Tiny plants and tiny ants

I like things that get overlooked, and so I have taken a particular liking to the colony of tiny yellow ants (probably Temnothorax?) in my garden. They’re seriously small (2-4mm) and do tiny ant things.

The plant you see here is one of the smallest flowering plants I know to exist in my garden (which doesn’t mean a lot, my garden is a mess and I’m myopic). It’s about as tall as an oreo. Or maybe two oreos stacked on top of each other. A perfect pollen and nectar buffet!

Lasius flavus feeding on plant
Ants feeding on plant
Lasius flavus feeding on plant
Ants feeding on plant

Although in this case, the plant probably does benefit from pollination through these ants, it’s not all that common. Ants aren’t like their hectic relatives, the bees, they don’t really carry pollen from one plant to the other. They’re also quite effective thieves, biting through the bottom of the flower to get at the nectar without passing the plant’s reproductive organs first. Not fair! Pollination by ants has been known for orchids and in extreme habitats where bees are scarce.

Ants are welcome as bodyguards though. Some plants have nectar-producing glands along their stem to encourage ants to come up and have a drink – and reduce the number of insects feeding off the plant’s leaves along the way.  And some species have developed oily seeds that ants love. When ants harvest those, they spread the seeds.

Here, though, it’s just two tiny yellow ants having a snack.

 

Tech notes: Canon 5DIII, Canon MP-E 65/2.8, Canon twin flash. No tripod, but a soft red blanket for my knees. Getting old, I am.

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