(LONDON GUARDIAN) Britain has a new farmed animal, which is kept in barns, milked and moved between high and low pastures – but not by humans.
The pale giant oak aphid, Stomaphis wojciechowskii, has lived undiscovered for thousands of years on English oak trees, where it has been looked after by brown ants.
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In return for plentiful supplies of honeydew – the sugary water excreted by the aphid – the ants herd the aphids, keeping them safe in “barns” they build on tree trunks from mosses, lichens and the exoskeletons of beetles.
“It’s beautifully complex,” said Matt Shardlow, the chief executive of Buglife. “It is farming – they are milking the animals, moving them from high to low pastures and building shelters for them when there’s not enough protection.”