Have you ever noticed aphids covering your plants, often with ants in tow and wondered about the relationship between the two? I know I have! Why do ants chase after aphids? Do ants eat aphids? Or is it a little more complex than that…
No, ants do not actively or regularly eat any form of aphids. Aphids provide a food source for ants, which is why you’ll often see them hanging around on the same plants in your garden.
The species doesn’t matter either when it comes to determining whether or not ants eat aphids. Ants do not eat black aphids, woolly aphids, apple aphids, green aphids and so on…
So, Why Do Ants Love Aphids?
The primary reason ants love aphids is due to the sweet, sugary substance (called honeydew) that aphids produce.
In a way, you could think of honeydew as the ants’ favourite treat. The aphids consume plant sap, rich in sugars, and excrete this sugar-rich honeydew. For ants, this is an incredibly attractive and valuable food source, especially because it’s high in sugar.
But this love isn’t one-sided. Ants offer something in return.
They essentially become the bodyguards of the aphids, protecting them from predators and even going so far as to transport them to new food sources when necessary.
It’s a win-win for both parties involved.
Over time, some ant species have even developed sophisticated behaviours. For instance, they farm the aphids, caring for them and ensuring their colonies are healthy and productive.
It’s as if they’ve set up their own little agricultural system. It’s incredible to see the level of symbiosis and cooperation between these two very different creatures.
So, in essence, ants love aphids because of the honeydew they provide, and in return, they offer protection and assistance.
Do Ants Eat Greenflies?
No, ants do not eat greenflies. Greenflies are simply another name for green aphids, and ants are interested in them primarily for the honeydew they produce, not as a food source.
Do Ants Eat Blackflies?
Ants do not consume blackflies, which are just black variants of aphids. Their interest lies in the sugary honeydew these aphids excrete, not in the insects themselves as prey.
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Do Ants Eat Aphid Eggs?
Ants generally don’t eat aphid eggs, despite what you might initially think.
The primary interest ants have in aphid eggs is not as a food source, but rather as a means of ensuring their future supply of honeydew.
Ants go to great lengths to protect these eggs from potential predators. They seem to understand that these eggs represent the next generation of honeydew producers, and it’s in their best interest to keep them safe.
I know… Incredible!
I’ve even come across reports of ants taking aphid eggs back to their own nests. This isn’t to eat them but to provide them with an even higher level of protection.
It’s like ants are farming aphids, and they store these eggs in a safe place until they’re ready to hatch. Once the aphids hatch, the ants can continue to milk them for honeydew.
Aphids Aren’t the Devil…
I know they’re a pain! I know you don’t want to have aphids taking over your garden. But, a few aphids here and there aren’t that evil. They are a vital food source for many garden birds including tits and warblers.
Do Ants Eat Aphid Poop?
This might sound odd at first, but yes, ants do actually eat what could be referred to as aphid poop. But, let me explain…
The substance that ants consume from aphids is called honeydew. This is a sugary liquid that aphids excrete as waste after they feed on plant sap.
From my understanding of entomology, you could technically say that honeydew is a form of aphid excrement or, colloquially, aphid poop.
Despite the unappetising comparison, honeydew is highly desirable to ants. It’s rich in sugar, which provides ants with the energy they need.
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