Out the Back Window - 04-15-13

by: Jim in IA

Mon Apr 15, 2013 at 10:31:14 AM EDT


In a past summer, it was about time to trim back some of the bridal wreath bushes near the house. The many black ants were troublesome. They were about 1/2" long on many of the tips of the small branches. They seemed very intent doing something slowly and deliberately. A closer look revealed tiny, light green aphids had been herded by the ants toward the ends of the small branches.

Ants and aphids have a relationship called Mutualism. The relationship serves to benefit both the ant and the aphids. The ant obtains a sweet source of food from the abdomen called honeydew. The aphids are protected on the branch by the ant. Each can exist independently of the other. But, both parties benefit when together. Here is a link to a better close-up view of ants herding their aphids together. The link also talks about the mortal enemy of the aphid, the Ladybug or Ladybird beetle.

Finally, this video shows some ants tending their aphids. Watch for the stroking action of the antennae on the abdomen of the aphids.

Have you seen other examples of mutualism in your backyard? Is there any noteworthy sign of spring?

Jim in IA :: Out the Back Window - 04-15-13
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Rec'd and linked. :0) (2.00 / 7)

I love nature, science and my dogs.

Merci. (2.00 / 7)

It is nice to be important, but it's more important to be nice. - John Templeton

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thank you... (2.00 / 6)
that photo is really extraordinary.

We need to look for peaceful spots somewhere in this chaotic world.  

When I was a kid, there was some sort of depection (maybe classic comic books??  Or some equivalent??) of ants and how they tend aphids.  I always thought this fascinating... even though I smush aphids sucking out the juice from new leaves on my garden plants!

The eastern towhee is still hanging around the feeders.  :)

but here's a photo for peace
 photo almondsparrow_zps0bc293b0.jpg

Thank you for the photo. The flowers are close to emerging here. (2.00 / 4)
The nature lesson of mutualism is one for all of us. We are able to survive alone. But, we can be stronger and more secure when we work with each other. The whole is stronger than each part.

Thank you for commenting.

It is nice to be important, but it's more important to be nice. - John Templeton

[ Parent ]
Purple and chartreuse, cool photo (2.00 / 5)
And a nice observation of mutualism in action. Thanks for the peek.

Most common form of mutualism I see in my backyard is the variety of lichens, which are slow growing but very resilient to freezing, drought, getting stepped on. One thing they are vulnerable to, though, is air pollution, so my diverse and pretty assortment is a testament to the clean air where I live. The fungus provides the tough housing and the alga photosynthesizes food for both. I suppose each could survive without the other, but not well and maybe not for long.

Thank you. (2.00 / 5)
Our lichens in the midwest are rather gnarly. We saw some on our hikes in a state park this weekend near the IL River. They are in good environs with moisture and not much sun. The best ones I ever saw were in Ireland.

It was good to see you. Thanks for stopping by.

It is nice to be important, but it's more important to be nice. - John Templeton

[ Parent ]

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