Sunday, October 7, 2007

Photosophize Discovery - Farming Ants at HDB

Caution: Following pictures might cause discomfort and allergy to those very sensitive one.

The Begining

Few years back, I discovered a very small white insect-like living thing (no bigger than a pin head) on a longan fruit. I had wanted to throw it away, but on second thought took pity on it, decided to let it live on my pomegranate plant. It was the start of the problem.


I had totally forgotten about it, until one day when pruning my plant, I saw this very prominent, white, fluffy thing moving on the stalk. It was about the size of a soy bean. I thought my eyes were playing tricks on me as it stop moving when I poked it. It looked just like some cotton butt that happen to stick on the plant. I removed it with a stick and with a closer look, discover it is a living thing (not sure if we should use the term insect to describe it).

The white fluffy living have several stages. The "baby" is orange is color, is no bigger than sesame seed and has no white covering. The "adult" is about the size of soy bean at most and has a very thick white fluffy covering.

Disease Begins

Ever since the discovery that one white fluffy living thing, more appeared. In matters of weeks, they invaded my plant. Just like parasites, they suck on the plant sap to live. My bushy plant turn almost bald in weeks and appeared very unhealthy when infested with them.

Getting rid of them is no fun and is like playing hide and seek. You need to have very sharp eyes to spot them. They love shades and often hide in the shaddy side of the plant. Not knowing what they were and how to get rid of them, I used to scrape them off the bark. The photo below is my neighbour's plant. They are affected too.

This is pomegranate plant, not the new year plant - 银柳.

Then one day, at NTUC's plant section, I found a familar picture of the living thing and a solution. Those white things were plant mites ! To get rid of them, one should spray some oil based pesticide to kill them. I didn't buy the pesticide (afraid of poisoning myself too), but instead mixed some cooking oil with water and spray on the plant. Not sure if I had scrap them to extinction or the solution worked, I have not seen those mites on my plant for a while.

Anyway, the mites came back later as I was too busy to tend the plant. I have since thrown it away.

See how they clutter together and suck up the sap of the plant. It weaken them.

See how bad the infestion is. Funny thing is that my neighbour doesn't seem to notice it. He watered the plant every day without fail, but never done anything to remove them.


Recently, I discovered something new about the mites. Not that I have nothing to do, but I just happened to spot the strange behaviour. People nowadays just do not bother to observe their surroundings.

The mites are back at full force with some help from the unexpected - Ants ! These strange black ants (they are not the normal black sugar ants) appears to be protecting them. You can see them crawing onto the white mites, but they didn't really harm it. In fact, they appears to be helping them to spread. Ants are acting like farmers rearing those mites like cattles.

These white mites are turning a bit yellow. It seems like they are emitting some liquid which dyed their white coat yellow. The ants might be feeding on the liquid that the mites emittes ! Not only that, the mites used to infest the pomegranate plant only. Now I see a bit of them on my pandan, thai basil and lime plants...

I learnt my lesson. Mother Nature's evolution speed is scary. Never tempt with it. Hai~~ 真的是好心做坏事。。。


日光。玉 said...

The ants are there because of the liquid on the mite. It's sweet because it's plant sap, and the ants harvest them like honey. =)

Photosophize said...

Yes, Discovery Channel have shown ants with farming skills before. The leaf cutter ants, for example, cut leaves to cultivate fungus for food. I am surprise as they are so upclose outside my house. Nature is amazing.