If all ants were alone on leaves at eye level and posing, there would be more photographs of ants.
Sometimes we get so used to seeing ants visiting extrafloral nectaries, it seems unexpected to see them visiting regular floral nectaries.
Take this shrubby dogwood flower (probably gray dogwood, Cornus racemosa). The nectaries are the creamy yellow bands at the base of the female part of the flower (the pistil or carpel) in the center.
Formica workers seemed to be visiting the plants most frequently, although other ants were in the area.
Ants weren't the only insects attracted to the nectaries of the dogwood flowers.
Along with the usual wasps, flies and bees, there were also more unusual true bugs and beetles.
A number of the smaller butterflies stopped by, including hairstreaks and blues.
It turns out azure butterflies in particular are attracted to these types of dogwoods and lay their eggs on them. What happens next? Of course, the ants tend the azure caterpillars! Nature Posts blog has an incredible series of photographs and videos of ants tending azure butterfly caterpillars.
Interested in planting a garden for ants or butterflies? You might want to consider planting some of the dogwoods (Cornus sp.)
Have you ever seen azure caterpillars on dogwoods? I am definitely going to be looking from now on.
Have you discovered David Louis Quinn's Pogolumina website yet? If you are interested in ants, Pogonomyrmex and/or photography, it is a must see.
David's new video Domain of the Thatching Ant, Part I is mesmerizing. Take a look:
You know where I'll be spending all my free time for the next few week, looking through all the pages. He's already answered some questions I had about Pogonomyrmex workers harvesting plants around their mounds.
I'd love to hear your comments.
From the photo archives:
You have probably heard all about the relationship of ants and peony flower buds.
Peonies (Paeonia sp.) are small perennial shrubs that produce large, lovely flowers in the spring. The flower buds produce nectar via extrafloral nectaries, which attract ants. The ants chase off potential herbivores until the buds open. A simple story, yet an entire garden mythology has grown up around it. You can do an Internet search for "peony ants" and find a wealth of funny, and at times sad, myths.
But there may be another piece of the story that is rarely mentioned.
Do you know what this plant structure is? (Quit looking at the ant :-))
Since I already mentioned peonies, you can probably guess it is the fruit of a peony. Inside each of those three "pods" are rows of seeds completing development.
As this is not a bud, what is an ant doing there? Take a look at the next few photographs and see what you think.
Do you see the fly?
Has anyone seen this before? Do you know if the extrafloral nectaries are still active? Are ants just poor botanists?
If you want to find out more, try:
B L Bentley. (1977). Extrafloral Nectaries and Protection by Pugnacious Bodyguards. Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics, Vol. 8: 407 -427.