Soon after the garden was fully planted, colonies leafcutter ants established and began eating the newly planted garden. The leafcutter ants consumed most of the garden except for parsley, sweet pepper and garlic, in a period of three days. The ants nibbled at the parsley, pepper and garlic but did not take much foliage. The ants prefer young and vulnerable plants and seem to have a preference for citrus. Most plants that were attacked were not resistant, but some of the lime trees have been regrowing leaves.
This type of ant farms fungus. They use leaf cuttings to feed the fungus and then are able to eat the fungus to subsist. Permacultural theory states that native vegetation (i.e. weeds) are important to have throughout the garden because vegetation creates habitat for beneficial predators and provides alternative leaf sources for the ants. Cutting down or pulling “weeds” from the garden intensifies the activity of the ants on the desirable plants.
Solutions? So far putting urine down the holes, sprinkling ash throughout the beds and putting aji (hot pepper) water in the holes has not worked. Servio, a local permaculture expert, suggested putting a mixture of salt with a little bit of diesel and water down the holes, which will kill the fungus that ants eat. Don Colon Vaca, a local farmer, confirmed this as a solution. For two days I have put ground up cow salt in the holes and washed it down with a mixture of diesel and water. I ran out of diesel recently, and just used water and it is defiantly still slowing them down. This method is effective because it kills the fungus and the ants begin to starve. Servios provides educational classes and works with local Ecuadorian farmers. He is an effective teacher because he is Ecuadorian and has a lot of experience and knowledge. His website is: http://www.fincasarita.com/