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Desert Diary

Insects/Ants and Aphids


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Ever had a neighbor with a pesky pet? Maybe there's a dog that leaves more than footprints, or an aggressive cat that intrudes onto your property and beats up your pet. But humans aren't the only species that cares for other animals. Believe it or not, some ants actually raise their own form of livestock!

What on earth could an ant herd and care for? The animal of choice is one we usually consider a pest—those little aphids that attack our roses and other plants! The ants raise them because the aphids produce something called "honeydew", and the ants will literally milk them for this sweet treat. Like any good animal owner, the ants will vigorously defend their livestock, so anything that might eat the aphids, may just be attacked by the ants. So much for adding a few ladybugs to the area! In this case you have to fight two species to stop the damage caused by only one. pen and ink



Contributor: Kodi R. Jeffery, Centennial Museum, University of Texas at El Paso.

Desert Diary is a joint production of the Centennial Museum and KTEP National Public Radio at the University of Texas at El Paso.


aphids and ant

Two aphids on a plant stem; at the lower right, an ant. After Lutz, 1921.



Web Resources

Aphids. (Click on "Relations with Ants" in the Menu.)

Iowa State University.