Skip to content

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.

In addition to the Ants of the Southwest Class, the Ant Course is another great way to learn about ants.  It is being offered August 22 to September 1, 2018 in French Guiana at the Nouragues Field station. Seventeen lucky individuals will be chosen to attend.

Sponsored by California Academy of Sciences and Center for the study of biodiversity in Amazonia (CEBA), the Ant Course is intended to help both professionals and interested amateurs learn about identification, behavior, and ecology of ants.

It isn't offered every year. The last time was in 2015. You can see previous faculty and students by visiting the Ant Course yearbook.

If you'd like to apply, there's a link to a Google form towards the top of the page. You will need to complete the application by April 1, 2018, and be prepared to give the name of a reference when you fill it out.

Hop on over to the Ant Course website for full details.

If you have gone in the past, we'd love to hear from you how it was.

It's time again to start thinking which ant classes you're going to take this summer.

The American Museum of Natural History's Ants of the Southwest Class is being held August 12 through 21, 2018 at the Southwestern Research Station in Portal, Arizona.

You might envision that Arizona is just a bunch of inhospitable cacti, but that's actually not the case. There's a diversity of plants in the area around Portal.

Plus, the cacti that do grow there have extrafloral nectaries, which make them attractive to ants.

It is also a fantastic place to study many different kinds of ants. We have honeypot ants, army ants, leafcutter ants, bigheaded ants, and harvester ants, to name just a few. It's an awesome area for anyone interested in biology to explore.

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 still $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, 2018. You will be notified if you are accepted, at which time you'll need to pay the fees.

Note:  We also posted information about another ant class, the California Academy of Sciences Ant Course.

A friend is building a new house and he wanted to know about the ant colonies he found in his yard.

Photograph by Bill Webster

These shiny black ants are Messor pergandei (also seen in the literature as Veromessor.) They are a type of harvester ant, which means they collect, process, and store seeds as their main food source (See previous post).

Nearby was another ant colony.

Photograph by Bill Webster

Although these ants look similar superficially to those above, on closer inspection their bodies are dark maroon-red rather than black, particularly in the mid section. They also have fine parallel grooves on their heads. Theses ants are harvesters known as Pogonomyrmex rugosus.

Although both these species harvest similar types of seeds, it is not uncommon to find them living near each other. Robert Johnson (1992) suggests that they may segregate over broad regions based on soil texture, but coexist together in regions of overlap.

Some of Bill's earlier photographs showed the ants had placed a ring of wood fragments from construction as a barrier around their colony. It would be interesting to see whether they were reacting to conspecific colonies or those of other species.

Wouldn't it be cool to have ant neighbors like these?

For more information:

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.
Behav Ecol Sociobiol 71: 110. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00265-017-2333-1 (link)

Johnson, R.A. (1992) Soil texture as an influence on the distribution of the desert seed-harvester ants Pogonomyrmex rugosus and Messor pergandei
Oecologia 89: 118. https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00319023 (link)

Johnson, Robert A. 1991. Learning, Memory, and Foraging Efficiency in Two Species of Desert Seed-Harvester Ants. Ecology 72: 1408- 1419. (link)

Rissing, S.W. (1988) Dietary similarity and foraging range of two seed-harvester ants during resource fluctuations. Oecologia 75: 362. https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00376938 (link)