Abstract 1 The rosy apple aphid, Dysaphis plantaginea, is the most serious pest of apple in Europe and, although conventionally controlled by insecticides, alternative management measures are being sought. Colonies of D. plantaginea are commonly attended by ants, yet the effects of this relationship have received little attention. 2 An ant exclusion study was conducted in two distant orchards within the U.K. At both sites, ants were excluded from a subset of D. plantaginea infested trees at the beginning of the season and populations were monitored. The number of natural enemies observed on trees was also recorded and, before harvest, the percentage of apples damaged by D. plantaginea calculated. 3 Overall, the exclusion of ants reduced the growth and eventual size of D. plantaginea populations. On trees accessed by ants, greater numbers of natural enemies were recorded, presumably because aphid populations were often greater on such trees. However, this increased natural enemy presence was diluted by the larger aphid populations such that individual aphids on ant-attended trees were subjected to a lower natural enemy pressure compared with those on ant-excluded trees. 4 At harvest, apple trees that had been accessed by ants bore a greater proportion of apples damaged by D. plantaginea. There were also differences in cultivar susceptibility to D. plantaginea damage. 5 The present study highlights the importance of the ant–D. plantaginea relationship and it ia suggested that ant manipulation, whether physically or by semiochemicals that disrupt the relationship, should be considered as a more prominent component in the development of future integrated pest management strategies.