A new one on me: ants farming aphids below ground.

My wife pulled up the Bhringraj(eclipta alba) this morning and we found one ant clinging to the plant just above the soil and aphids attached to the roots.
This is a new one on me but once I got thinking about it, it seems pretty logical that this would be quite common.
Live and learn.
The next thing is to id just what kind of aphid.
http://www.flickr.com/photos/phorbin/4998231621 /
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g'day phorbin,
yes this is a common symbiotic relationship which i at least have tried to tell other gardeners about only to be hit on by those who may not know or think they know, dunno? no money in it for us. and the suggested remedy is as cheap as cheap is.
ants aren't different by nature in other parts of the world they are all about prolificating and eating.
so yes ants not only farm aphids, but also mealy bugs/woolly aphids and scale, and yes they keep a breeding stock of the above on the roots of the plant so if the ones on the plant die or get knocked off the plant in which case they die, then they can bring fresh bugs into play.
this is why in very many cases i read people go to extraordinary effort to control aphids only to have them return, and the aphids i am familiar with don't bring themselves in ants do that job very well.
mealy bugs can of course infest the roots of the plant which then means time to dump the plant.
aphids can be dislodged by a strong spray of water, and if they come back then would be a good ime to look for the ants, no need to see masses of ants a few is all, so may not be in sight working all through the day.
wrote:

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Matthew 25:13 KJV
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@bigpond.com says...

Hi Len,
Ah well, some people think they're smarter than Mother Nature until she proves them otherwise.
I've known for a very long time about ants' aphid ranching. Since grade 7 IIRC. I thought the parallel with human activity was really cool.
I'm pretty sure I've never seen any explicit mention of aphids being sheltered underground; that was today's surprise and research project.
Around our place aphids don't usually survive in great numbers above ground. Our predators deal with enough of them quickly. The last time we had to hit aphids with a stream of water was four or five years ago when there was a local ......plague. There was a crust of aphids on plants all over the city. Even non-gardeners were remarking on it.
I know exactly which ant colony was guarding this herd and it's one of our nastier varieties of ant (possibly the invasive Euro-import Myrmica rubra). --We have two colonies of this type in inconvenient places but they've not been too much trouble thus far and don't seem inclined to build elsewhere.
I watch these things even when I'm not watching them.
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They'd be better to encourage wildlife that can do the work for them.
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Well that was an interesting pic. Every Spring I get aphids on my roses but within a week they all disappear. I have tiny superb little birds who patrol the garden and get rid of the lot. This is the boy of the species of birdie: http://www.google.com.au/images?hl=en&rlz=1W1HPAA_en&q=superb+blue+wren&um=1&ie=UTF-8&source=univ&ei=SW-UTPmPII3-vQOFpemtBA&sa=X&oi=image_result_group&ct=title&resnum=1&ved CcQsAQwAA
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says...

http://www.google.com.au/images?hl=en&rlz=1W1HPAA_en&q=superb+blue+wren&um=1&ie=UTF-8&source=univ&ei=SW-UTPmPII3-vQOFpemtBA&sa=X&oi=image_result_group&ct=title&resnum=1&ved CcQsAQwAA
I bet they're a pleasure to watch.
I've never seen birds working over the roses etc. for aphids, here. The aphids vanish.
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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G3p4tCDJLuA

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Bill S. Jersey USA zone 5 shade garden

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Q0JfdP36kI

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snipped-for-privacy@snip.net says...

Thanks for the link.
Someday I'll be in the right place at the right time to see it in the round, so to speak.
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used to be that rose growers could claim to have a good rain barometer, when the aphids were around, as if they observed the ants taking the aphids back down to the roots it was going to rain.
one of the lady beetles helps control them, they don't eat them out as they themselves need to live on.
snipped
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