to make these insects feel uncomfortable.

Make a sticky barrier around the tree trunk

Ants cannot cross sticky barriers as their sticky feet get firmly attached to such surfaces, making it challenging for these tiny creatures to move.

Accordingly, you can wrap a tree trunk with masking or double-sided tape to create a barrier for these climbing insects trying to reach aphids or their nests.

Keep this barrier at a size of 3 to 4 inches, which means it is around 5 to 6 times bigger trap than the body length of these insects. You can also spread sugary baits at the base to get better results.

Remove infected tree branches

It is better to cut infected tree branches because these insects usually chew the rotting or infected parts of the plant. It is easy to chew and make galleries in the rotting branches of the tree.

These do not remain in one part of the plant as they keep moving and chewing the wood, which can lead to the hollowing of the trees from the inside over the years.

So, you can cut these infected branches to secure the remaining plant because Japanese maple can regrow its lost limb but cannot overcome the damage caused by these insects.

Use aerosol ant spray

An ant spray is an effective solution against the damaging population of ants living on the Japanese maple tree because natural repellents and baits take more time.

However, this commercial product can quickly kill these nuisance pests tending aphids and other scale insects or mealybugs to cause damage to the tree.

You have to spray affected areas of the tree with pressurized spraying of the toxic chemicals that can help wipe out the whole population.

Trim bridging branches 

A Japanese maple tree can survive for almost 80 to 100 years and attains a maximum height of almost 20 to 25 feet, which means it can spread to a wide area.

Its branches can touch the building when it grows to its fullest extent. The indoor ants can reach the aphids on trees by climbing the branches bridging between building and tree.

Accordingly, it is better to trim these bridging branches and avoid the shifting of insect population between house and plant to keep them separate.

Use a strong stream of water

Aphids and ants are the common damaging insects of the Japanese maple trees that promote each other for growth by developing a mutualistic association with each other.

You can use a garden hose to use a strong stream of water to remove these damaging pests from the plant surface. Pressurized water makes these tiny creatures fall off from the leaves and trunks.

However, this is a temporary solution as they can reach the tree again when it gets dry. So, you have to kill the insects permanently and ask for professional help to remove their colonies.

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