Ants are often criticized by gardeners, who tend to say that they’re invasive (though not very harmful). But digging deeper, there are many reasons to keep them in the garden. Indeed, they join in on the heavy work of recycling organic waste, in planting seeds and in protecting certain plants.
→ Also read: ladybug, a beneficial insect…
Little hands at the service of nature
Helping through their own way of feeding:
In this way, ants actively help in control certain pests and in limit diseases. Excretions and remains rejected from the anthill enrich the surrounding plots.
In building their home:
Busy and very organized, ants dig galleries and tunnels to form their anthill, turning and aerating the soil as efficiently as earthworms. They thus assist in soil recycling by bringing up rocks and organic matter.
Some ants (carpenters ants) choose to build their nest under the bark of dead trees. They contribute to breaking down dead wood and old tree fungi, which directly feeds the soil.
Did you know?
Myrmecology is the science that studies the fascinating world of ants.
A Solid Partnership Between Ants and Plants
💡 This ingenious process complements seed dispersion by wind and the plant’s own mechanisms.
How does it work?
- These types of plants have seeds or fruits that contain essential nutrients for ants, called elaiosomes.
- It’s a fleshy part attached to their seeds. Rich in sugar, proteins, and fat, this growth attracts ants.
- Useless for germination, the ant colony consumes the elaiosome and discards the seed. The seed germinates in its new environment and grows, allowing plants to develop in different places.
Some species that benefit from myrmecochory:
- Wild and garden pansies (Viola wittrockiana)
- many shrubs (common ricin, Ricinus communis)
- greater celandine
- dwarf gorse
- centaury (cornflower for example)
- anemone (wood anemone)
- common boxwood
- woodland strawberry
A symbiosis between ants and certain plants:
- Some plants and trees offer shelter and food to ants (extrafloral nectar). In return, ants protect them against defoliating insects, like processionary caterpillars.
- Ants also provide nitrogenous waste (dead prey) to plants that lack them, like carnivorous plants.
A moderate role in pollination: