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Check out this new record, Stridulation Amplified: compositions with the stridulatory organ of Atta cephalotes by Kuai Shen.

These recordings are for sale and they would make a great present for an ant lover (hint, hint).  You'd better hurry, however,  because the run is limited to 100 vinyl records, signed by the artist.

Want to know more about ant stridulation? Check out our previous posts.

1. Ants:  No Longer the Silent Types

2. More links to ant stridulation

(Note: In case you are curious, I have no affiliation with Kuai Shen. I just think this is cool. Thanks to Andy for the heads up.)

We all know kids can be wild about ants, too. If that's the case, they might be interested in a new picture book I found at the library yesterday, Just Like Us! Ants by Bridget Heos and illustrated by David Clark.

 

The book is set up as a series of two-page spreads on different topics such as "Sister Cities" and "Bug Eat Bug Job." You might not be able to see from the image of the cover above, but each spread features a photograph or two of real ants (photographs by Alex Wild) surrounded by cartoons.

Although the cartoon illustrations may make it look like this isn't a serious book, don't be fooled. Serious facts and concepts are discussed, but in a lighthearted way that will attract the most reluctant of readers. Throughout the author compares what ants can do to what humans do, making them more relatable.

What I like is it is not simply a rehash of older books. The author reveals recent scientific discoveries, such as how bigheaded ant larvae process food for the colony or how fire ants build rafts to float on water. That's nice to see.

If you know a lot about ants, you might quibble about the wording here and there. For example, "all ants in the colony come from one mother" might make you pause if you know about polygyny. However, by and large it is a case of keeping things simple enough for children to grasp readily and it works overall.

Just Like Us! Ants gives an up close and personal look at how ants do things that are remarkably similar to the way humans do, and it is an accurate and informative introduction to the world of ants that is perfect for young readers. Check out a copy today.

Looking for more children's books about ants? See our growing list (organized by reading level and genre) at Science Books for Kids.

Age Range: 4 - 7 years
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers (October 3, 2017)
ISBN-10: 054457043X
ISBN-13: 978-0544570436

3

People who go to u-pick vegetable farms usually come home with lettuce or corn or tomatoes. When I went to a u-pick vegetable farm near Phoenix, Arizona, I came home with photographs of ants, instead.

It wasn't surprising to see numerous circular mounds with a single entrance hole in the center.

The nests are made by a common ant in the low desert, Dorymyrmex bicolor. As I've written previously, D. bicolor seems to prefer to nest along dirt paths or roads. The garden had plenty of those.

Here's another nest, again with an entrance hole in the center, and covered with active ants.

The workers here were pulling out clumps of what looked like dirt. Can you see the single petiole that is characteristic of the species?

After seeing about three dozen or so circular nests like those above, I found this one.

Same rough shape, but notice anything different?

Where are all the ants?

From another view, the entrance hole is actually blocked with dirt.

Finally, I can see some ants, but those aren't Dorymyrmex bicolor workers.

The workers exiting from this nest are uniform in color. They have a petiole and a postpetiole.  Notice anything else about them?

The Dorymyrmex worker ants from the same perspective have large eyes. See any noticeable eyes from this view?

Having no noticeable eyes is a characteristic of Neivamyrmex army ants (Note:  They do have a single eye facet, but it isn't obvious.)

The exact species is much more difficult to figure out.

Wayne P. Armstrong found some similar Neivamyrmex near the Superstition Mountains in Arizona, which are close to the farm where I found these ants. Gordon Snelling identified Armstrong's ants as Neivamyrmex leonardi. The ones I found could be N. leonardi or one of several similar species.

In any case, Neivamyrmex army ants resemble their larger namesakes because they are always on the move. They don't make permanent or long term nests like the Dorymyrmex, but instead raid nests of other ants stealing the brood for food. Seems like in this case a Dorymyrmex bicolor colony was a target of their raid. Armstrong reports Neivamyrmex workers raid Pheidole nests, as well.

So, I didn't bring home lettuce, but maybe something even better from the u-pick farm.

Have you ever seen Neivamyrmex army ants?

Let's take a look at a few more images my husband brought back from Malaysia.

In this video he found an ant running on his hand. Because he was struggling to focus, he passed the ant to a colleague (I edited out the shots of his feet).

If you got seasick viewing that, here's a screenshot:

When I saw his video I squirmed a bit. If an ant is as thin and wasp-like as this one is, I'm pretty sure it can sting.

Is it a Tetraponera? Am I right that they were being a bit foolhardy to handle it?

These would have been less of a problem:

The running insects in the video are processional termites. You can see some of the workers carrying what are probably clumps of lichen in their mandibles. Cool insects.

He definitely doesn't get to go without me next time.