Aphids: An Ant’s Best Friend

  • Written by: Killingsworth Environmental
  • May 22, 2013

What Are Aphids?

Aphids are tiny, soft-bodied insects that suck the sugar-rich fluids from plant hosts. In doing so they damage the plant by causing stress to the plant in directly removing plant sap. In addition, they excrete a sugary substance, called honeydew, which can cause a fungus to grow on and harm the host plant. Some species inject a toxin into plants, which distorts growth. They attack parts of plants like leaves and shoots and reduce their ability to thrive and grow.

And where there is sugar, there will be ants.

Many ants eat the honeydew that the aphids secrete. They farm the insects, as humans farm “cattle,” protecting them from predators like ladybugs, even going so far as to destroy the predators’ eggs.

When a host plant is depleted of nutrients, the ants will carry their aphids to new food sources. Some species of ants care for their aphids during winter, and carry their eggs to their nest sites and tuck them away in the winter months. Then, in the spring they take them to a host plant.

The ants are not as generous caretakers as one would think. When environmental conditions trigger the aphids to develop wings, should food sources decline, or populations become too dense, ants have been observed tearing the wings from them before they can become airborne and leave them.

If you have an issue with either of these insects, schedule a pest control service with us!

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