Aloe Vaombe's Epic Battle Against Pests

 Aloe vaombe is truly one of my favorite plants with it's big, bold stature, curved leaves, and quick growth. Unfortunately it seems to attract what can be a fatal combination of ants and aphids which suck the life (and beauty) from the plant like something out of a sci-fi / horror film.


Aloe vaombe
The backyard Aloe vaombe during happier days

During the hot days of Summer and through the Fall the ants in our yard select my favorite Aloes to begin their aphid farming business. I don't have pics of the damage to this particular plant but below is what it looks like roughly 18 months later - almost fully recovered but noticeably smaller.


Aloe vaombe almost recovered from pest damage
Roughly 18 months later in Jan 2021

The following Summer another Aloe vaombe began suffering from the same problem. Oddly the ants did not return to harass the backyard aloe.


Aloe vaombe growing in a hillside garden
The front yard Aloe vaombe - late Spring 2020


In the background the grass is turning brown as available soil moisture decreases and the days grow longer and warmer. It around this time that ants begin their terrible farming.


Aloe vaombe suffering from aphid infestation
Same Aloe vaombe in November 2020

Aloe vaombe suffering from aphid damage
A different angle

Not so pretty. This is after at least 6 - 7 months of no rain and very little irrigation. It's about this time that everyone was expecting our little patch of CA could go up in flames. I'm sure all wild life had long since been desperate for water.

Aloe vaombe cut back after pest damage
Haircut

I couldn't bring myself to remove one of my favorite Aloes so I gave it a haircut. It's not like we hadn't tried to combat the pests. We sprayed the ants and aphids with an isopropyl alcohol mixture which generally did a good job of killing them on contact but it wasn't enough. We also put out ant traps.


Life!


Aloe vaombe recovering from pest damage
A few months later, January 2021

Surprisingly the crown was not totally lost as you can see above. Aloe vaombe is a survivor. But... it has it's limits. There was a neighboring plant that had been overgrown by sage and forgotten. Unfortunately I didn't see that it was also being attacked. 

(warning - the following pictures are disturbing)

Completely lost

rotting core of pest ridden Aloe vaombe
Rotting core

After cutting off the remaining leaves it was obvious the core of this Aloe had turned to pulp. Sadly I removed this plant. Drought, Deer and Ants seem to be the biggest threat to Aloes in my yard.

It's not entirely obvious what I should do but this year, once the weather dries out, I'm going to try protecting these Aloes with a ring of Diatomaceous Earth.

Wish me Luck.


Comments

  1. Ugh! I hate that ant/aphid combination. I turn the hose setting on jet strength periodically and aim it at the base of the agaves and aloes the ants liker. It seems to help but your case history is a good reminder that I should do that on a more regular schedule.

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    Replies
    1. I see - so drench the soil around the plant deeply. I'll try that also. I have to admit that I have water blasted the ants / aphids a few times which ultimately they didn't seem to mind.

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  2. Wow, at least you got it to recover. That's impressive in itself.

    Had that nasty aphid/ant combo on my 4" baby vaombe. The vaombes at the LA Arb seem to have had the same problem a couple years back. Is that species extra tasty or something?

    Mine I sprayed with insecticide. Without flowers, it is no threat to pollinators.

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  3. I think it must be extra tasty - yeah. They must know something we don't.

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