Yes, they can. Insects are better known as
pollinators, but they can also move seeds. One of
the best examples is the many species of ants that
collect seeds for their own nests. Sometimes the
ant and its cargo don’t make it all the way home,
or the ant nest is wiped out before the ants eat
it, so the seeds still get to sprout in new
places. Some plants even produce seeds with
special fatty coating or parts that ants like.
The ants take the entire seed home, eat the
“treat,” and bury the seeds. There’s a picture of
an ant doing this at:
Why do you think the ants would invest in this
special coating that the ants eat?
When I was looking for the picture, I found out
that some Australian stick insects actually lay
eggs that look like seeds. Ants take them back to
the nest, eat the coating, and put the eggs in
their trash pile. When the stick insects hatch,
they look and act a lot like ants, so they don’t
get eaten. Wow! Thanks for asking, or I wouldn’t
have learned that.
If you are interested in interactions between
plants and animals, you may want to study ecology,
the relationships between living things.
Yes! Well, depending on the size of the seed - the
seed has to be small enough for an insect to carry
it, obviously. Ants are extremely important in
carrying seeds around of many small-seeded plants
(especially some grasses). There is a limit on how
far ants can take a seed, however, which does mean
that, to use an example from my research, a plant
that has to disperse a hundred kilometers to reach
the next mountain range cannot rely on ants to get
that far; it has to rely on birds or bats (or
wind, if the seeds are small enough, as they are
in the case of orchids). However insects and ants
in particular are hugely important for moving the
seeds of grasses that live underneath the trees in
forests in reaching patches of sunlight, and
probably for other plants as well.
Good question. We often think of insects as
having a negative impact on plants. In fact,
insects can benefit plants in many ways, including
pollination, eating other herbivorous insects and
spreading plant seeds. The most common instance I
can think of whereby insects spread seeds is with
ants. This is called "Myrmecochory."
Plants will produce seeds with a reward attached
to the seed. The ants collect these rewards and
move the seed into a more protected area. This
increases the chance of seed survival and
dispersal away from the parent plant.
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