Many people use cucumber peels as ant-repellents when there is a mild infestation at home because they do not like the scent of peels.
Can Ants Pollinate Cucumbers? Ants can pollinate cucumbers unintentionally, but commonly, they harm the reproductive organs of flowers while sucking nectar and deter or kill pollinating insects. They get nectar from extrafloral nectaries and do not reach pollens. Sticky pollens usually get removed while self-grooming. They lack wings to fly and cannot reach the flower corolla covered by dense hair.
Ants can be responsible for transferring pollens from one flower to another flower, but the rate of successful pollination is relatively low.
Do ants help in cucumber pollination?
Ants can function as unintentional pollinators, as they do not purposefully reach the floral parts of the plant intending to carry pollens and shift them to other plants.
They get attracted to plants for the pleasant odor of blooming flowers and sweet floral secretions that are highly nutritious for these tiny insects, as nectar is a rich source of sugar.
Accordingly, some pollen grains attach to their bodies due to their sticky nature when sucking sweet juice from nectaries.
They can transfer pollens to other flowers while moving from one plant to another and offer pollination services in return for the nectar.
Therefore, these insects are considered helpful in cucumber pollination because they are known to be drawn toward its flowers when they produce sweet secretions.
In addition, the presence of aphids on the stems and leaves can also make them come to the plant when these pollens can accidentally attach to their bodies and carry them away.
Furthermore, these insects are also involved in seed dispersal when they carry seeds to eat elaiosomes and throw the remaining part on the ground, which can germinate into a new plant.
However, they are not considered true pollinators as they are commonly attracted to aphids on the plant and stay away from cucumber plants due to the unpleasant odor of peels.
How do ants affect cucumber pollination?
Plants cannot rely completely on ants as pollinators because they cannot work like other true pollinating insects, including honeybees.
Moreover, they can also affect the natural pollinating processes of cucumbers by causing damage to their reproductive organs and killing the bees.
Remove pollens from bodies
Ants do not keep their bodies dirty and keep self-grooming themselves by cleaning their bodies using antimicrobial saliva. They remove dirt and debris particles from their bodies by licking.
Any particles attached to their tiny bodies seem unpleasant or irritating to them as they do not want to haul the pollens that are useless to them.
Accordingly, they remove sticky pollen grains from their exoskeleton by rubbing their bodies against hard surfaces or licking them with saliva.
Therefore, these can mistakenly carry pollens from the flower but leave them on the ground while grooming themselves after eating food to remove the food particles attached to their body.
Restricted access to flower corolla
They are considered nectar thieves and cause significant damage to the reproductive organs and flower petals while sucking sweet secretions.
Accordingly, some flowering plants are evolved to keep these damaging insects away from floral nectaries. They have developed dense hairy structures having sticky surfaces within a flower corolla.
These hairy structures do not allow tiny ants to sneak through the sticky barrier and reach the nectaries and pollens, resulting in limited access to flowers and decreased impact on pollination.
In addition, the ant-deterring volatile compounds are produced by pollens and even petals that help avoid these nuisance insects when they try to steal nectar.
Deter or kill pollinating insects
Ants do not allow other insects to get inside their territories and access food resources because they are territorial and possessive about their food resources and habitats.
They fight aggressively to keep predators or robbers at a distance when they detect threats in the surrounding. Honeybees are common pollinators of cucumbers and shift pollens to other plants.
In addition, honeybees also get attracted to aphids on the cucumber plants farmed by ants so that these insects can fight aggressively for a common food source.
Accordingly, the ants make every possible effort to keep these insects away from aphids and plants by deterring or killing them using stingers and mandibles.
Therefore, this deadly fight can lead to the death of honeybees, which can negatively affect the pollination rate of the plant.
Inability of worker ants to fly
The worker ants commonly reach cucumber plants to collect nectar in their bellies and return it to the nests to feed the inactive colony members.
These workers are wingless creatures and rely on their walking and climbing abilities to reach the floral parts from the stems.
Accordingly, they have to return to the ground surface from the flower and climb the stems of another plant to reach their flower and transfer pollens, which seems like a difficult job.
They cannot pollinate like winged honeybees that can fly between flowers of different plants in a short time. This risk of pollen falling off their bodies increases when they take more time.
So, there are rare chances for an ant to be involved in pollinating cucumber plants because they lack wings that can help fly and reach female reproductive flowers in no time.
Presence of extrafloral nectaries
Cucumber plants have extrafloral nectaries, which means ants do not have to enter the flower to consume sweet secretions produced by the nectaries.
These insects are supposed to gather pollen grains while visiting the internal part of the flowers in search of nectar when the nectaries are present in the internal regions.
However, they can enjoy sweet and energy-rich juice by sucking the material from the outer surface of the flower. It reduces the chances of contact with pollen grains and pollination accordingly.
Ants affect the reproductive organs of flowers
Ants have larger mandibles or teeth that can cause damage to pollen’s integrity as these tiny grains can get crushed by their teeth. They can also chew stamens or pistils while sucking nectars.
Accordingly, they affect the reproductive organs of flowers, making them infertile or lose the ability to produce pollens and fertilize eggs with them.
Can ants cause damage to cucumber plants?
Ants are not commonly involved in pollinating cucumber plants as red ants are pretty aggressive against flying insects, like honeybees and butterflies.
They are responsible for causing significant damage to the cucumber plant by tending aphids for growth. The aphids suck sap from the stem and make plants devoid of nutrients.
Moreover, it results in slower growth and wilting of leaves because they cannot get the required nutrients for development. You have to get rid of these nuisance pests to keep plants healthy.
Use natural repelling aromatic oil sprays like peppermint oil that have a strong scent and seem unpleasant to their olfactory receptors.
In addition, you can also use neem oil to make an insecticidal spraying solution, as it brings a negative impact on their eating and reproductive potential.
Furthermore, spreading diatomaceous earth and boric acid to make a boundary around the plant can keep them away because these powders can cause dehydration or digestive problems.