Alfredo Petrov, Cochabamba, Bolivia shares his experience in controlling leafcutter
ants, in response to our question in EDN 46-5. “I work in a semiarid valley, 2,700 meters above sea level. Leafcutter ants have defoliated our peach trees, rose bushes, potato fields and tree plantation seedlings. So they are not only a problem of the humid tropics.
"The best protection for tall plants with narrow stems, such as roses or young peach trees, is looselywadded sheep wool tied around the stem! Ants don’t like to cross it and it is almost totally effective. Local sheep conveniently deposit the necessary tufts of wool on our barbed wire fences. This method is not practical for older trees with thick trunks or for tree nurseries with thousands of seedlings.
"Several Bolivians have recommended wrapping fruit tree trunks with sticky tape, sticky side outward. I haven’t found this to be very practical; in our intense mountain sunshine it doesn’t last long the tape soon dries out and turns brittle. There is a sticky liquid sold in the USA for painting on tree trunks to trap crawling pests called "Tanglefoot”. Does anyone have more information on this? [Ed: This product is indeed very sticky, not affected by temperature or weather, and very effective at trapping insects until it traps a lot of dirt and no longer has a sticky surface. It does not dry out and can last several months. The price in one U.S. catalogue is $25/5 lbsnot exactly inexpensive; does anyone have experience with alternatives? See EDN 26-3 for description of using STP oil treatment as a substitute.]
“One local person suggested that I protect prized plants with a circle of sugar poured on the ground around the stem. I don’t know why this would work, and haven’t been desperate enough to try it yet. One successful elderly farmer has effectively protected his potato field with a barrier strip of organic debris taken from distant ant colonies. Presumably the ants avoid the smell of ants from other ant colonies.
"The other philosophy is to find the local ant colonies and kill them, instead of protecting the plants directly. This is usually done by sprinkling powerful insecticide powders around the entrance holes, a practice to which I am ecologically opposed. Since human urine contains a fungicide, I tried attacking a colony’s fungus garden by pouring urine down the entrance hole. It did get rid of the colony, but took several applications a day for eight days too much trouble for more than one colony.”
James Gordley, Panama. “I am having great results with New Zealand spinach, Tetragonia tetragonioides. [Ed: This is a popular spinach substitute in hot parts of the USA. Because most seed catalogs carry the seed, ECHO does not handle it.] By tying it up on chicken wire it takes very little space and the leaves are kept off of the ground. Before using the wire I had trouble with mold growing on the underside of the leaves. Not anymore. I also find it helpful to use a straw mulch around the plants, especially during hard tropical rain storms to keep the leaves from being splashed with mud. The muddy leaves also become diseased. With the mulch and wire, neither are problems. I harvest the leaves and allow the stalk to remain on the wire. Within days new leaves have grown out and one cannot see where the leaves were removed. We clean the leaves then soak for three minutes in a solution of 1 tablespoon of 3% hydrogen peroxide in 1 quart of water. There is no aftertaste from the peroxide.”
Fr. Gerold Rupper, Tanzania. Concerning mothers with insufficient milk for nursing (EDN 43-3), “This was the problem which led to the introduction of soy beans into southern Tanzania. But the scheme is only succeeding because we were fortunate to get the solution for making pure soy flour without any nasty taste remove the hulls (skin). The flour tastes like chocolate. It keeps fresh for at least one month under our conditions. It is true that the milk does not keep long, but this is the case with any milk.”
More about monkeys (EDN 38-6 and 43-6). “After all you have to kill them if you do not want to simply drive them away from your own field into your neighbor’s farm. The common method in this part of Africa is to locate the herd of monkeys. Then you fix a large net on trees for a length of 30 meters. The ‘killers’ hide themselves behind thick trees with knobkerries (sticks with knobs). Another group of men, in the very early dawn, chase the herd toward the net. They bypass the trees with the men in hiding, arrive at the net, try to climb it, and are caught in its meshes. They are then killed by the men with knobkerries. The tribesmen hired for this cruel work get to eat the monkeys.” Fr. Rupper prefers using borders of sunn hemp (see EDN 36-7) to protect his own field.
Paul and Stephanie Whitney, Tanzania. “We’ve been using the rat trap idea from EDN 20-1. Boy have we caught some whoppers!! It’s neat to have such practical ideas.”
ECHO Staff 1995. Echos From our Network. ECHO Development Notes no. 47