As global population rises and finite resources dwindle, farmers need new, more sustainable ways to control pests. Now, ecologists have found a safe, sustainable and cost-effective new pest control. But rather than a high-tech compound or genetic technology, it’s a tiny, low-tech organism: the ant.
Published today in the British Ecological Society‘s Journal of Applied Ecology, a review of more than 70 scientific studies provides evidence that on many crops from cocoa and citrus to palm oil and cedar, ants can control pests as efficiently – and more cheaply than – chemicals.
The review was conducted by Aarhus University‘s Dr Joachim Offenberg, an ecologist who has studied ants for almost 20 years. It includes studies of more than 50 pest species on nine crops across eight countries in Africa, south-east Asia and Australia.
Ants live on every continent except Antarctica and are the world’s most successful group of terrestrial animals. Although tiny in size compared with humans, their numbers are vast; some estimates suggest the mass of all ants on Earth is similar to that of humans.