By Dancersend

Ant pollinator

It was a fANTastic afternoon at the nature reserve. I was looking at a Twayblade Orchid and noticed an ant visiting the flowers to eat the nectar. On closer inspection I could see that it had two pollinia from one flower glued to its head. It didn't seem to like this and was constantly trying to remove them with its front legs. However, the orchid won - the glue stayed firm and its unwilling messenger-ant went on to pollinate other flowers. I wonder if ants are one of the main pollinators of Twayblades.

Shortly afterwards, I found a different species of ant (possibly Lasius flavus) farming a great flock of aphids on the stem of a thistle (see extra photo). The ants will tend and protect the aphids in order to exploit the aphids' ability to suck and process sap from the plant, allowing them to drink the honeydew that the aphids produce. Just like dairy-farming really!

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