Ants may typically dwell underground, but they can wander far and wide in search of a food source. In some cases, their search may take them up into the branches of your apple trees, and, if they find a regular food supply, they'll keep coming back for more. Recognizing the type of ants you're dealing with is the first step in determining whether you should be concerned about their presence and how to get rid of them.
Identifying the Ant Species
Ant populations vary from state to state, ranging from harmless sugar ants to the infamous, invasive fire ants. Call a tree service in your area to learn about the ants found nearby and for help identifying the species crawling up your trees. Knowing the ants you're dealing with can help you determine what's drawing them to the tree; many species enjoy feeding on tender shoots and flowers, while others may be a sign of an underlying aphid problem.
Checking for Aphid Infestations
Certain species of ants have evolved a mutually beneficial relationship with aphids. In exchange for protecting them from predators, the tiny aphids excrete a nutritious substance for the ants. In this case, the aphids are the real hazard to your tree, and the ants will disperse once their food source is eliminated. Because the ants may help the aphids survive a pest treatment cycle, it is usually best to spray for both at once.
Taping the Trunk
If pesticides aren't an option or the ants are nibbling on the tree itself, you may be able to stop them organically through the use of sticky tape. These adhesive strips are wrapped around the bottom of the trunk, where they capture any ants attempting to climb the tree. This wrap will need to be replaced every few months as the adhesive wears off, but eventually the ants should give up and begin to look elsewhere.
Treating Ant Colonies With Pesticides
In most cases, it is more efficient to track down the colony itself and remove it, rather than tape all of your trees on a regular basis. A good tree service should be able to follow the ants back to their colony and dispose of it, leaving your trees free of harmful ants and the aphids they shelter. If you have been struggling to deal with ants in your orchard for some time, call a local arborist like the 770 Tree Guy to begin clearing up your trees' infestation before your harvest is ruined.