Well-Nigh Wordless Wednesday: Livestock

I thought I’d jump on the ant bandwagon today and post a photo of an ant I took a few weeks ago while waiting for my husband to come pick me up after work:

big ant

Big ant

What sets my blog apart from the ant people who blog is the fact that I can’t tell you much about this ant apart from “huge” and “appears to be tending aphids.”   I can’t be completely sure that the latter is happening as I don’t know which ant species this is, but I suspect this ant was hanging around the aphids for their honeydew, a sweet liquid aphids excrete that many ant species love.  The way it typically works is the aphids benefit from having the ants herding them because the ants protect the aphids from would-be predators.  It’s a pretty neat system, so I hope that’s what was happening here!  Any of you ant people out there want to provide any additional information?  Would love to complete the story a bit more!


Unless otherwise stated, all text, images, and video are copyright © C. L. Goforth

12 thoughts on “Well-Nigh Wordless Wednesday: Livestock

  1. Not an ant person but I’ve seen both red and black ants tending aphids so I don’t think just one species of ant keep herds of aphids-cows. What makes me curious is whether there are different species of aphids kept as ‘honeydew cows’ and do specific ants tend specific aphids?

    • Oh, it’s definitely not just one species of ants that do this! Lots of them do. I’m just not sure which species do and which ant species is in the photo in the first place. I’m hoping someone else will give me some more info here!

      I have some of the same questions you do! Sometimes I wish I knew more ants, but what can I say? I’m an aquatics person and you can’t know everything.

      • Would you mind if I were to post your photo on Bug Guide’s Request ID site and ask? I’ll give you credit for the photo, of course. It’s hosted by Iowa State University’s Department of Entomology and gets a lot for expert help. If you agree, should I just use your site for credit or your name (which I don’t know).

        Like you, I want to learn more about these ants.Sure wish I could remember everything I read. Reading and learning about our natural world is my chief entertainment. But every topic under the heading ‘natural world’s interests me, so it’s impossible to remember it all.

        • I already posted it, but I haven’t gotten a response yet. That’s actually kind of odd! But I have several ant biologists I know that can ask too. I’ll get it IDed eventually!

          Glad to hear you enjoy reading about the natural world! Me too. Have you read The Secret Lives of Lobsters? I absolutely loved that one! Also the Tapir’s Morning Bath (about research and researchers on Barro Colorado Island in Panama), Dark Banquet (about blood sucking animals), and The Dangerous World of Butterflies. They’re all great!

  2. I don’t know much about ants or aphids, but I know that is a cool photo. I love images showing the interaction between species, especially when it is unusual as the ant/aphid relationship.

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