Millions of tiny footsteps after yummies

I love things that leaf cutter ants don’t like (yes, leaf cutters again). The problem is, I also like things they do like, such as ylang ylang and angel  trumpet. What prompted this complaint? They were marching down my ylang and across the yard.
It never ceases to amaze that six tiny little feet (multiplied by, of,  300,000 bodies) can cut a four-inch swath across the yard, but they do. It must be that those 300,000 little bodies are making five trips per day – each. That’s . . . . Wait, let me call Metric Man to do the math.

He says, it’s 300,000 times 5, but I forgot that they have to make a trip out from the nest and a trip back to the nest. So that’s 300,000 x 5 x2 for a total of 3,000,000.

THREE MILLION??  Three million trips across the same trail. Then he laughed. Laughed! What was funny? He says, “Make it times 6 little feet and gives you 18 million tiny little footprints.” I really, really hate math.

What I do like is things that leaf cutters don’t like. Take the Sanchezia, for example. The ants don’t like it, and the cows that wander our road from time to time don’t like it either. Why do I mention cows? Cows love hibiscus and the last owner planted hibiscus all over our property. Sometimes, despite our best efforts, we have cows. (A word in their favor – they are easier to chase than ants.)

Back to Sanchezia, a nice big shrub, long green and yellow foliage and red-yellow flowers for humming birds. And the ants won’t eat it.

So, what else do ants leave alone so far? Lantana is one. You find it growing wild, but it comes in a nice variety of colors and has an herbal fragrance. Look for different colors at local viveros.

Ants don’t seem to like lemon grass or vetiver, although I haven’t had much luck with lemon grass as a repellant. Leaf cutters seem to avoid bromeliads although other ants live in them and they bite, so be careful. Shrimp plants seem to be ant-free, and I very seldom see ants on butterfly white ginger, lilies, and never on zinnias.

Plants with fuzzy leaves, like lamb’s ear and dusty miller appear to be safe. Also angel’s hair artemisias, sage, mulleins, and licorice plant have been safe thus far. The lovely daisy bush has not been munched on by ants, and so far my porter weed is safe. If you need something for shade, most of the lacier ferns, begonias, the Costus pictus and its relatives and orchids.

So, if you are looking for plants that ants aren’t fond of, I hope that helps. Of course, I make no guarantees about cows.

Plant for the Week

The genus Crinum includes 180 varieties of lilies that aren’t really lilies. Crinum are members of the family Amaryllidaceae or amaryllis (yes, that is very technical, and we will probably still call them lilies) and they are quite striking. The genus loves moisture and full sun so plant for both. Crinum are self-propagating from bulbs which are easily split and moved. Most Crinum are fragrant and some have purple leaves. This plant, given to me by a friend, weighed about 50 pounds (23 kilos) and was well over 5 feet (1.3 meters) from top to bottom. Not all Crinum grow that large, but do plant where your bulb has some space to grow.

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