All about Ants - Eusociality
Ants - Tending their herds
This page is about ant species which actually have a symbiotic relationship with other insects; and use them in the same way a dairy farmer will milk his herd of cattle.
In our London garden we have large nesting colonies of the black ant species Lasius niger. This ant is very omnivorous in its dietary needs, but like many other ant species, it loves sweet liquids. By tending herds of aphids [Greenfly and / or Blackfly] - the worker ant gets to 'milk' them by gently touching the aphid's body with her antennae (feelers).
Aphids are constantly sucking out the sap of plants, in this case from the Valerian plant. Because the aphids gorge themselves, there is an excess of sap; and this contains a high volume of plant sugars very similar to honey. The ants lick up the exudated liquids from the rear of the aphids and then store it in their crop (1st stomach). The sweet liquid is then regurgitated back inside the nest, and passed onto other nest mates via the process of trophallaxis. This energy giving food is rarely given to ant larvae, but is greatly valued as a high energy source by adult ants!
Queen Ant - Powerful, yet gentle!
A queen ant can use her jaws to tear and render prey, but also hold her eggs and larvae without ever puncturing the skin. When you look at the serrated edged jaws of this Camponotus punctulatus Queen from South America, you will see just what we mean about an ants jaws being both cruel and terrible, yet they also can be kind and loving at the same time!
The " Yellow Meadow " Ant.
This little ant is rarely seen, as it spends nearly all its life underground; only coming out for the single mating flight, or if the nest is disturbed by humans. It is reddish yellow in appearence, rather small workers, with 1 large queen per nest. It could easily be mistaken for the 'stinging' red ant (Myrmica), except that this ant does not have a sting and seems to prefer not to attack people; but to run back into the nest as quickly as possible. L.flavus build nests that look much like a mole hill covered in vegetation. They live on various domestic insects that they find in the soil; but it is possible that they go out above ground at night to hunt. Either way, they avoid daylight, which does not seem to bother ants of other species. You can keep this ant in an ant-farm; but owing to their feeding habits, We would not recommend them to any novice ant collector just starting out on their ant world.