Credit: Zoonar GMBH / Alamy Stock Photo
What do southern wood ants eat?
Southern wood ants are carnivorous and will actively hunt other insects and invertebrates such as caterpillars and spiders. However, their main source of food is honeydew, a sugary substance that is secreted by aphids (small insects that feed on plant sap).
To access this food source, wood ants have developed an unusual relationship with aphids. Ants will ‘tend’ to the smaller insects, stroking their abdomen with their antennae. This stimulates the secretion of honeydew. The aphids benefit from this relationship as the presence of the ants deters attacks from other predators.
Wood ants will climb trees to reach aphids. Juniper, Scots pine, sycamore, birch and oak are all important host species for the small insects.