Scientists have discovered a new way ants control their farmed food source: aphids. It has long been known that certain ant species have domesticated aphids, and use the piercing-sucking insects for their honeydew (mmmm…honeydew….).
It was once thought that aphids stayed in the protection of the ants because the ants were able to fight of natural predators, and ants routeinly gnaw off aphid wings to keep them from flying away. Scientists found recently, though, that the same chemicals in the ants’ feet that they use to mark their territory, have an affect on aphid behaviour. Aphids walking over the chemical become sluggish and don’t move as quickly as aphids not exposed to the chemical. Interesting!