Ants in yer Pants - Page 2

 Now doesn't this ant look better moving and alive than dead and bust up?! A lot of people don't know that Ants 'farm' aphids (greenfly). You can see this quite easily by looking for greenfly around the base of a tree (apple or pear trees are good), or on a rose bush, or lots of other garden plants. If you see ants and greenfly together, you can bet a dollar the ants are looking after the other little creatures and - just like we milk cows - they are drinking the honeydew they expel.

I filmed the vigilant ant above looking after her 'flock' of greenfly in my garden. You can just see the aphids 'grazing' on my apple tree, out of focus, in the background.

If you don't have many plants in yer garden, you can always do what I did here to get the ants to come to you in large numbers. I put a dollop of honey down on the concrete near my shed, one hot sunny afternoon. The ants came and started drinking like beasts at a watering hole. You can lay down and get real close to 'em and watch 'em drinking and feeding.

If you have a magnifier, even a low power one, you will be able to see them much better. Ants 'talk' to each other by tapping their 'feelers' against each others feelers, or by laying down paths of messenger chemicals. I could see a great commotion going on as the ants got all excited and tried to find a place to push in around the edge of the honey drops. Leading away from the 'shores' of the honey 'lake' are long lines of ants taking the food back to the rest of their numbers in the ants nest. They work as a team where the survival of the nest comes before all other priorities.

It's when you get to see them like this, you start to understand they are true animals with weight, structure, movement, and habits unique to their species. They co-exist with humankind and are not only present in our gardens, but in every country on the planet. They are one of the most successful creatures to have every walked the face of the earth and preceded man by over 100 million years.

Van (that's Vanessa, my woman, for those of yer who don't know us yet) went and bought a neat thing to help the kids at school study ants. It's called Ant World! A really simple idea, it is, but great value for money. It consists of a frame with 2 sheets of clear see-thru plastic with a very thin gap between them. A packet of sand is supplied which you use to pour into the gap. Introduce some worker ants from your garden (making a note of where yer found them) and hey-presto: ants digging tunnels for days. You watch them for a few days before returning them to the garden, no worse for wear.

The kit comes with a feeding tube which allows the ants to leave the frame and walk down to the feeding area. Here's a picture of the kit. The kid on the right is holding the feeding box attached to the tube back to the frame.

The picture on the right shows more of the box it comes in. Now me and Van aint getting any money for showing this here or anything but its such a neat idea - we just had to show you it. The box says its available in many countries. The booklet inside the box tells you how to find the ants and includes lots of advice and recommendations to make sure you don't go destroying ants nests or pillaging nests for queens. The manufacturers strongly support keeping the ants healthy and returning them to the environment after a few days unharmed.

Here's an address where you can find out more:-

Interplay UK Ltd 
Customer Services Department 
9a Spittal Street 
SL7 3HJ 


Before I forget to show it, here's a picture I took of an ant taking honeydew from a greenfly. I took this near dusk when the light was falling so it is not very clear, alas. It was amusing to watch the ant. It rubs two horn-like structures on the aphids back with its 'feelers' in a rhythmic pattern. This seems to coax the aphid into willingly excreting a droplet of the sticky-sweet honeydew, which the ants quickly  and eagerly takes in its jaws. I guess on a hot sunny afternoon it's their equivalent of a refreshing cool coke or orange juice, eh?

I found another bunch of ants in the garden looking after some blackfly. Just to see what happened, I took a cutting from the rose bush with the blackfly on it and their ant-minders, and placed it with a cutting from the apple tree. In moments the ants from one plant discovered the aphids from the other plant. No fighting ensued between the ants who seemed more concerned about investigating the alternate aphids to try a different honeydew taste.

Both sets of ants seemed to prefer the apple tree honeydew produced by the greenfly but the daylight ended before I could make further observations and tell for certain. I can only say, I had one heck of a lovely and rewarding afternoon.

Vanessa has just tapped me on the shoulder. She wants to write a little bit about queen ants and a very special time for them, so I 'll hand you over to Van....


You can watch a video of the ants. The AVI file is approx.: 2.2Mbytes long and will take a short time to download. You can see a low quality preview via the vivo-active streaming movie playing here to help you decide if you wish to see the high quality version. 

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Comments to :  the author Larry Legg

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