Some gardeners may be put off at the first sight of ants on their flowers. A new study indicates, however, that insects can be very effective at protecting crops from diseases. It even suggests that ant-derived antibiotics could be applied on a commercial scale.
Because ants live in colonies where they’re constantly in close contact with each other, there is a great potential for a disease to spread quickly among them. For this reason, ants secrete antibiotics from glands on their body. Aside from that, they also cultivate colonies of antibiotic-producing beneficial bacteria on their legs. These antibiotics can get transferred onto plants as the ants walk on them.
In a previous study, it was found that when wood ants moved into an apple orchard, there was a notable reduction in two bacterial plant diseases – namely scab and apple rot. Inspired by this finding, researchers from Denmark's Aarhus University looked through other scientific literature, uncovering evidence that ants may inhibit at least 14 such diseases. On average, throughout the various studies reviewed, the presence of ants reduced pathogen levels by 59 percent.
More details of the study over at New Atlas.
(Image Credit: wenthografie/ Pixabay)