We have to be diligent to keep the ants away from the olive trees. Ants can eat all the leaves on a dozen or so trees in the space of a day. They are leaf cutter ants, big and either red or black, and travel a great distance from their nests. So Jon and the guys make regular checks for ant nests or evidence of ants. So far the only thing that has been successful at killing the ants is an ant poison applied directly into the nest.
You can spot a nest by all the twigs piled in a mound The black center in this picture are the ants.
Towards the left center of the picture is the twig mound, then this far away is the dirt hole into the nest where Jon is spraying the poison.
The olive tree that was there is gone now. This was an ant nest that went undetected for a long time.
As the trees get older they are less likely to die from ant damage. But younger trees are easily killed by leaf cutter ants. It is one of the most time consuming parts of having a younger plantation. In fact, according to our consultant Marcelo, newly planted plantations need to be checked three to four times a week for ants when newly planted. It was a good thing we worked in the olives daily when we first started out. Otherwise we would never have managed to add ant inspection four times a week to the heavy list of chores we currently have.