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Good Morning All,having dug over the back garden to make three separate beds for the first time, I am now enjoying the first results.But I have noticed a lot of the small black ants climbing all over the broad beans, my question is will the ants damage the flowers ,or are the ants looking for insect type food.regards chris


  • Hi Chris, this is perfectly normal. On closer inspection, you'll find that the tips of your broad bean plants are covered with blackfly. Blackfly is a type of aphid, and sucks the sap from the plants, but is relatively harmless in small numbers. In fact, they are beneficial to the garden, as they attract ladybirds and lacewings, who feed off them and help maintain the delicate balance of pest and predator in the garden.

    Anyway, back to the ants. Blackfly secrete a sugary substance, called honeydew, which the ants love. The ants 'farm' the blackfly, and push them to the tips of the plant (where growth is newest and lushest, which leads to the production of the sweetest honeydew). Then they drink it.

    I wouldn't worry too much, unless you see loads of them on the tips of the plants. But, to reduce blackfly numbers you can pinch the tips out (just nip the tops off the plants), but it's important to leave a few blackfly there to attract ladybirds and lacewings.Good luck, Kate

  • I was surprised to find two squirrels under the strawberry netting last week. I thought I had to protect the fruit from birds not squirrels!
  • please can you help me save my sprouts they are being attacked from everything and the little sprout buds don't look the best, this is my first year growing veg and the courgettes,beetroot,celery and carrots all look and taste fantastic. now i am also worried about my spuds getting blight fingers crossed they will be ok, i cant remember what spud i planted the tubers are red, any ideas, thanks
  • We've lost the fruit from 17 of of the 18 trees in our orchard this year - all to squirrels. Apples, pears, cherries and plums were all taken well before they were ripe. I took a couple of pounds of unripe Victoria plums before going on holiday in mid August as a token harvest.

    We did try netting the cherries which were the first target. It was partially successful when we didn't pull the nets taught and confronted the squirrels with slack material which was more difficult to gnaw. But the trees were too big to net and easily damaged putting nets on and off.

    Elesewhere in the garden, the squirrels had half our strawberries (from 42 plants), tucked into the raspberries and have gnawed through branches more than and inch thick from which we'd hung nut cages for the birds. One managed to set up home in our loft for a fwe weeks before I forced it out.

    Eventually there was nothing for it but to take up arms. I dispatched around six squirrels through a combination of cage traps and air rifle last summer - though too late to save our fruit.

    The traps I baited with the fat balls that we'd hung out for the birds but which proved irresistible to squirrels. I did it first thing in the morning and retrieve your quarry in the evening (if you do it overnight your more likely to catch a hedgehog).

    We already have one or two of the pests back in the garden - with several large oaks and a couple of hundred yards of largely hazel hedge they're always going to be drawn here. But I've returned the gun to its owner while I await to get my own.

    I've reached the conclusion that the only way of keeping them at bay is going to be by shooting them throughout the year - especially in winter when it's harder for them to hide in leafless trees. It'll become a routine chore, like seizing the opportunity to cut the grass on a dry day.

    And I'm online at the moment researching materials for a fruit cage which I'll convert part of the veg plot too as an insurance policy if the orchard is undefendable.

    I'll keep you posted.
  • Hee hee, I wonder if they just like the colour or if there are different properties in the purple and red ones that they can smell or taste.

    I loved your veg tests, Pippa, in fact I grew garlic for the first time last year on your recommendations, plus I'm going to be giving broad beans a go this year too after having read your article. Are you going to be doing more this year? Thanks.

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