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Many kinds of ants live in highly organized colonies in the soil, under rocks, and in tree cavities. Most types don’t eat plants, but instead cause trouble by driving away creatures that prey on or parasitize sap-feeding pests such as aphids, whiteflies, mealybugs, and soft scales. All these pests excrete honeydew, a sugary sap ants like to eat. A column of ants marching up and down a tree trunk usually indicates an infestation by sap feeders.
Fire ants, a major pest in the South, do feed on plants—as well as on other insects. They build hard mounds up to 2 feet tall and inflict painful stings when disturbed.
Don’t confuse ants with termites; ants are distinguished by their narrow waists and elbowed antennae.
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