The predatory and nearly prescient behavior of ants in husbanding, protecting, farming and feasting on aphids has been noted in part for some years, but the extent to which both predator and prey benefit, seeking such a symbiotic arrangement, notwithstanding it’s always predictable and fatal outcome, is extraordinary, and in some equally incredible ways underscores the real moral, political or simply behavioral issues related to Gold(m)an Sac(hs)s and other predators recently in the news.
Species of ants who live in the neighborhood of the tiny aphid had recognized long ago their succulence, feeding on fruit as they do, and their sweet and honey laced protein is second, in life, only to a great quantity of these delectable morsels in a single spot and across a close proximity of time.
The ants, eating a hundred times their body weight in a day are, by fractions, the biggest small predator on earth, with a weight to feed ratio ten times a human.
But of all their culinary treats they most adore the honeydew produced by the aphid as waste and excreted in a fashion which the caretaker ants can easily harvest.
To further underscore the wonder and sophistication of the ant, they are not only known to corral the aphid into farms where they are more easily readied for feeding , but too, are disinclined to travel away from the captive ants by virtue of the small scent of poison the ant lays with it’s foot track, at once, slowing down the aphid in its attempted escape and too, making certain they are corralled to a certain segment of the geography which is easily accessible to these arthropodic farmers and their thirsty patrons.
Equally extraordinary for these farmer ants, is the level of sophistication of their practice of animal husbandry.
In their evolutionary success they have mastered not only the significant issue of how to raise the food stocks, feeding themselves in a sustainable fashion, a model the smartest of the Western world modern countries can only hope to emulate, and a feat modern American agriculture has struggled to accomplish, they have also, unlike their two footed geographically proximate human neighbor, developed a non toxic mechanism for keeping their own feed stock and crop from the pestilence of bees, birds, vermin and other critters which, as we have experienced in American Agronomy, has occasioned the need of treatments from DDT to words too long to be clearly elocuted by man, and equally poisonous to the environment, while ants have built into their agronomic model a pure and ecologically sound mechanism to treat and protect their crop of aphids from infiltration and or attack from other predators. Continue reading