If you have an aphid infestation on one of your plants, you will notice that several ants are also accompanying the aphids, which begs the question do aphids attract ants?
Aphids attract colonies of ants because they secrete a substance called honeydew which ants love feeding on.
Many animals in the wild share a symbiotic relationship with each other where both the animals get something beneficial in return for helping out each other.
This is the same with aphids and ants, as aphids attract colonies of ants because of the sugary substance that they produce.
Honeydew, secreted by aphids after eating plenty of plant sap, attracts ants to your plant. This is why you often see plenty of ants on the plant infested with aphids.
Because of the honeydew that the aphids leave behind, the ants protect the aphids and help them, so they keep making more of it.
This is a symbiotic relationship between the two pests as the ants are protecting the aphids, and the aphids are providing the ants with food.
In a way, you can say the ants farm aphids for their honeydew.
Are Aphids Friends with Ants?
Technically, aphids and ants are friends because they have a symbiotic relationship with each other with mutual benefit. The aphids receive protection, and the ants receive food.
Ants protect aphids from many predators, such as ladybirds and lacewings. The ants also protect the aphids from fungal outbreaks and diseases that can kill aphids by wiping out the infected aphids that may cause the healthy ones to get sick.
Because of ants, many pollinating insects and birds get scared away and avoid the infested plants. This way, nothing eats the aphids, and the plant doesn’t get pollinated either, which is bad for the plant.
How Do Aphids Produce Honeydew?
Aphids’ sticky substance is called honeydew, which they leave behind after drinking plant sap. Aphids are very destructive pests as they feed on the leaves, buds, and shoots and often eat so much of them that the buds and shoots are unable to grow.
Aphids also suck the sap from the plant so much that it makes it wilt and die.
Ants milk aphids for their honeydew by stroking their abdomen. This unique symbiotic relationship between the two pests mutually benefits both of them.
Why are there Always Ants with Aphids?
When you see ants, you’ll probably also see several aphids too, and if any of your garden plants are infested with aphids, they’ll often be covered with ants.
Ants and aphids share a mutually beneficial relationship, so if there’s an infestation of one, the other will also be there.
However, not every species of ant is the same, and some won’t find this relationship beneficial. Still, several species of ants, the more common types, find this symbiotic relationship beneficial and will farm aphids to get their honeydew supply.
Aphids feed the ants with honeydew which they secrete after drinking plant sap, and they also move whenever the ants want to relocate them. It’s an interesting arrangement which makes both the insects cooperatively live on the same plant nearby.
Aphids that ants farm reproduce much more quickly than average and produce a much more significant amount of honeydew.
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Do you still have questions about the strange relationship between ants and aphids? These might help:
Yes, ants milk aphids for honeydew. They will go as far as to massage the abdomens of the aphids to encourage them to release more honeydew.
No, ants do not usually eat aphids. Instead, ants enter the honeydew that they produce. This is why eating aphids would not be beneficial to ants.
Aphids rapidly multiply and are destructive pests that suck a plant’s sap until it dies. But, what’s even worse, is that they attract ants which bring a whole new set of problems to your garden.
The ants don’t kill the aphids but instead protect them and farm them for the honeydew they secrete after drinking plant sap.
When you have an aphid infestation on any of your plants, you’d also find ants as they both share a symbiotic relationship that is mutually beneficial.
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Below are some of the sources of information we used to put this article together:
Ryan is a keen gardener from the UK who’s spent years dealing with countless, common pests over the years so knows the ins and outs of how to deal with pests in the garden