Bees In Trees

Bee hives

Ethiopian Beekeepers hang hives in trees to avoid driver ant attack.
Image: From Adgaba and colleagues

Driver ants of tropical African travel in large swarms, eating all creatures that cross their path. They prey on many pest insects significantly reducing pest population. However, driver ants do not distinguish pest from beneficial. Driver ants routinely attack and destroy colonies of honey bees. What is a beekeeper to do?

Beekeepers in Ethiopia will hang their bee colonies in trees in areas with driver ants. The best trees are the ones that house another species of ant, Crematogaster chiarinii. Crematogaster chiarinii are much smaller than the driver ants, but defend their territory aggressively. They are quicker than the army ants and work as a team to hold and kill the larger enemies. Interactions between driver ants and Crematogaster chiarinii often result in significant numbers of dead driver ants and a retreat of the swarm from guarded area. Their aggressive defense of their tree protects the bees. Despite its aggression toward driver ants, Crematogaster chiarinii does not attack the bees.

Nuru Adgaba, Awraris G. Shenkute, Ahmed A. Al-Ghamdi, Amenay Assefa, Mohammad J. Ansari, Brian Taylor and Sarah Radloff. 2014. Crematogaster chiarinii ants as a potential biological control agent for protecting honeybee colonies from attack by Dorylus quadratus driver ants in Ethiopia. Agricultural and Forest Entomology. 16, 302–313
DOI: 10.1111/afe.12060

About jjneal

Jonathan Neal is an Associate Professor of Entomology at Purdue University and author of the textbook, Living With Insects (2010). This blog is a forum to communicate about the intersection of insects with people and policy. This is a personal blog. The opinions and materials posted here are those of the author and are in no way connected with those of my employer.
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One Response to Bees In Trees

  1. anastaciast says:

    You read my mind. I had been trying to think of the ants that consume everything in their path. I read a novel about a White missionary family that went to Africa. It was a very disturbing novel, but, be that as it may, one of the terrifying scenes was the appearance of a moving swarm of Driver Ants. I believe in the book they ate everything except the kitchen sink.

    It is fascinating that the bees are protected by the chiarinii. What do they eat?

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