Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Ants Tending Aphids

After the brief time that I’ve been involved in Macro photography, I think ants are among the hardest of subjects to photograph. They are among the most challenging . They are all the things that make macro photography a nightmare- they are tiny and they never stay still.

After trying in vain to catch one and photograph it indoors, I came across a colony of ants on a very sunny day. I had my bellows setup with me and I set about on another attempt…. and here`s what I got.

Firstly I spotted this ant on a plant and I clicked away crazily as it zipped up and down busily.

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It soon ran up a thistle plant and I discovered that there were more ants on it.

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When I looked closer I saw that there were aphids on the stem of the plant. Ants tend to these aphids and herd them, like cows.

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The ants then “milk” the aphids by stimulating their abdomen, which induces the aphids to secrete a sweet liquid called honeydew which the ants drink.

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The The aphids in turn get protection from the ants, which guard them against predators.

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The ants also carry young aphids to new plants where they feed on the sap of the plants.

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Infestation by aphids cause the plants to stunt and mottle. The saliva of the aphids are also toxic to plant tissues.

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Lately scientists have discovered that the ants use chemicals on their feet to tranquilise and subdue the aphids.

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What remarkable creatures… and what all goes un noticed by the human eye. Even though they are the toughest, they are also amongst the most fascinating to photograph. I`ll keep trying to get better shots. Meanwhile, check out some great ant photographs on Myrmecos.

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