Montana's Huckleberry (Vaccinium globulare) Mystery: Pollinators, Pests, and Potential Threats
Ants (Family Formicidae)
Stark and Baker (1992) reported seeing ants maneuvering in and out of V. globulare flowers and alluded to the possibility of ants as pollinators. Ten percent of the insects observed visiting flowers in 2014-2015 were ants from the genera Formica, Camponotus, and Tetramorium. All of these genera are known to be scavengers or predators but also feed on nectar or honeydew and are commonly seen visiting flowers. While ants may be pollinators in certain specialized systems (Hickman 1974), the role of ants in pollination has been shown to be negligible, despite high frequency of flower visits (Chacoff and Aschero 2014). In fact, several studies have shown that ant flower visitors can actually disrupt pollination and fruit set (Ashman and King 2005, Dutton and Frederickson 2012).
Ant (Family Formicidae) on V. globulare flower. 47 ants from 3 genera (Formicidae, Camponotus, and Tetramorium) were collected from V. globulare flowers. Photo: T. T. Kelly.