Last updated on October 23rd, 2023 at 08:51 pm
The aphid has a special relationship with the ant and amazingly, the aphid is also able to produce a kind of honey itself. But how exactly can the aphid produce honey and is it better than the honey of bees?
How the aphid makes honey and what it is useful for in nature will be explained in the following article.
Popular question in crossword puzzles
Even if it seems a bit far-fetched, but the question about the honey of the aphid is a popular question in crossword puzzles. So if you come across this question again soon, then you don’t have to hesitate anymore, you can simply answer “Honeydew”.
Strictly speaking, honeydew describes not only the honey of the aphid, but also of the scale insects and aphids. However, the honey of the aphid is best known under the term honeydew.
However, if honeydew is not the term you are looking for, you could also ask about melt dew. Honeydew and meltoid are often used synonymously.
However, mildew should not be confused with powdery mildew. While the former describes honey, powdery mildew is a disease caused by a fungus on plants.
Incidentally, the term honeydew derives from the initially rather clear coloration. Since the honeydew often appears on trees and branches, it could often happen that it dripped down from there. The form reminded in dried condition of a drop.
How is the honey of the aphid produced
It is well known that bees are capable of producing honey. That these insects are so industrious that so much honey is produced that humans can use this honey is impressive.
But how can a small aphid produce honey now?
Aphids belong to the group of beaked insects. This term covers all insects that suck on plants to feed on their sap.
The small aphid is no exception. It penetrates the plant with its proboscis. There, the sap is under such high pressure that it does not actually have to suck on the plant. It can simply take up the sap with its proboscis.
The sap is very rich in sugar. For the aphid, however, it is not the sugar that is important, but rather the amino acids in the sap. However, the sap consists of only a very small proportion of amino acids.
In order to satisfy its needs, the aphid must therefore ingest a very large quantity of the sap. This means that a large amount of the sugar is also ingested.
However, this sugar is not completely digested. A large part is simply excreted again by the aphid.
These excretions now constitute the honeydew.
Honeydew is the undigested sugary excretions of the aphid.
For a long time, however, people were not even aware that honeydew is an excretion of the aphid. It was not until the 17th century that this knowledge was gained. Honeydew was known and enjoyed by people before that, but the fact that it was excrement of the aphid was a rather unpleasant surprise.
Composition of the honeydew
The basis of the honeydew are the plant juices, from which the aphid gets your energy. But how exactly is the honeydew composed now?
That honey can be obtained directly from the plant seems at first glance somewhat unusual. However, the honeydew is nothing more than the undigested sugar.
Therefore the honeydew consists almost exclusively of sugar. The fructose is represented most frequently. It is followed by glucose and melecitose. However, the exact composition depends on the plant, although the composition of the honeydew is always almost exclusively composed of different types of sugar.
It is also interesting to note that honeydew has components that can be harmful to bees. These toxic substances can cause the bees to become black-eyed.
The name comes from the fact that the bees’ hair falls out, revealing the now black body underneath. However, the disease is not contagious.
In addition to abundant sugar, honeydew contains other components that, in small quantities, are said to have a positive effect on the body.
These include various vitamins and enzymes.
Honeydew is also very tasty and is considered a true delicacy by many honey lovers. He stands out in the taste and from the appearance nevertheless from the conventional honey strongly.
The honey of the aphid as food for other insects
However, the honeydew is not only a delicious food for humans. Other animals also feed on these very sugary excretions.
If you have aphids in your garden and they can make their mischief there for a long time, then you will probably also get a visit from ants in no time.
This is because the honey of the aphid also serves as food for the ants. Ants are generally focused on very sugary foods when looking for food. Therefore, no open sweets should be left around and soft drinks should not linger open near ants.
Even the smallest spill can attract the entire ant colony. Thus you have relatively fast the problem that an ant street can develop and these make themselves henceforth on the way, in order to reach the sweets.
But the honeydew is also a welcome food source for other insects. These include, above all, bipeds and hymenoptera.
However, if no insects help themselves to the honeydew, it is colonized by sooty mold fungi. These fungi are not directly harmful to the plants, but an area-wide infestation by the fungus negatively affects the photosynthesis of the plants.
The relationship of ants and aphids
So the fact that ants are into everything sweet should no longer be a secret. But the ant is also a very intelligent animal and able to build complex societies.
Within this society there is apparently also enough space to keep the aphids as animals. The relationship is similar to the relationship of the dairy cow to the human being.
Whereby in the case of the aphids the relationship is also an advantage. For example, the ants defend the aphids from possible predators and even often give them their own home in the ant colony.
So, if you try to drive the aphids away with home remedies, it is quite possible that the ants will try to protect the aphids.
When the ants are hungry, they approach the aphids whereupon the aphids secrete honeydew. In this way, the ants can have a very easy source of food without having to travel long distances.
Since both sides profit from this relationship, it is also called a symbiosis.
The ants are useful in the fight against ladybugs and other insects that might attack the aphid colony.
The relationship even goes so far that the ants transport the larvae to softer leaves. There, the larvae can better penetrate the plants and develop into adult aphids.
The forest honey
Ants are not the only ones who benefit from honeydew. The excretions of the aphids are also very popular with bees. These do not always take only flower nectar, but can also process the honeydew.
Forest honey is a very special natural product. As such, forest honey always tastes different and appears in numerous variations. This depends, on the one hand, on the animals that produce the honeydew and, on the other hand, on the plants from which the honeydew was obtained.
The insects can also tap several plants in order to extract their sap. This means that the honeydew is always a very individual mixture. Thus also the forest honey is always different.
But what is the difference between this and conventional bee honey?
The forest honey has a rather darker color. While normal flower honey is relatively yellow, the forest honey is already slightly brownish. The taste is described as very intense and tart.
Whether for sweetening tea, or other dishes, or as a spread – the forest honey can be used very versatile. One advantage is the lower glucose content. Thus, the forest honey remains supple longer and can be used as a spread.
In addition, the forest honey is also said to have a healing effect. The essential oils that are part of the forest honey are said to work wonderfully as a preventative against an approaching cold.
Damage due to honeydew
Aphids in themselves can damage plants by their high number so that they are no longer able to repair the damage independently. They are literally deprived of lifeblood by the aphids. Therefore, aphids should be combated if they are found on plants.
However, honeydew can also turn out to be a rather annoying waste product of the aphid. The honeydew can sit not only on small plants, but also on trees.
In cities, the honeydew can become liquid again in the summer when temperatures are warmer and drip down onto automobiles. Linden and maple trees in cities are particularly affected. This is where most of the aphids are found.
For the car paint the honey of the aphid represents a high danger. The honeydew is the ideal breeding ground for fungi, which can then attack the paint. To prevent long-term damage, the car should be driven out of the sun and the honeydew removed immediately.
However, a trip through the car wash is not always sufficient for this. Honeydew is quite stubborn and therefore it is best to clean the affected areas manually. This is the only way to ensure that no permanent damage is caused by the honeydew.
A preventive treatment of the paint with hard wax can also help to make the paint a little more resistant. This way, the honeydew cannot penetrate the paint as quickly and damage it.
To prevent the garden furniture from being damaged by the honey of the aphid, it should not be placed under lime trees. After a short time, the honeydew here can cause permanent discoloration.