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Honeypots and Cows – It’s all about Insects!ant

Have you ever eaten an insect?
It is virtually impossible that you have not done so. It probably did you no harm, perhaps even did you some good by providing extra protein in your meal! So, under what circumstances are you likely to have eaten insects without realizing it? Flour beetles, weevils, and other insect pests that infest granaries are milled along with the grain to produce flour. Small grubs and other tiny insects are found in fruits and vegetables. Insects are not uncommon in canned and other types of processed food.

Sometimes insects are sought out as part of a regular diet. Certain types of ants were a valued food that provided a source of sugar for the aboriginal people of central Australia. Worker ants of this type gather ‘honeydew’, a sugary secretion, from scale insects and psyllids (related to aphids), and feed it to other workers, which function as nectar ‘storage vessels’ with their greatly enlarged abdomens. The storage ants, kept safe in deep underground galleries of the ant colony, regurgitate nectar for other members of the colony. Australian aborigines would dig into the nests to get to this tasty source of sweetness.

Scale Insects, psyllids, and aphids, feed on garden plants by sucking their sugar-rich sap. The insects cannot metabolize all the sugar and secrete the extra as honeydew, which drips onto the leaves and stems of the plants they are feeding on. The syrupy honeydew attracts flies, wasps and ants. Some species of ants are so addicted to this sweet food that they protect aphids from predators and move them to new plants if the ones they are on start to wilt. Some ants even build small shelters over aphid species that feed near the base of a plant.

The Stumper Questions:
1. Which of the insects mentioned, the ants or aphids, is called ‘Honeypot’ and which is called ‘Cow’?

2. Aphids are garden pests. Lady beetles and lacewings eat aphids but not fast enough! What plants repel aphids?

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