Although I'm always on the look out for cool books about ants, other than the awesome thrill ride of a movie that came out recently (Ant-Man), not much as crossed my desk. On the other hand, the pile of intriguing books about bees and pollination is growing by the day. This week let's feature a few. (See the Books about Bees tag or click on the icon below for a list).

Bee Books

First up is Bees: An Up-Close Look at Pollinators Around the World by Sam Droege and Laurence Packer, published in July.

Right on the first page, Droege admits that the photographs in this book reveal an unusual look at bees. Rather than glimpses of live bees, the photographs capture the up-close view of preserved specimens under a microscope against a black background, as generally seen by scientists. The results are both eerie and wondrous, as you can see from the example below (not actually from the book).

Hoplitis-tigrina-Greece
Public domain image of Hoplitis tigrina from Greece

If you are interested in seeing more images, check out the USGS Bee Inventory and Monitoring Flickr photostream. The good news is that the photographs in the photostream have been generously released into the public domain.

In the book, the photographs are organized by region of the world where the featured bees are found. The bees are identified by scientific and common name, if available, plus the name of the collector and location collected. Each species grouping is accompanied by a paragraph or two of text discussing some of that insect's unique features. Otherwise, the book has a brief "Contents" page, some information about the photography, and  resources for further study, but no index.

Bees: An Up-Close Look at Pollinators Around the World is a unique look at the diversity of bees found throughout the world. If you are interested in Hymenoptera in general, and bees in particular, you should check it out.

Hardcover: 160 pages
Publisher: Voyageur Press (July 7, 2015)
ISBN-10: 0760347387
ISBN-13: 978-0760347386

 

Disclosures: This book is my own copy. 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 not extra cost to you. Any proceeds help defray the costs of hosting and maintaining this website.

Couldn't go to the 2015 Ant Course this summer in Portal, Arizona?

You can get a taste of what you missed with three videos in a playlist. The first video gives an overview of the course and the site, the second shows some cool interactions between army ants and their prey, and the third shows field researchers a mark-recapture method for estimating numbers of foragers in a given colony.

 

Next year the Ant Course is off to Mozambique (more about that in an upcoming post). Hopefully it will be back in Arizona soon.

After visiting the Desert Botanical Garden the other day, I was struck by a question of diversity. Of course there is a diversity of plants at a botanical garden. I certainly saw a number of different species of birds (including a great horned owl) and a bevy of different butterflies. There were squirrels, lizards and a ring-necked snake. What about ants?

Paratrechina longicornis-084Ants were visiting the extrafloral nectaries of the wild sunflowers.

Paratrechina longicornis-210-cactusThere were ants on the barrel cacti, probably also attracted to extrafloral nectaries.

Paratrechina longicornis-285In addition, ants were visiting the floral nectaries of the rush milkweed.

Paratrechina-longicornis-rush-milkweedThroughout the garden there was one species of ant, which is readily recognized by its extra long and thin antennae, as well as long legs. The species is Paratrechina longicornis.

Although it is often called the "crazy ant," I think a better name for Paratrechina longicornis is the longhorn ant. After all, many different groups of ants are commonly called crazy ants, including Dorymyrmex insanus, so that name doesn't help with taxonomy.  Also, the "crazy" behavior is somewhat subjective, but the extra long antennae are easy to recognize. The species name, longicornis, comes from the Latin words for long and horn. What do you think?

Apparently native to Africa, the longhorn ant has spread throughout the world, and is often found indoors even where it can't survive outdoors (see the map of its distribution at Antmap.org).

Longhorn ants are known to live in the soil of potted plants, which is probably how they reached the garden. They are also notorious for outcompeting other ant species in many settings, which probably explains why they are so prevalent.

The photographs show that the ants collect nectar from plants, but they are truly omnivores. They will feed opportunistically on seeds, other insects, and any foods we eat.

This short video by Helen McCreery shows Paratrechina longicornis workers engaging in group transport of a cricket. Cool!

 

Have you ever seen longhorn ants? Have you seen them cooperatively transport food?