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I have a med size red acer in a large pot where it has lived and upto now and it has thrived, it has looked a sad the last few weeks and tho' we have been watering it regularly it started to look as if it were dying. On closer inspection it seems to have been infested by ants could these be the problem and is it worth re-potting and try and get it to recover. 

nutcutlet

Ants don't eat plants. Look for the aphids

Koalagirl

Have the ants made a nest in the bottom of the pot, so you are seeing them coming in and out of the base, or are they crawling over the plant?  I have terrible trouble with ants nesting in the roots of my plants and killing them by digging out all the soil and drying them out.  If that is the trouble, just water a lot to persuade them to move.

If they are climbing over the plant, as nutcutlet says, look for aphids because the ants are feeding on the honeydew they produce and protecting them from preditors.  The aphids will be the things damaging the plant.

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