Relationships between ants and other organisms are numerous
- Ant/Ant: Some species of ants are extreme in their
dependence upon other ant species. For example, the ant Tuleutomyrmex schneidere
spends almost its entire life riding on the backs of host ant species. They
seem to contribute nothing to the hosts, but are tolerated and even fed. Slavemaker
ants (Formica subintegra, for example) steal brood from other colonies
and return the brood to develop and serve the Slavemaker colony. The slaves
are absolutely dependent in that if they don't work, they don't get fed. Other
ants work together as with the Crematogaster limata parabiotica and
Monacis debilis. These ants have their nests close together and share
the same foraging trails. Camponotus has also been seen giving food
to the Monacis workers.
- Ant/Other Insect: These relationships are many and
diverse, ranging from commensual to parasitic. Aphids and ants have many species
relationships where both the ants and aphids benefit (mutualism). Aphids secrete
honeydew and amino acids through their anus. The ants eat or store the honeydew.
The ants sometimes incorporate the aphid territory into their own territory,
which allows easier access to the aphids and affords the aphids protection
by a greater number of ants. The honeydew sometimes contains chemicals that
are purposely directed at attracting ants. The aphids sometimes release chemical
signals that warn other aphids of a predatorial attack and also alert the
ants so they can attack the invader.
- Ant/Plant: These relationships are also known to be
abundant. Some carnivorous plants allow ants to hunt herbivores on them. In
turn, the ant protects the plant from the herbivores eating their plant tissue.
Many plants have extrafloral nectaries on various parts of the plant. These
are nectar- producing structures not associated with flowers. The ants are
attracted to the plant where they can obtain small amounts of sugar and, in
turn, defend the plant from other insects. Ants provide this same service
of eliminating herbivores to many plants. Other ants confiscate plant parts
to grow fungus on in fungus gardens deep with colonies. These leaf cutter
ants process the leaves and use the fungus grown upon the leaf material for
food. Sometimes ants live in tree hollows and have no effect on the plant
at all. Harvester ants do a great service to plants by collecting and transporting
seeds. In one case, the ants eat a small part of the seed and leave the rest
of the still- viable seed to germinate.