Weekly Series
Nature Weekly
Short Notes on Nature Singapore

6 April 2014 | Ants | Mealy Bugs | Macroptilium lathyroide (Cow Pea) |

photoRecently, I chanced upon a book on ants written by an entomologist, Mark W Moffett, titled "Adventures among Ants: A Global Safari with a Cast of Trillions" in the local library. It caught my attention because there was a chapter that talked about his stay in Singapore observing the Marauder Ant (or Asian Army Ant). The book focuses on 6 types of ants; 3 of them are available in Singapore, namely Marauder Ant, Weaver Ant and Argentine Ant.

photo photo For those of us who have roamed the wild places long enough would have experienced the bites from the Weaver ants many times, and maybe to a lesser extent from the Marauder Ant. While Marauder Ant keep its territory mainly to the ground, Weaver Ant can be found everywhere, especially above ground level on vegetation. As for Argentine Ant, it is a small and harmless fellow. Its bite if ever happen, does not cause any pain or harm to human being.

photo Although Argentine Ant seems harmless to human, it can indirectly cause considerable damage to plants due to its close relationship with the mealy bugs. This ant happens to colonize my balcony area and build its nests in the soil of my plant pots. One of the nest was constructed around the root of a legume, Macroptilium lathyroides (Cow Pea) in one of the pots. Cow pea is an easy going plant with beautiful red colour flowers and thrive well even in pot. Unfortunately, the plant was always overrun by mealy bugs which makes me hesitant to continue growing this plant. The main culprit that aids in the mealy bugs' expansion is the Argentine Ant. Although the mealy bugs can move around on their own, the ants probably accelerated their spread by carrying them around and at the same time, offer protection to the bugs against their predators.

The mealy bugs' first choice is the Cow Pea plant. After I removed all the infected Cow Pea plants, the mealy bugs started to attack other herbs located in the same pot, (Root Beer Plant and Horse Poison Plant). Finally, I had to move the entire pot away from the balcony as I am fighting a losing battle with the mealy bugs.

Update: 7 August 2015

The Argentine Ant (Linepithema humile) found at my balcony should in fact be a type of crazy ant (Nylanderia species).

To use any of the image(s), please read the conditions carefully. To correct any error, please contact me.