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|© John Pickering, 2004-2019|
|Here Crematogaster lineolata ants are tending Aphis folsomii aphids near the young tip of a Virginia Creeper vine, Parthenocissus quinquefolia. Many ant and aphid species interact in such a manner that is similar to humans and our domestic livestock. Depending on the species involved and local circumstances, such interactions can be mutualistic, benefiting both the ants and aphids involved, or antagonistic, benefiting just the ants. The ants benefit by feeding on sugar in the honey dew that the phloem feeding aphids excrete. Sometimes they also feed on the aphids themselves and reduce aphid numbers relative to untended aphid colonies. In cases of mutualism, the ants protect their aphids from other predators. Formica podzolica ants are even known to protect colonies of Milkweed Aphids, Aphis asclepiadis, from lethal infections caused by the fungal pathogen, Pandora neoaphidis, by grooming fungal spores off them and by removing potentially infectious individuals. Note that in this aphid colony, all stages of aphids are present, from young first instar nymphs to adult females, including some winged individuals, known as alates. Alates will try to leave the colony. Thus, they raise an interesting question. If they are about to fly away, shouldn't the ants be selected to eat them first?|
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Updated: 2020-07-04 15:28:27 gmt
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