Nitrogen, which is contained in the ant’s feces, use trees to his advantage.

Ants-tailors. (Photo By Troup Dresser /

The leaf of the coffee tree ants-tailors, and ant feces. (Photo: Joachim Offenberg / Aarhus University.)”

The ants come into the trees in search of sweet juice, which is extracted the leaves and young shoots. Along the way, they find a lot of insects, including many of those which the tree would be glad to get rid of.

In the end, between the ants and the trees formed a mutually beneficial cooperation was so profitable, that some tropical ants (e.g., ants-tailors) never descend to the ground, moving from a single woody crown to another, from Bush to Bush. On one tree it is possible to count up to 60 000 ants.

But the removal of pests is not the only benefit that we can get a tree. The ants living on it, leaving the results of vital activity, that is excrement, and ant feces are additional benefits of trees .

Researchers from Aarhus University set up an experiment with a few coffee trees and the ants-tailors – on some trees the ants were, some they were not. Trees separated the water, but between some of them staged the hanging bridges, so that the ants could move from one tree to another and in order for their movements to be easy to follow. The ants were given food with labeled amino acid glycine – nitrogen atom in the glycine was in the form of the isotope 15N.

In an article in the Journal of Ecology says that the trees were ants, there were more of nitrogen, moreover, the “ant” tree crown was more elaborate than trees devoid of ants. As we know, plants grow best in nitrogen fertilizers, and in this case such fertilizers have become the excrement of ants.

Some of the leaves on the trees with ants wrapped in a special shell that insects could not leave them their waste products, but the labeled nitrogen was found in these leaves, too – that is the ant’s waste was spread throughout the tree.

Turns out, ants will not just relieve the tree from pests – eating pest and digest it, the ant shares with the tree of organic nitrogen. Because pests usually love young parts of plants, and the ants are going, too, on young shoots, leaves and growing fruits and young parts grow fast and they need a lot of nitrogen, formic fertilizers have here is very helpful.

However, it is unclear whether all trees receive such additional benefits, or just those that like coffee trees, provide shelter to whole colonies.