Cheryl Harner's Flora and Butterfly Blog
Weedpicker's Journal: Discover the native plants of Ohio and the butterflies that utilize them.
Ant Farm July 30, 2008

Many serious butterfly enthusiasts have heard the story about the mutalistic partnership between ants and Edwards Hairstreaks. As strange as it sounds, ants will follow the tiny oak-eating larva up the trees during the day to protect them from predators while they feed.

In the evening, the strange turns to bizarre, as the ants herd the little "cats" into their underground dens and stroke the oak-feeders with their antenna. The larvae in return secrete a sweet substance, referred to as "honeydew", which is manna to the ants.

I recently came upon a colony of ant farming aphids on a willow tree. It was an interesting study, but unfortunately short lived. The first sighting was a huge troop of aphids, approximately the size of a credit card, being herded in the evening. Since light was low, I resolved to shoot photos of the phenomenon in the morning.

However, when returning the next day, I was unable to locate the large herd. In my efforts to locate the troops, I leaned into the tree and was promptly attacked by the ants. OUCH! Those rascals can bite! And soon I discovered instead of being herded, the aphids were hard at work draining sap from my tree, while the ants guarded their ranks. There is an interesting article about this relationship- if you go right here.

Dave Duncan, the world's best pest inspector/ bee keeper, recently related the story of army ants in the tropics "cleaning house". When tropical army ants are headed into a village, the proper procedure is to open all their drawers and cupboards and vacate the premise. When they return to their homes in a matter of hours, they find the ants have cleaned every crumb speck, spider, and any other insects from the home. Clean as a whistle. I wonder if I could train my ants to tidy up a bit around here?

2008-07-30 12:40:58 GMT
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