Sugar ants are help­ful crea­tures

Central and North Burnett Times - - VOICE OF THE BURNETT -

LIKE their name sug­gests, sugar ants do in­deed like to eat sugar and all things sweet, but they aren’t fussy and will go for a wide range of foods from in­sects to seeds.

So you can thank th­ese ants for help­ing to keep your back­yard clean and tidy.

Dur­ing the sum­mer months, sugar ants be­come much more ac­tive as the heat and wet weather drives them out of their nests to ex­plore their sur­round­ings.

As they wan­der around en­joy­ing the sum­mer weather, the sugar ants will be grow­ing their com­plex, in­vis­i­ble chem­i­cal trails all over your gar­den.

Be­cause of the large size of their colonies, pheromone trails are used by sugar ants to com­mu­ni­cate to each other.

It’s a good thing th­ese trails are in­vis­i­ble to hu­mans or you might be a lit­tle shocked at how many hun­dreds of ant high­ways there are in your gar­den and house!

Sugar ants are great lit­tle weather pre­dic­tors.

If you see hun­dreds of ants run­ning around the place in a frenzy, chances are they are try­ing to find some­where dry be­fore a storm, so it might be a good time to get your wash­ing off the line.

It’s a shame that when you look up sugar ants on the in­ter­net, most of the web­sites that ap­pear are for pest con­trol and tips on how to kill them.

Th­ese ants are harm­less, na­tive an­i­mals that play an im­por­tant role in our nat­u­ral food web.

It is bet­ter to find safe, non-toxic ways to deal with any trou­ble­some sugar ants.

Ants are the great vac­uum clean­ers of our nat­u­ral world.

With­out them we would have plenty of old food and dead in­sects ly­ing around. Plus ants help aer­ate our soils and bring seeds into their un­der­ground nests that help grow our forests.

Much like farm­ers tend­ing their live­stock, the sugar ants of­ten tend aphids, cater­pil­lars and other sap-feed­ing in­sects. They move th­ese in­sects to bet­ter ‘pas­tures’ and pro­tect them from preda­tors.

Some of our common noc­tur­nal sugar ants have even gone as far as bring­ing cater­pil­lars and other bugs into their nests dur­ing the day and then es­cort­ing them back out­side un­der the cover of dark­ness.

This is a mu­tu­ally ben­e­fi­cial ar­range­ment as the ants eat the ‘honeydew’ se­creted by the in­sects and, in turn, the in­sect gets the pro­tec­tion of the whole ant colony.

Some of Aus­tralia’s rare but­ter­flies ac­tu­ally rely on this help from the sugar ants to com­plete their life cy­cle.

Su­sanna Bradshaw

CEO Foun­da­tion for Na­tional Parks & Wildlife

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