Author Archives: Roberta

2 Comments

Want to learn more about ants?  Sign up for the American Museum of Natural History's Ants of the Southwest class to be held August 9 through 18, 2017 at the Southwestern Research Station in Portal, Arizona.

This class is a golden opportunity because Arizona is a fantastic place to study ants, largely due to the unique and diverse habitats found here. In addition honeypot ants like the one in the photograph, we have more than 350 different species.

What does the course cover? Among other things, students will be given the opportunity to study behavior and communication in ants, learn how to keep ant colonies in the laboratory, make an ant reference collection, and learn some photography techniques.

Cost:  Tuition is $1206 (includes room and board).

If you are interested, you will need to fill out the application form at the course website by July 1, 2017.

Note:  Another ant class, the California Academy of Sciences Ant Course, is not being held this year.

Have you taken this course? Leave us a comment to let us know about your experiences.

2 Comments

When the weather is cold and cloudy, many people dream of sunbathing on a warm, tropical beach. What about ants? Evidence suggests that at least some ants spend time basking in the sun.

See, for example, this video of harvester ants (Pogonomyrmex) sitting in the sun after a rain.

News From Rockcliff Farms blog has photographs of imported fire ants (Solenopsis invicta) sunbathing in large groups during a midwinter warm spell.

Some possible reasons for sunbathing/basking:

  1. Warm up or increase body temperature, particularly in poikilotherms (animals whose internal body temperature varies with the external environmental temperature)
  2. Exposure to ultraviolet light can kill microorganisms, such as bacteria, on the outer surface
  3. Exposure to ultraviolet light in vertebrates induces the production of Vitamin D

 

In his 1995 book Animal Architecture, Juhani Pallasmaa stated wood ants (Formica sp.) use heat captured by basking in the sun to warm their nests.

Kadochová, Frouz, and Roces (2017) recently tested this idea in the laboratory. They found Formica polyctena workers are willing to bask under an artificial heat source, which in this case was an infrared lamp. The authors of the paper didn't find evidence basking workers had a sustained increase in metabolic rate, but did suggest that heat energy absorbed during sun basking can be dissipated enough to increase the temperature inside of the nest. Cool! (yeah, I couldn't resist.)

The authors of the study found certain behavioral castes bask more than others. It would be worth investigating if workers which spend more time with the brood are more likely to bask. The ability to increase the nest temperatures around the brood during cold spells would likely be an advantage.

What do you think?

References:

Kadochová Š, Frouz J, Roces F (2017) Sun Basking in Red Wood Ants Formica polyctena (Hymenoptera, Formicidae): Individual Behaviour and Temperature-Dependent Respiration Rates. PLoS ONE 12(1): e0170570. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0170570

 

(Amazon Affiliate Link)

Pallasmaa, J. 1995. Animal architecture. Helsinki: Museum of Finnish Architecture. 126 p.

As you know, sometimes we let bees creep in here at Wild About Ants.

The Bee Diaries Project is a short series of popular science podcasts about bees in Great Britain.

Prof Dave Goulson talks about the waggle dance in honey bees and bee communication in general.

They left me wishing there were more in the series.

How well do you know bees?

So, what kind of presents do you get for someone who is Wild About Ants?

workers-ahead-sign_0251How about a "Caution Workers Ahead" sign for their office?

Everyone likes a t-shirt.

eusocial-t-0257Even better, why not one that says "Eusocial" on the front...

anti-social-t-0266and "Anti-Social" on the back.

These gifts were from Wild Cotton by Atlas Screen Printing, 131 S.E. 10th Ave., Gainesville, FL  32601.  Full disclosure:  my husband is a friend of the owner.

For the bookshelf, try Ants of Florida: Identification and Natural History* by Mark Deyrup.

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

It's a bit pricey, but a useful resource.

Florida seems to be the place for ant-themed stuff this year.

Have you received any ant-themed gifts this year?