[NAFEX] ants on apples?

list at ginda.us list at ginda.us
Thu Apr 21 18:29:24 EDT 2005

I've asked before about my grafts that don't flower.  Today, I may have 
found the reason.  Could it be that ants are eating all the flowering 

I have a crab apple on which I've grafted 5 domestic apples.  Most of 
the crab is still there, and appears to be healthy.  It breaks dormancy 
a week or two before the grafts in the spring, and it goes dormant a 
few weeks before the grafts in the fall.  Mostly, the grafts look 
healthy.  They are 4-5 years old, and some of them are now quite large, 
with branches wider than my thumb.  But they never bloom.

Today, I was examining the tree.  The crab is covered with tight pink 
clusters of flowerbuds emerging form the ring of baby leaves.  The 
grafts have about 1/4 to 1/2 inch of green tip showing.  As I often 
see, there's some damage to the grafted buds, tissue is brown and 
misshapen.  In the past I had assumed it was due to some fungus.  Maybe 
it is, but today, I noticed little brown ants INSIDE the damaged area 
on one bud.  It looked like it might have had flower-bud tissue that 
was being destroyed, although it's hard to tell.  There were ants all 
over the grafted parts of the tree - maybe one every linear foot, with 
a higher concentration in the buds.  AND, this might be a clincher, the 
ants and the damage were selectively in the "fat" buds, not the flat 
buds on the side of the branches that are obviously vegetative only.

Has anyone seen anything like this before?  Any suggestions?  Do you 
think it's ants?

Ginda Fisher
eastern Mass. zone 6

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