Ant tending aphid

Title Info
Common name Ant; Aphid
Scientific name Lasius alienus; Aphidae
Taxonomic group Formicidae; Homoptera
Level Genus; Order
Source Dan L. Perlman
Ecological interactions Mutualism
Mutualism Ants and Homopterans
Selection and adaptations Selection
Selection Natural Selection
Organisms Animals
Animals Insects
Date 1989
Location Newton,Massachusetts,USA,North America

Ant tending an aphid, Massachusetts. Ants of many species "tend" aphids and other small insects in the order Homoptera. Aphids and their relatives suck sap from plants through straw-like, piercing mouthparts. Since this sap is relatively low in amino acids, the sucking insects have to process a large quantity of sap to get the protein they need. While they do use some of the dissolved sugar in the sap, there is much more than they can make use of, and they excrete a sugary liquid called honeydew. In some cases, ants and aphids (or their relatives) have developed mutualistic relationships in which the ants protect the aphids. In return, the aphids hold onto their honeydew until an ant taps them on the backside with her antennae, at which point the aphid releases droplets of honeydew for the ant.