Husbandry in Ants
Husbandry is the practice by many ants to farm, care for, tend to, and otherwise raise other insects like humans do with livestock. It’s a really amazing product of evolution !
They also perform a rudimentary farming by collecting fungi for food which they feed little bits of leaves !
Leaf cutter ant on its way to feed its garden fungus!
We know them only too well ! – most of Plant Specialists Garden Care and Plant Health care team know – where you see ants in a garden look out for other insects like aphids and mealy bugs that might be feeding on the plants.
Ants tending over an aphid colony.
One of the most common behavior is the herding or farming of sap feeding insects (homopterans) such as aphids, scale, and mealy bugs. These drink large quantities of sap to extract some sugars and proteins then excrete the rest as “ honeydew” a sugar liquid. In return for collecting the honeydew, the ants tenderly look after and protect them from predators.
Ant collecting a drop of honeydew.
By stroking the back of some aphids with their antennae, the ants can induce a honeydew droplet. When too crowded they will move the babies to other parts of plant with better sap or to another plant altogether. Even when it rains they care for them by moving them into a sheltered place – sometimes their own nests.
The ugly side
Although this process seems very pleasant for both parties, recent studies show that ants sometimes clip the wings off aphids to stop them flying away. They also use chemicals (found on the ants’ feet) to drug them, and preventing their wings from developing. Nasty.
Sometimes, presumably when they’re hungry for protein or perhaps because they need to cull the herd, the ants may actually eat their own aphids. AGHHHHH
If you have ants in your garden – Call Plant Specialists TODAY !
Our Plant Health Care Team can treat for them and other bugs as well !
Don’t delay – the sooner the better !
GREENING NEW YORK FOR OVER 51 YEARS !
Article written by our Staff Horticulturist, Peter B Morris, BSc, MSc, MBA
All photographs used with permission @SHUTTERSTOCK
Written by our resident horticulturalist Peter Morris BSC. MSc. MBA