In the United States, the soybean aphid, Aphis glycines Matsumura (Hemiptera: Aphididae), are often tended by the aphid-tending ant, Lasius neoniger Emery (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). In this study, we examined the effects of tending by ants on the density and biomass of soybean aphids on soybeans in Kentucky. We performed cage studies that limited access by ants and/or natural enemies. We used a split-plot design with natural enemy access as the main plot and ant attendance as the sub plot. We found that natural enemy access negatively affected aphid population density in the presence of tending ants, seen as a three- to four-fold increase in aphid density when natural enemies were excluded. In addition, we found that ant tending positively affected aphid biomass, both when natural enemies were given access to aphids or when natural enemies were excluded, seen by a two-fold increase in aphid biomass when ants tended aphids, both in the presence or absence of natural enemies. Biomass accumulation is seen as an important measurement for assessing aphid performance, and we argue that aphid-tending by ants can have an influence on natural field populations of soybean aphids. Agronomic practices that affect ant abundance in soybeans may influence the performance and hence pest outbreaks for this economically important pest.
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