Bug Blog

Ants Protect Plants Against Insects and Mediators of Disease

Ants Protect Plants Against Insects and Mediators of Disease

Recent research shows that the relationship between ants and the knotweed species is rather strong. The knotweed plant found in Central and South America, often referred to as an “ant tree” feeds insects with sugary syrup-like liquid. In return, the ant offers the plant protection, in return for food and shelter.

Scientists conduct an experiment to test the level of protection ants offer. Scientists watch two different sets of trees, one allowed to exist in its natural state (with the ants) and the other with the ant colonies forcibly removed.


According to researchers, “when an ant encountered a caterpillar, a worker approached and detected it with it antennae, and then recruited more workers. Scientists continued to say that; “typically more than 10 workers were recruited around the intruder in less than five minutes… Several workers harasses the herbivore by stinging or biting, until it dropped off the plant.”

When the caterpillar tried to return again with a silk thread they had used to evacuate, the ants were there waiting and would chase away the invader once again. The ants also routinely checked for debris to remove from the leaves, which suggest that the ants protect the plant against insects and mediators of disease.

Does this make you think differently about ants?