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Antje Schulte | profile | all galleries >> A ladybug eating aphids - the ants are not amused tree view | thumbnails | slideshow

A ladybug eating aphids - the ants are not amused

This gallery takes you to a small colony of aphids on one of my backyard flowers. The aphids are pretty stationary, sap-sucking bugs that excrete a sweet liquid (yes, that's the poo, actually) called honeydew, which is eagerly eaten by ants. Actually, the ants trigger defecation by touching their antennae to the aphid, and the aphid often raise their behind to facilitate the uptake of the sweet droplet. In exchange for food, the ants defend the aphids and care for them.
Ladybugs, a beetle species, on the other hand like to eat aphids, they and even more so their larvae can eat an astonishing amount of aphids and thus play a huge role in gardening and pest control.

So, in this series of pictures, the ladybug tries to eat aphids, while the ants are trying to defend their lifestock. They viciously attack the much larger foe by biting it and hitting it with acid, but due to the beetle's thick coat, they can't achieve much. The ants also try to bite the ladybird's legs, but as you can see in some of the images, the beetle lowers its hard-shelled body to cover them. And if the pestering gets too much, the ladybug moves to a calmer spot on another leaf, and it would simply fly away if the ants are too aggressive.

The last pictures show an aphid wandering around, and as you can see, they have no idea what ladybugs usually eat. This particular aphid even checked underneath the ladybug's wings, but the beetle couldn't have cared less - it was no longer hungry I guess.

A bit of information on the species involved: The ants are most likely the Black Garden Ant Lasius niger, and the ladybird is the Seven-Spotted Ladybeetle Coccinella septempunctata. As usual, please ask me if you want to use these images, and as usual, please click on the thumbnail for a larger version!