Ant and treehopper

Title Info
Common name Ant; Treehopper
Scientific name Myrmica rubra; Membracidae
Taxonomic group Formicidae; Homoptera
Source Dan L. Perlman
Ecological interactions Mutualism
Mutualism Ants and Homopterans
Behavior Communication
Organisms Animals
Animals Insects
Lessons Mutualisms
Date June 1991
Location Newton,Massachusetts,USA,North America

Ant receiving honeydew from treehopper, Massachusetts. Many species of ants tend insects in the order Homoptera, including aphids and their relatives such as this treehopper. Homopterans (which include aphids, cicadas, scale insects, and treehoppers) have sucking mouthparts and drink plant sap, which is rich in sugars but has relatively few amino acids. In order to get enough amino acids, the Homopterans drink prodigious quantities of sap, absorbing the amino acids and a little of the sugar. Most of the volume of the sap passes through their digestive system and gets excreted as a sugary liquid known as honeydew. Homopterans that are tended by ants typically retain this liquid until an ant taps their hindquarters with her antennae, after which the Homopteran releases the honeydew, as in this image.