Hello folks who were outraged when the headlines highlighted the poor working conditions at Amazon.com but you got distracted to grab a really good deal on the milk frother on Amazon.com before you could read the article,

What does an average human need in life?A few hundred Instagram likes, good internet speeds, a safe place to live, netflix account, In-N-Out Burgers, good deals on the Instant Pot Pressure cooker...you get the idea.
Aphids are insects who make a living by feeding off the phloem[1] in a plant. It does that without paying any subscription fees.
The problem with that is 
Lady beetles know where to find them and devour them since they are like sitting ducks eating their meals with their heads down.

So the primary needs for an aphid are food and protection. Below are a bunch of aphid union workers discussing how they are going to hire a professional security company to protect them.



So the aphids struck a deal with the ants to protect them and in return they will pay them for their services. Sounds reasonable?
This is where things take a dark turn. Since aphids consume so much sugar they discard most of it by pooping it out. This is where the ants come in and collect their service fees by scooping the aphid poop politely termed "Honeydew"[2].


Honeydew is a carbohydrate rich food that is used to feed the thousands of workers in the ant colony.
This may look like the aphids have the upper hand in the deal. What looks like a symbiotic relationship turns to highlight that the aphids might be the victims of abuse here.

Researchers found that 'Farmer' Ants who herd aphids will bite off the wings of aphids to keep them from getting away and will keep aphid eggs hostage so the new generation can't run away.

Below is a 
Winter Ant making sure the aphid workers do not form a union and keep pumping out the honeydew as fast as they can.



This can be the equivalent of a movie when you are running away from kidnappers only to be rescued by someone in a car. So you thank them and then ask them their name. "My Name Is Ted Bundy" said the driver.

Ants will stroke the aphids with their antennae to milk the aphids for the honeydew. The aphids in turn will raise their abdomen in the air and secrete the sugary substance which the ants will collect right away.

Below is a Winter ant stroking and collecting the honeydew from an aphid on a willow leaf.



You remember the numerous occasions when you went hiking on a trail only to come home to find that your socks are covered with burs. So now you spend the good part of your weekend sliding a fine-tooth comb trying to remove them.

The tiny bristles give them a good grip on the fibers on all cotton garments. Below is a bur stuck on my sock.



This happened to a Swiss Inventor named George de Mestral when hiking in the Alps. He was so annoyed at these burs that he looked at them under the microscope and was fascinated by the structure that allows the burs to stick so well.

He went on to use a similar hook-and-loop structure that became the basis for Velcro which is now used everywhere from binding messy cords to attaching tv remotes to side of the coffee table.

Below is how a velcro hook-and-loop structure looks like.



Additional notes:

1. For people not familiar with phloem, imagine it as a pipe that transports a sugar rich syrup(much like most Starbucks Frappuccinos) as a result of photosynthesis.

2. The Western Honey Bees filed a lawsuit alleging that using "honey" in Honeydew brings down the value of the services they provide to the society. The lawsuit was dismissed citing (b)(3) improper venue.

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