Do Aphids Attract Ants?

If you have an aphid infestation on one of your plants, you will notice that several ants also accompany 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. They have a symbiotic relationship. 

Many animals in the wild share a symbiotic relationship with each other, where both 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 a plant that is 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.

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Ants and Aphids on Plant

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. 

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.

How Do Aphids Produce Honeydew?

Aphids’ sticky substance is honeydew, which they leave 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. 

FAQs

Do you still have questions about the strange relationship between ants and aphids? These might help:

Do Ants Milk Aphids?

Yes, ants milk aphids for honeydew. They will go as far as to massage the aphids’ abdomens to encourage them to release more honeydew.

Do Ants Eat Aphids?

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.

Why Do Ants Farm Aphids?

Ants will look after and, essentially, farm aphids so that they can consume and store the sugary honeydew that aphids produce. Ants have also been known to take some aphids hostage and keep them in their nests so that they have a constant supply of food.

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