Are Ants Beneficial For Anything?
You might stomp them, spray them, or leave bait stations, or traps, to kill them but that doesn’t change one fact: ants are among the most important animals on earth and life as we know it would not exist without them. And only several dozen species of ants are considered pests. Scientists have named over 12,000 species, with two to three times more species yet to be discovered. So what good are all those trillions of ants anyway?
Despite their numbers, all ants belong to a single family, Formicidae, and share similar qualities. Whether they live in Tierra Del Fuego, Fairbanks, Alaska, or the Sahara Desert, ants keep the environment healthy. They move countless tons of dirt on a daily basis which aerates and mixes the soil to enhance water infiltration. Their vast underground tunnels allow organic materials to circulate from the surface to below ground. And ants are also nature’s premier recyclers, incorporating organic plant and animal matter into the earth. This activity adds nutrients to the soil which helps innumerable species up the food chain to survive and thrive.
Like bees, ants spread pollen from plant to plant. And like Anty Appleseed, they disperse the seeds of numerous plants, moving them from the parent plant to new ground. About 50% of the world’s herbaceous plants depend upon ants to assist in this task. In turn, the plants provide protection, food and nest sites for the ants.
Anyone who has seen ants swarming over a cockroach knows that the little fighters are fearsome predators. Ants attack in numbers and kill prey much larger than themselves. Even the hated fire ant can be beneficial because the little reddish devils eat just about anything including ticks, mites, termites, chiggers, boll weevils, rodents, and other pests. It might be small consolation if fire ants are swarming up your leg, but you probably won’t have any boll weevils in your yard.