Many species of ants are herbivores and reach the plant for fruits, seeds, or leaves, while others are carnivores and target crop pests in the field to get nutrition. Many insects and animals reach eggplant for nutrition to eat the fruit and chew on leaves, including rats, deer, ants, squirrels, and even raccoons.
Do Ants Eat Eggplant Leaves? Ants do not eat eggplant leaves but are attracted to honeydew secretions produced by aphids or other scaly insects on different parts. They are not directly harmful and pollinate the flowers, but their infestation can damage the plant.
In this article, I have explained why these insects are attracted to eggplant and easy methods to keep your plant safe from these ants.
Why are ants attracted to eggplants?
Many people consider that ants are attracted to the fruit of the eggplants and get nutrition from it, but they do not find it alluring until it decays or gets rotten.
Its fruit contains lesser content of glucose and fructose and a high fiber content. These insects like to eat food that is a rich source of sugars and has a sweet taste.
Moreover, eggplant fruit has a tangy, bittersweet, earthy, and mild vegetal aroma, which is not alluring for these insects. They get attracted to the sweet or pleasant aroma of food.
When fresh, it has a spongy texture and firm structure and does not seem enticing to these tiny ants. So, it is a matter of concern that what attracts ants to it if it is not the fruit.
Eggplant is prone to attack by aphids, mites, weevils, leafhoppers, beetles, etc. These insects can attract carnivorous ants to hunt and prey on them.
In addition, the scale insects like aphids also produce sweet secretions by consuming the sap. They consume plant sap by attacking leaves, stems, and other parts and excrete honeydew.
These sweet secretions become a potential food source for the tiny ants looking for carbohydrate-rich liquid food. Their sense of smell detects a strong odor of honeydew and reaches there.
Can ants eat eggplant leaves?
A few species of ants can reach eggplant for its leaves and chew the fresh or intact leaves to break them apart from the entire leaf structure.
These leaves are not a significant part of their diet but are used to build a platform for fungal growth. These omnivorous ants feed on leaves, fruits, and insects but usually reach eggplant for insects.
In addition, they get attracted to tiny aphid larvae or sap-feeding dead insects present on the leaves or stems and consume their small bodies for nutrition.
Their primary source of attraction is honeydew, but they also eat some leaves if they are decaying or decomposing. However, some species cut chunks of leaves and take these to their nests.
They are opportunistic feeders, and their omnivorous diet allows them to feed on all available food sources if there is no valid reason to avoid it.
Moreover, they choose food sources by their odor, taste, and sugar content, so eggplant fruits do not meet their requirements regarding the fruit aroma, taste, and carbohydrate content.
Accordingly, their attention diverts toward leaves and plenty of sap-feeding insects on them. In addition, they rarely cause damage to leaves if the plant has no pests or honeydew for them.
What type of ants attack eggplants?
Several types of ants attack eggplants for nutrition and become responsible for direct or indirect damage to their parts, including leaves, stems, and fruits.
They do not typically eat leaves and obtain nutrition from aphid secretions and other insects. These carnivorous ant species hunt small insects by targeting them on eggplant, like whiteflies.
These whiteflies and other scale insects also produce honeydew secretions that attract sugar-loving ants, like ghosts, little black, and carpenter ants.
Some other species, pavement and argentine ants, also crave these liquid secretions for their sweetness and attack the plant for this sweet, nutritious juice.
However, some leafcutter ant species also reach leaves and create small holes within leaves. They use sharp teeth to cut smaller chunks from fresh leaves and haul them on their tiny bodies.
They also carry leaf chunks in their mouth and take them back to nests to build a fungal growth platform. Crazy ants also like sugary substances and reach eggplant for aphids or their secretions.
Are ants harmful to eggplants?
Ants have positive and negative impacts on plants, depending on their requirements. Some of them consume floral nectar and help pollinate flowers, but eggplant is self-pollinating. I have seen a few ants eating eggplant leaves in my garden.
In addition, its flowers do not have sweet or nutritious nectar, which is the primary source of attraction of ants toward it. So, they do not reach flowers and do not contribute to pollination.
It does not need pollinating insects to transfer pollens, as flowers contain both anther and pistil. So, the wind is enough to transfer pollen from the anther to the pistils.
Moreover, they engage in a symbiotic association with aphids and support their growth. This relationship is responsible for indirect harm to the plant as aphids suck sap from the stem.
It leads to nutritional deficiencies in plants because leaves and other plant parts get nutrition from sap. Sweet secretions on leaves also attract molds to grow on them.
Black sooty mold grows on the leaves, and black patches begin to appear, slowly covering a whole surface area of leaves. It affects the aesthetic appearance of leaves and causes harm to them.
One of my friends told me about an ant infestation and found a large number of black patches and small holes in the leaves after a few days.
Furthermore, they also favor other sap-feeding insects like whiteflies to grow and cause indirect damage to the plant structure.
How do I get rid of ants on my eggplant?
There are many effective ways to control the population of ants eating eggplant leaves.
Accordingly, you can use lemon peels to deter them, as their acidic scent repels insects from the plant. Spread the lemon peels around the periphery and crushed powder or dried peels.
These peels make a force-field of aroma around the plant and stop it from crossing it. They feel irritation and discomfort when they get closer to the plant and redirect their trails.
In addition, lemon juice solution works well when you mix it in water (1:1) and spray it around the eggplant or directly on the leaves.
I prefer to use this natural ingredient to control the infestations because it requires no money to use this home ingredient. In addition, I find it safe for the environment compared to insecticides.
This acidic juice affects their trails, and these insects lose orientation to move ahead. Similarly, vinegar and neem oil are also quite effective deterrents and help control their population naturally.
You can prepare a solution by mixing vinegar in water (1:1) and adding a few drops of neem oil. Spray the solution on leaves and other infested areas to get rid of ants on the eggplant leaves.