Ants and leafhoppers

by Patrick Kavanagh

As the season of flowering finishes, the abundance of pollinating insects is replaced by the many that draw on the sap of plants in our garden. I recently found the nymphs of a species of Leafhopper that I’ve not noticed at our place at Strangways before. These tiny mostly black wonders were on a Grey Box sapling and were being tended by a number of different ant species. The first that I noticed were tended by a single Golden-flumed Sugar Ant, which was quite keen to protect her charges from the large intruder with a camera. Others had a retinue of smaller ant species and it was clear to see that the ants were getting a reward of nectar secreted from the nymphs rear end. The next evening, I found a plethora of ants with many of the nymphs in the process of moulting. The careful attention continued the next night with the nymphs at the next instar.


Ants with leafhopper nymphs, Strangways, 29th January 2017













8 responses to “Ants and leafhoppers

  1. Great observations and photos Patrick – thankyou!

  2. Wow! Amazing. Talking about micro-management. Glad I am not a leaf hopper nymph – what do they get out of it? Safety/projection? Mobility?

    • Patrick Kavanagh

      Thanks all. The leafhoppers get some security guards. Only the Golden-flumed Sugar Ant (3&4) seemed to get defensive when I got close. The other ant species all seemed very focused on their charges but indifferent to the big animal interested in them.

  3. Picture 5 just needed a Barry White soundtrack.

  4. Hi Chris you may be interested in a wonderful book I came across
    in a secondhand bookshop, called Insect Wonders of Australia by Keith C. McKeown published in 1944. The author was an entomologist at the Australian Museum.
    Chapter 3 is entitled Ant Pastoralists and Dairymen!
    This book is a treasure trove of observation eloquence and
    sensitivity towards nature, it awakened me to the wonders.


  5. Fantastic photos. Great that its highlighting associations. I’m interested in ant particularly Myrmecia. Peter M
    PS I would love to talk to you about your camera gear!

    • Patrick Kavanagh

      Thanks Peter. I use a Canon 7D Mark II and these shots were taken with 2 lenses. The wider ones were with a Canon 100mm F2.8 macro and the closer ones with the wonderful Canon MP-E65. I used to use a ring flash, but at the moment I’m using a Canon 430 EXIII flash with a big home-made diffuser box which directs the light from around the lens. It gives a much gentler light than the ring flash,

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