I found this Camponotus Ant (thanks Alex for pointing out the correct ID for the ant) on hibiscus branch which was tending aphids.
I used Rayflash ring flash adapter attached to Canon Speedlite 580EX II which gave a far smoother light for the ant. The effect was far better than Canon MT-24EX macro twin light flash.
Some ants “farm” aphids, protecting them on the plants they eat, eating the honeydew that the aphids release from the terminations of their alimentary canals. This is a “mutualistic relationship”. These “dairying ants” “milk” the aphids by stroking them with their antennae. Therefore, sometimes aphids are called “ant cows”.
Some farming ant species gather and store the aphid eggs in their nests over the winter. In the spring, the ants carry the newly-hatched aphids back to the plants. Some species of ants manage large “herds” of aphids that feed on roots of plants in the ant colony. Queens that are leaving to start a new colony take an aphid egg to found a new herd of underground aphids in the new colony. These farming ants protect the aphids by fighting off aphid predators.
It was common at one time to suggest that the cornicles were the source of the honeydew, and this was even included in the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary and the 2008 edition of the World Book Encyclopedia. In fact, honeydew secretions are produced from the anus of the aphid, while cornicles mostly produce defensive chemicals such as waxes.
Aphids, also known as plant lice or greenflies, are small plant-eating insects, and members of the superfamily Aphidoidea. Aphids are among the most destructive insect pests on cultivated plants in temperate regions. The damage they do to plants has made them enemies of farmers and gardeners the world over, but from a purely zoological standpoint they are a very successful group of organisms.
5 thoughts on “Camponotus Ant Tending Aphids”
While this is a lovely photo showing interesting behavior, its actually a species of Camponotus, not Oecophylla. The shape of the mesosoma gives it away.
Dear Alex Wild,
I am extremely sorry about mis-identification that this ant is Oecophylla. Thanks for pointing out the correct species. I’ll correct the same in the blog. Having no guidebooks on ants around here has resulted this mistake.I found your blog very useful and informative. Keep up the good work.
Hey, no worries about the mis-ID. Ant taxonomy is a specialized discipline that takes plenty of practice, and as you point out many parts of the world (my own included) lack decent identification guides.