Ants can reduce pests on a level on par with pesticides, says a new study from Brazil.

Researchers looked at 52 studies on 17 different crops. The crops included citrus, mango, soya cauliflower, cotton, and sweet potatoes, grown in countries including the US, the UK, Brazil, and Australia. Ants were found to be efficient at keeping a range of pests at bay. The more diverse the ant population was, the more pests they controlled.

Ants also seem to like shaded areas and plant diversity – meaning farmers can implement multiple sustainable practices in one go (planting more diverse crops instead of monoculture and using ants as biological pest control). In shaded areas, ants decreased the abundance of pests by twice as much.

Biological pest control is usually better for the environment. It’s not only cheaper, it’s also better against soil erosion.

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