Ants on Fava Bean Plants

(Question)

There are ants climbing on some of my Fava Bean plants and the plants seem to be suffering – what is the problem and is there a remedy?

Also, are there companion plants that could be put in to help with the problem?

(Answer)

Ants themselves are not the real problem here.  The ants are more than likely going on the plants to get to honeydew that is being produced by Aphids that are feeding on the bean plants.  The Aphids are your real problem as they are sucking nourishment from the leaves and are weakening the plants.  I would suggest taking a close look at the bean leaves, especially underneath, to make a definitive diagnosis.

To get rid of aphids, spray plants frequently with a strong stream of water knocking the insects off.  If this doesn’t control the population, a spray of 40 parts water to 1 part dish soap should do the trick.  Spray the entire plant taking care to coat the undersides of the leaves.  This can be left on for 10 – 15 minutes and then washed off with a strong stream of water from a garden hose.  The dead insects will be washed off.  Be aware that Aphids multiply rapidly so you may have to repeat this process.  Constant vigilance and treatment before the aphid population gets too large will control the problem.

Companion planting with the beans will encourage the aphid population to go elsewhere but will also attract native predators and parasites into the vegetable plot.  I would suggest planting