1 Department of Bioscience - Plant and Insect Ecology, Department of Bioscience, Science and Technology, Aarhus University2 Department of Bioscience - Plant and Insect Ecology, Department of Bioscience, Science and Technology, Aarhus University
Weaver ants (Oecopgylla spp.) are increasingly being utilized as efficient biocontrol agents in a number of tropical tree crops, as they prey on pest insects and increase yields. However, recent studies and a review of the literature reveal that a number of other services may derive from the presence of these ants. First of all, the chemical footprint left by the high density of ants in managed host trees may results in additional benefits. (i) Ant deposits may lead to improved fruit quality, e.g. increased sugar content, (ii) ant deposits may deter important pests (chemical deterrence) from crops, and lastly, (iii) ant waste products deposited ias anal spots contain urea that may be taken up by plant leaves and in this way fertilize ant-plants. On top of chemical services, weaver ants have been shown to reduce plant disease incidence via competitive exclusion of other ant species because other species are more likely to form trophobioses with hompteran species that act as disease vectors. Lastly, weaver ants are edible and easy to harvest. They can be utilized for protein production and harvested in significant amounts at the same time as they are managing insect pests. In other words they convert pest insects into accessible and edible protein. In short, this review show that weaver ants in agriculture can increase crop yields, improve fruit quality, chemically deter pests, fertilize crops, reduce diseases, and produce protein for human and livestock consumption.