Violets and Ants

Downy Yellow Violet

Downy Yellow Violet

Warm weather brings incredible insect activity. Armies of ants march to and fro around patio doors, Carpenter Bees drill holes in house siding, Cabbage White caterpillars devour newly planted broccoli.

In the face of so much potential insect damage, it is important to remember that butterflies are also insects, which can be harmed by indiscriminate use of household pesticides. Consider using non-pesticide methods for insect control around the house and garden when possible. If non-pesticide methods are not available, use highly specific pesticides applied directly to the targeted pest or its location. Netting can protect broccoli, Carpenter Bees can be managed with traps and localized treatment of their entry holes, and the legion of ants might surrender with bait applied directly to their nest or trail.

While ants can be a problem inside a house, outside they play an important role in spreading seeds of many beautiful flowering plants, some of which benefit butterflies. Mary Ann Borge explains in  “A Carpet of Spring Beauty, Woven by … Ants!” how as many as thirty percent of spring flowering plants in the forests of eastern North American may have their seeds distributed by ants.

Violets, which are a caterpillar food plant of Fritillaries, are just one of the many spring flowering plants that are spread by ants. Violets do spread (by ants!) throughout the garden but are easily managed with a hoe and a bit of patience.