Do some ants eat aphids?

westtexan(7b)June 11, 2007

I've got some Candy Corner sweet corn that tasseled last week. The tassels have a large number of aphids residing on them as well as on some leaves. There are also ants (I don't know for sure what kind) climbing all over the plants all the way up to the tassels. Could it be that the ants are eating the aphids? It doesn't seem like they (the ants) are eating my plants so I tried to watch and see if they were eating the aphids, but I couldn't tell. That would be great if they were. I luckily have quite a few ladybugs feasting away on the aphids, but there are plenty to feed anything else that wants eat them. I just haven't seen ants listed as a beneficial (or harmful for that matter) garden insect.

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Hi westtexan

I know this sounds wierd...
Some ants actually herd aphids. Aphids excrete a sugary fluid after the feed off your plants. The ants then gather this fluid and eat it as food. The ants on your corn are probably protecting the aphis from predators just as a human shepard would.

    Bookmark   June 11, 2007 at 12:34PM
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Second that.. yep, Ants will actually herd the aphids and 'milk' them for the nectar they produce. In return, the aphids are protected by the ants.

Some species of ants go as far as to put the aphids out to pasture in the day, and bring them in at night. Crazy stuff!

The ants won't harm the lady bugs, unless they are directly harming the aphids they are overseeing at that moment. The ants can then gang up on a comparitively large lady bug and bring it down.

If it all seems to be in balance, and neither side is winning or losing, i'd just let it play out. Otherwise, if the aphid/any population is growing I would lay out some of the ant poison that the ants will take back to the nest to kill the queen. At that point, the protectors will be gone and the beneficial insects can keep the aphids in check.

    Bookmark   June 11, 2007 at 12:45PM
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I don't mean to hijack this thread but do want to ask a question that pertains and is apropos.

Will the aphids harm to the corn? I have noticed the tiny ants also on my stalks but never dreamed of aphids. I will have to go check.


    Bookmark   June 11, 2007 at 1:10PM
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I would have thought you were joking around if of course I didn't know you were serious. I am constantly impressed with the knowledge of people on this site. Now if only I could get 4 or 5 of you to come on over and show me what I'm doing wrong and how to get rid or contain every pest, I'd have the best garden around!

I'm not too concerned about the aphids at the moment...not on my corn anyway. It seems like the plants are big enough to handle a small number of aphids. I just have to go home today and put mineral oil on the silks. Never tried it before so wish me luck and correct me if my plan is not right. The silks appeared about 6 or 7 days ago. I am going to apply half a dropper (per GW poster's instructions) of mineral oil on each ear's silks. I don't plan on reapplying the ineral oil later b/c I am affraid of doing more harm than good by overdoing it. I can't remember ever having too many ears that were worm free so hopefully I can make that happen this time around.

    Bookmark   June 11, 2007 at 2:07PM
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carol_71(Netherlands z8)

If you have the chance to check several times a day on what the ants are doing, you might see when they carry the aphids, protecting them. That's an AMAZING nature's show to watch.

    Bookmark   June 11, 2007 at 2:27PM
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gardenlen(s/e qld aust)


yes ants have a symbiotic relation ship with aphids so they will be herding the insect and using the sweet secretion they extrude as food. so to get control of the aphids in a lot of cases you need to get rid of the ants.

lady bugs are used as the biological control for aphids but have never heard or seen any ants eating them.


Here is a link that might be useful: len's garden page

    Bookmark   June 11, 2007 at 3:35PM
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franktank232(z5 WI)

I've noticed they really like to do this on sunflowers.

    Bookmark   June 11, 2007 at 4:17PM
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