Living reference work entry
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Ant-Hemiptera associations form when plant-feeding insects of the order Hemiptera provision ants (Formicidae) with food. Most commonly, hemipteran insects feed on plant phloem sap and excrete a sugar-rich waste product known as honeydew, which ants consume (Fig. 1). Diverse taxa within Hemiptera – commonly including members of the suborders Sternorrhyncha (e.g., aphids, coccoids, psyllids, and whiteflies) and Auchenorrhyncha (e.g., treehoppers, leafhoppers, and plant hoppers) – provide honeydew to ants and are also known as trophobionts. Although ants descended from predatory ancestors, species in several subfamilies – most prominently Formicinae, Dolichoderinae, and Myrmicinae – frequently visit hemipterans and make honeydew a substantial part of their diet. Ant-hemipteran associations range from obligate to facultative, and from mutually beneficial (+ +) to predatory (+ −).
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