Farming Herds Of Aphids

Yesterday’s post mentioned the farming characteristics of ant populations who look after herds of aphids. Now if you’re an ant this is serious husbandry information and continues to be a problem with our (human) interference in the natural scheme of things.

Now what about our interference in ant farming? Johansson and Gibb of Umeå U have had a look at our forestry practices on ant husbandry of aphids (1). They looked at the spruce forests in Sweden and how clear cutting affected the ant honeydew harvest.

They interviewed a large number of ants with a pretty invasive approach. Firstly theyweighed a large number on their way to work as well as a large number returning from herding duties. But that’s not all. They also put the squeeze on and made some worker ants give up their load.

The honeydew was then analyzed. So what is the effect of clear cutting? The sugar content is lower and the amino acid content is higher. That is the honeydew is a good indicator of the sap content being processed by the herds of aphids.

Does this matter, I can hear you asking. It does to the ants. The ants living in the clear-cut areas were physically disadvantaged as they grew smaller heads and could store less honeydew. In summary, clear cutting is bad news for ant populations.

Just as well we don’t allow ants to vote.


Leave a Reply