What is there to do when the ants are not very active outside? Read a book about ants, of course. I just finished Bees, Wasps, and Ants: The Indispensable Role of Hymenoptera in Gardens by Eric Grissell, which James Trager had mentioned a few weeks ago (Thank you, James!)
Grissell is an expert on wasps and he writes with a great deal of humor, so this is an interesting read. Although it is geared to the popular audience, and gardeners in general, there's plenty to please the entomologist as well. I definitely benefited from a brush up on the sawflies, which I hadn't spent much time on in awhile.
Starting out with an overview of the Order Hymenoptera, what groups make it up and what their economic impact is, Grissell then goes into detail about each group. He calls the sawflies "cows," the parasitoids "police," predatory wasps "wolves," bees are "pollinators, of course, and ants are "recyclers."
I found his take on the ants to be quite amusing. "The main trouble with ants is, well, basically they all look like ants..." (p. 237). This is from a man who studies parasitoids! Anyway, this may explain why Figure 131 on page 256 is labeled Formica. Just sayin'... (Actually those things often happen in the editorial process.)
Anyway, I did find this view insightful because I have made a New Year's resolution to figure out our local Pogonomyrmex, and I have to say right now I have a lot of photographs of reddish-orange ants that all look alike: blurry. 🙂
Seriously though, Grissell laments that when gardeners talk of adding wildlife to the garden, they always concentrate on birds and butterflies. Perhaps this book will convince more people to tolerate, if not actively encourage, the bees, wasps and ants.
Hardcover: 336 pages
Publisher: Timber Press (June 30, 2010)
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