Out of all the cool and crazy things that these little guys can do, this is probably one of the most overlooked and undervalued. Ants, long regarded as pests and little more than a nuisance to farmers, are now enjoying a rare and deserved moment in the sun. According to a 2015 research initiative, certain varieties of ants control agricultural pests as efficiently as synthetic pesticides… And that’s with the bonus of being cost-effective and much safer!
Check it out per Mother Nature Network:
The review covered more than 70 studies on dozens of crop pests, mostly focusing on the effects of a tropical, tree-dwelling genus known as weaver ants. Since they live in the canopy of their host trees, near the fruit and flowers that need protection, weaver ants have a natural tendency to control pest populations in orchards.
One study found 49 percent higher yields in cashew trees guarded by weaver ants than in pesticide-treated trees. Farmers also got higher-quality cashews from trees with ants, resulting in a 71 percent higher net income. Not all crops saw such dramatic results, but studies on more than 50 pests suggested ants can protect crops including cocoa, citrus and palm oil at least as effectively as pesticides.
And horticultural help isn’t limited to weaver ants. Many ant species can benefit farmers, gardeners and homeowners, despite their penchant for protecting sap-sucking aphids. Ants create and aerate soil, for instance, and healthy populations of native ants can regulate various pests like flies, fleas and roaches.
Here’s more from Ant Web:
Many ants prey on the eggs and larvae of bothersome household insects such as flies, fleas, silverfish, bed bugs, and even cockroaches. If left to colonize the perimeter of your yard, ants can act as a barrier to termites and help keep pest populations down overall. The diversity of the total ant species in an ecosystem can be an indicator of overall environmental health. Having a diverse community of ants and other insects helps keep the entire ecosystem in balance, which is important for all the plants, fungi, and animals (including us) that share the environment.
So, that goes to show that just because these guys are little, doesn’t mean that they don’t have a big impact. And in this day and age of organic everything, certain ant species can provide a health-conscious alternative to the spray-everything-with-pesticide argibusiness model.
What do you think of our little industrious neighbors?