We just got extremely excited about this and want to share.
While we are working in the field, we also spend a good amount of time inspecting little critters and watching birds, admiring nitrogen nodules and thanking earth worms. This evening, we noticed aphids on several of the dandelion roots we excavated, and always with the aphids were one or two brilliant golden ants. Rad. The sun was lowering in the sky, the plums along the north line were blooming sweetly, and every now and again there was a very distinct smell of lemons. Lemons? I pointed it out. Jeremy confirmed it. Weird. Keep working, it’s still light, lots of work to do. And then we pieced it together: the lemon smell was coming from the dandelion roots… with aphids… with ants. So we speculated back and forth, and then went in and Googled.
THIS IS SO COOL.
These little golden ants are lemon-scented ants (some sites call them “citronella ants”, I prefer “magical shimmery golden lemon meringue ants”). They collect and eat honeydew from aphids that feed off of dandelion roots. Honeydew is a lovely term for plant nutrients and sugars excreted by aphids. The ants’ lemon scent is an irritant to predators and a warning to their friend-ants that something is amok.So these magical golden lemon meringue ants are little dairy farmers, tending herds of aphids on the roots of dandelions (which are in and of themselves crazy fantastic magical, dynamic accumulating, tap-rooted, bee-feeding, photo-sensitive, wish granting plants). The ants drink honeydew, they glimmer like sunshine, and they smell as sweet as a lemon tree. This is the stuff of fairy tales. Only it’s real. And in our soil.This is a pretty crap image of one of these (elusive) magical shimmery golden lemon meringue ants. Can you see her? She was not interested in having her photo taken. She looks orange. I swear, she’s really golden. And shimmery. And she smells like lemons. Lemons! Jeremy’s hands are, in fact, that dirty.
¡Viva la hormiga! and magical shimmery love, t
2 thoughts on “lemon meringue and honeydew”
I was just reading The Hidden Life of Trees (really good), and he was talking about ants being aphid farmers. They even stroke the aphids with their antennae to make them excrete more for them to eat. But he didn’t mention golden lemon meringue ants! Wow! So interesting.
Peace and Love,
Oh neat, Mary! I’m adding this to my reading list. Sending you and Bill big smiles and lemon-scented hugs – I hope the ants at your place are busy making magic too (; love, Trish