Symbiotic Mutualism : Breaking the bond & relationship between the Ants & Mealybugs

in StemSocial2 months ago

Greetings all and Sundry. You are welcome to my blog again with some more stuff of our science studies. Today our studies would be centered around "symbiosis of mutualism, breaking the bond & relationship between the Ants & Mealybugs."

Mutualism is a type of symbiotic relationship where all species involved benefit from their interactions. Unlike the Commensalism symbiosis where only one specie from the relationship benefits while the other specie doesn't benefit. With the commensalism the other organism which doesn't derive any benefits isn't harmed. But the second bad symbiosis relationship is the "Amensalism" where one organism receive benefits while the other organism is affected or destroyed.


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Ants and Mealybugs offer a perfect example of mutual relationship where the ants benefit from the mealybugs while the mealybugs in turn also benefit from the ants. One would think that this is just a mere feeding relationship between the ants and mealybugs, but their location and the type of plants the host plants really matters to us.

Some of the vital plants that you may find these ants and mealybugs mutuality is citrus, cocoa, cola avocado, coffee trees and mangoes. These organisms are pests that can cause havoc to crop plants if they are allowed to feed on these host plants.

"The feeding relationship & mutual benefits......"

Take note, in most cases, where we find these ants, there are presence of mealybugs. That even give us evidence of mutual benefits or unique relationship between them.

The Ants provide tent ( shelter ) for the mealybugs, while the mealybugs in turn provide honeydew (sweet secrete substance from the mealybugs) for the ants.

Due to predator attacks, the mealybugs become safe when they are sheltered in the tents weaved by the ants. The ants are capable of calving the tents of which the mealybugs can't do it. I supposed this isn't for free, so the mealybugs should also pay the ants back by producing that sugary substance ( honeydew ). The ants love honeydews so much to the extent that they can't live without the mealybugs producing honeydews for them. Or one would say they use for other purposes of which is equally important for them.

photograph taken from orange tree with Ants & their tents

What the implications for all these relationship, why we are much concerned....?

Well, one would say that the mutual relationship isn't our problem, but the damage they render to our crops are our major problems here. The presence of mealybugs on crops like cocoa, citrus and coffee along with the production of honeydews leaves the crop plants with "Black sooty mold," one of the fungi disease which has symptoms of black and white patches on leaves and stems. When they grow excess they engulfed the whole area and the affected by of the plant may be damaged and unable to photosynthesize. One dangerous observable effect is the mealybugs suckling the juice from the phloem of the plant making the plants to shrink their vacuole and becoming less turgid. This can obviously make affected plants to wilt and grow stunted.

In cocoa seedling for Instance, the mealybugs suck the sap and cause their death. The affect pod becomes black and damage the cocoa beans.

The Ants do not have visible effects on the crop plants as far as this mutualistic relationship is concerned, just that they invite more and more mealybugs wherever they invade or go due to the fact that the ants provide them with shelter while the mealybugs produce honeydews for the ants.

Mealybugs morphology.....

Mealybugs have waxy covering coating making them resistance to stay on their environment. Due to this is chemical control is possible then you've to use very efficacious chemical to be able to penetrate that waxy coating. The nests or tents that are provided by the ants support them from their predators from seeing them. The ants too are very aggressive to the extent that they are capable of biting which one would say is their way of protection themselves ( irritability).

Breaking the mutual relationship/ control measures......

If we want to reduce the population of mealybugs because of their nature of causing a lot of havoc, then we should be ready to destroy every tent/nest weaved by ants. This is obviously very tedious work to carry out. I learnt that some farmers use fire to burn their tents which is also very dangerous in the sense that we can end up by burning our crops farms like cocoa or coffee.

One of the best way is to use recommended chemicals to spread the insects. Since both ants and mealybugs are insects, it's best to use insecticides like Dominion 2L which is effective for controlling mealybugs. Chupons of cocoa can regularly be removed as well as affected branches all should be pruned timely. In this case, we can reduce the population of mealybugs.

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So ants are enablers, you could say! They don't harm the plants themselves, but they enable the mealybugs who do.

Thanks for your comment and your correction. My pleasure!

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