Ants are good biological pest control for crops
Ants are good biological pest control for crops since they decrease the abundance of non-honeydew-producing pests, decrease plant damage and increase crop yield
Finding biological pest controls for crops is fundamental to minimize the environmental impact of traditional agriculture. In this paper the authors perform a meta-analysis, the first of its kind in ants, to investigate the contribution of ants to biological control, considering their effects on pest and natural enemy abundance, plant damage and crop yield. The authors found from their meat-analysis that ants are good biological pest control for crops since they decrease the abundance of non-honeydew-producing pests, decrease plant damage and increase crop yield.
Overall, the authors found that the services given by ants to the crops outweighed the disservices. Ants decreased the abundance of non-honeydew-producing pests, decrease plant damage and increase crop yield (services). Nevertheless, ants decreased the abundance of natural enemies, mainly the generalist ones, and increase honeydew-producing pest abundance since many species of ants have mutualistic interactions with this species (disservices). The authors found that the benefit given by ants to crops is higher in shaded crops (e.g., fruits and vegetables) compared to monocultures. Ants in shaded crops can improve pest management and increase crop yield, as well as increase biodiversity in the system.
The author conclude that ants can be a low-cost solution for pest control, sometimes even more efficient than traditional pesticides, specially is shaded crops, and can increase crop yield over time.
Paper: The effects of ants on pest control: a meta-analysis by Diego V. Anjos, Alejandro Tena, Arleu Barbosa Viana-Junior, Raquel L. Carvalho, Helena Torezan-Silingardi, Kleber Del-Claro and Ivette Perfecto, Proceedings of the Royal Society B