Ant Tending an Aphid Colony

21st June 2012
Not masses of insect activity around locally at the moment, but what can be relied on at this time of the year is finding aphids (in out garden anyway!). We have some aphid (blackfly) colonies appearing on the fresh ivy stems and these are attracting ants.

Many ant species engage in symbiotic relationships (both parties benefit), with other invertebrates; particularly sap-feeding insects like aphids. The aphids are offered a degree of protection from predators and parasitic insects, and the ants with a food source. The ants don't actually consume the aphids (although they will if other food sources are scarce), but stimulate them to produce a droplet of honeydew by stroking their backs with their antennae.

Research has shown that ants can produce chemicals that "subdue" aphids and other "farmed" insects, to stop them wandering off. Ants will also bite off aphid wings to stop them flying away.

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