Ants a threat to crop pollination, says study

Research conducted in farms in Kasaragod, Kannur

A team of researchers in the Central University of Kerala has found that flower-visiting ants can pose a threat to pollinators and pollination process in plants in the tropics.

Their report was published by the Nature group led by Dr. Sinu. He said that the world, as per the recent report of International Panel for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, was experiencing pollinator decline and thereby the yield of pollinator-dependent crops.

He cited several factors, including increased use of pesticides, honey bee colony collapse syndrome and diseases, decline of flowers, land use change, and invasive bees, responsible for the phenomenon.

Dr. Sinu and his team of researchers, Anjana Unni, Rajesh T.P., Prashanth Ballullaya U. and Dr. Sajad Mir of Sher-e-Kashmir University showed that the yield of pumpkin crop could go down due to ant colonisation in pumpkin flowers.

He said the study was conducted in small-scale agricultural farms of Kasaragod and Kannur districts.

He pointed out that irrespective of the origin of ant species, flowers, when occupied by ants, were deserted by bees. Those ventured to linger on or land on flowers were either chased by ants or preyed upon. However, this depends on the ant species and their numbers, he said.

Farmers should take utmost care to keep their farms clean to avoid ants in their farmlands. “We have restrictions for using pesticides, particularly in Kasaragod. Also, the pesticides that we use for targeting ants can also stop bees, so it must be avoided,” Dr. Sinu said.

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