A common garden problem that many homeowners have is the infestation of ants and aphids. When these two pests are present in a garden, you can expect the damages to be serious especially when they are not treated immediately. While aphids have a preference to stay in a certain location to drink the sap of plants and excrete honeydew, ants on the other hand are always on the move, constantly feeding and they are also known to be very aggressive towards other insects and even humans when disturbed. It may seem incredible that aphids and ants can live together in one location, but as each benefit from the other, their relationship only makes sense. As such, eradicating them from your garden is important if you intend to have a healthy and presentable garden.
The Incredible Relationship
Aphids feed on plant sap and they then eliminate amounts of sugar in the form of honeydew, in order to obtain the amino acid content in the sap to enable them to build proteins. The honeydew being eliminated by the aphids is a moderately concentrated solution which is irresistible to ants and other pests. As such, ants feed on the honeydew without attacking the aphids, but they have been known to attack those that may feed on aphids, in order to protect the aphid colony. Ants are aware that they can feed abundantly when aphids exist. Aphids in turn, are able to thrive and feed in peace knowing that the ants will protect them from predators as long as honeydew is always available.
How Aphids And Ants Feed
Aphids feed by lining up along the stem of plants and on the plant buds, then pumping sap into their guts from the plant’s cells. The sap not being rich in amino acids, but being rich in sugar is expelled by the aphids by passing it unabsorbed through the digestive tract. This expelled sugar is known as the honeydew.
Ants on the other hand feed on a broad diet, expect plant stems and leaves. They can feed on fruits, seeds, insects and different organic matter. Once with amino acids and when they find an abundant supply of sugar, ants will collect and store the sugar as their food supply during the winter.
In order to receive the supply of honeydew, ants and aphids have a unique way of communicating. Aphids have a section on their abdomen called cornicles that look like the rounded heads of ants having two antennae and pointed chins. When ants stroke the abdomen of the aphids, they do it in a similar way of how they stroke the head and antennae of their fellow ants. After stroking, aphids release drops of honeydew, which the ant swallows and carries off to the nest after feeding on a few.
Ants are very useful to aphids and when the number of aphids is great in a garden, you can expect the number of ants to be great as well. Ants do not cause any direct damages to a garden, but they allow aphids to exist when they prevent predators from feeding on aphids, just so they can feed and store honeydew. In order to get rid of aphids in a garden, it is essential that ant control is applied first before dealing with the aphid infestation.
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Valerie Williams is a freelance writer specializing in natural forms of pest control as well as the effects different pests have in gardens. She regularly contributes articles to websites where reliable Preventive Pest Control professionals can be consulted.