Ant Farmers Raising Aphids

My rain garden is starting off very well.  Although it is dry in this photo, our typical spring Oregon weather has kept it very wet and the plants are growing and some are even flowering already.

While looking at one of my red-twig dogwoods, I noticed some ants were crawling around on it.  This seemed strange.

Until I saw one of them approach a bright green speck on one of the leaves…

It was an aphid!  Were there more?

Oh yes.  Last summer I posted about a colony of aphids that were infesting my quince tree.  Well, I guess when the overwintering eggs hatched this year the new aphids set off and found a new home.  Or, the aphids spent the winter on the dogwood and are just now hatching.

Aphids produce honeydew out of their behinds.  Honeydew is a sappy substance that some ants really like.  In fact, according to the National Audubon Society Field Guide to Insects & Spiders some ants actually milk aphids to make more honeydew.  Seriously.

I’m not sure if that is what is about to happen here, but I believe the ants will do their best to protect the aphids from predators while the aphids eat the juices inside my dogwood and poop out the honeydew.

  1. I often get the aphids on my roses, and then I can see the ant who is milking it 🙂 Its very fascinated how everthing in nature works… Thanks for your visit 🙂

  2. Mike — I’m just guessing here, but as the mom, grandma, and great-grandma of a passel of boys I bet your sons love this post! Or if they haven’t seen it, your explanation of aphids and ants and how they exist. Actually I love it too ;>)

    1. Oh yeah. There are a lot more of both aphids AND ants. The ants seem to stay away from the aphids though, and spend a lot of time on leaves below them. Maybe the honeydew drips down?

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