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Tiny Beneficial? ants

This is a discussion on Tiny Beneficial? ants within the Orchid Ailments / The Compost Pile forums, part of the Orchid Culture category; I have a tiny ant species living in, around and on the plants in one ...

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    Chris in Hamilton's Avatar
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    Default Tiny Beneficial? ants

    I have a tiny ant species living in, around and on the plants in one of my growing areas. They are a very fast moving tropical species that live in the greenhouse where I do volunteer work and according to the operators are beneficial. They don't say how or if they are to a particular genus. They are about 1.5 mm long. Anyone have any info on these. They are multiplying rapidly!

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    I doubt they are "beneficial " in any way.

    Yes, there are orchids that rely on ant colonies to provide them with food (myrmecophila, I believe), but for others, they tend to help colonize the plants with other insects, instead.

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    Chris in Hamilton's Avatar
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    I'd read that there were ants that lived in the pseudo bulbs of some species of myrmecophila. They are smart little things. The activity (carrying larvae and eggs) only happens when I start watering. When I just move plants, all is quite.

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    Most authorities consider ants, with only a few exceptions, to be beneficial to plants in many different ways. Many are predatory against insect pests either because they eat them or kill them because they are territorial. If the plant gives the ant some nutrition and a place to live the ant will protect the plant from damaging insects. Yes, some ants will farm aphids because the aphid gives the ant a treat so the ant will protect the aphid from predators. Soil based plants benefit from the tunnels the ants make which provide aeration to the roots. The little ants you are seeing probably are keeping the mites, mealies and any other tiny insects or their larvae in check.

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    I watched two ants have a tug of war with a mealy years ago. They finally tore it in half. Another benefit is removing the sticky substance from flowers allowing them to open. I've seen this with orchids but I'm not sure peonies can even open without them. When they do open a bit the flowers are always distorted.

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    I have seen ants on the bulbs of my orchids and have yet to see a negative impact as a result. Maybe it depends on the type of ant to determine beneficial or not.

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    Yes, once one of my plants gets buds the ants show right up. Not a lot of them but a few running back and forth. I've just always thought they were eating some nectar that the bud must be emitting. They've never been harmed that I'm aware of.

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    I have great big black ants especially on my giant sharry baby onc. At first I thought they were eating holes in the leaves, but they seem only to be interested in the sweet drops exuded by the opening flowers. They do duty as an early warning system when baddie thrips and aphids start their honey-making activities.

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    Quote Originally Posted by phalspital View Post
    I have great big black ants especially on my giant sharry baby onc. At first I thought they were eating holes in the leaves, but they seem only to be interested in the sweet drops exuded by the opening flowers. They do duty as an early warning system when baddie thrips and aphids start their honey-making activities.
    That's when I know spring has arrived. I find them all over my orchids especially in the west window where the Cattleya are.

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    The only kind of ant I have no use for is fire ants. I have fire ant mounds on the property and if I or one of the animals stands near or on the mound we get badly stung and the stings burn and swell up and itch intensely for days. I routinely poison the mounds which gets rid of that colony but they pop up somewhere else. It is a never ending job.

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