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National Pollinator Week 2018 starts today.

Let's start the celebration by taking a look at a new book, Butterfly Gardening: The North American Butterfly Association Guide by Jane Hurwitz.

Why feature butterfly gardening on an ant blog? Butterfly gardening encourages the use of native plants, which supply flowers that are used by many different pollinators as well as butterflies. The leaves and seeds are food for caterpillars, plus other insects that support food webs. Butterfly gardening is win-win!

As for the book, the first part features basic information about common garden butterflies, their life cycles, and their needs. Range maps are included so you can find out which species of butterflies to expect in your area and what some of their common caterpillar food plants are.

Because the recommended species of butterfly garden plants vary depending on where you live, in Part II members of the North American Butterfly Association suggest flowering plants and trees specific to regions around the United States, from the Florida to Portland, Oregon.

Overall, the book is illustrated with gorgeous, captivating photographs. It is also packed with tried-and-true practical information from experienced butterfly experts.

Butterfly Gardening: The North American Butterfly Association Guide is a fantastic resource. Be inspired by a copy today.

Check out some previous posts on the same topic:

Do you have any suggestions for plants that are good for pollinators and/or ants?

Flexibound: 288 pages
Publisher: Princeton University Press; Flexibound edition (April 10, 2018)
ISBN-10: 0691170347
ISBN-13: 978-0691170343

Disclosure: This book was provided by the publisher's representative for review purposes. Also, I am an affiliate with Amazon so I can provide you with cover images and links to more information about books and products. As you probably are aware, if you click through the highlighted title link and purchase a product, I will receive a very small commission, at no extra cost to you. Any proceeds help defray the costs of hosting and maintaining this website.

A few ant nests dot the sides of a walking pathway at a nearby park, so of course I have to check them out.

For the most part the nests are small colonies of southern fire ants, Solenopsis xyloni.

There are also seemingly endless streams of Forelius mccooki workers traveling along the concrete edgers and sidewalks.

While taking photographs of the fire ant middens, I noticed the fire ants had a few visitors standing by an entrance hole.

Millimeters away from the fire ant workers stood two Forelius workers.

 

Curious, I watched for some minutes. The fire ants did not approach the Forelius, and the Forelius remained relatively still. They didn't appear to be investigating the middens.

The Forelius had a nest entrance not too far away. Perhaps they were just nosy neighbors? (I did notice there weren't any Solenopsis visiting them.)

Wayne Armstrong suggests perhaps the relationship isn't entirely benign. In this video, Solenopsis xyloni workers flag their gasters in response to Forelius pruinosus workers encountered at an artificial feeding site. (You will notice the coloration difference between our local S. xyloni compared to his California ones.)

Interestingly, the soldiers don't seem to respond. According to his notes (scroll down to Southern fire ant), the Forelius were ultimately successful in overtaking the food.

Ants of the Southwest has a photograph of a Forelius worker spraying a S. xyloni worker. He reports S. xyloni exoskeletons piled in Forelius middens, which is also reported here.

Even though southern fire ants are chemically well defended, perhaps they are no match for Forelius.

Have you ever encountered these two species?

References:

Obin, Martin & Vander Meer, Robert. (1985). Gaster flagging by fire ants (Solenopsis spp.): Functional significance of venom dispersal behavior. Journal of chemical ecology. 11. 1757-68. 10.1007/BF01012125.

I mentioned in recent post that the black harvester ants Messor pergandei are also reported in the older literature as Veromessor pergandei.

After seeing a 2017 article which used the name Veromessor, I decided ask for an update from one of the authors, Dr. Christina Kwapich, who is currently at Arizona State University.

Dr. Kwapich was kind enough to explain that the status of the name had been up in the air until Ward et al. (2015) used DNA techniques to sort it out during a major revamping to the ant subfamily Myrmicinae. So, Veromessor pergandei it is.

Check out Dr. Kwapich's research on Veromessor in this video.

Ant research at Arizona State University from ASU Now on Vimeo.

She let us know that she's doing some work on worker size and nest architecture that will come out this summer. We're looking forward to it.

Kwapich, C. L., Gadau, J., & Hölldobler, B. (2017). The ecological and genetic basis of annual worker production in the desert seed harvesting ant, Veromessor pergandei. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, 71(8), [110]. DOI: 10.1007/s00265-017-2333-1

Ward, P.S. S. G. Brady, B. L. Fisher, T. R. Schultz. (2015). The evolution of myrmicine ants: phylogeny and biogeography of a hyperdiverse ant clade (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Systematic Entomology. 40 (1): 61–81. DOI: 10.1111/syen.12090

It rained last night and it was about 40° F this morning, so I had trouble finding insects to photograph.

I did find something in this decomposing grapefruit:

rover ants.

Nothing ever seems to faze rover ants.