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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

If you are looking for a place to study harvester ants (Pogonomyrmex), I have a suggestion.

At the Running Deer Natural Area in Fort Collins, Colorado, we saw numerous active mounds last month.

Most of them are conveniently located near walking trails.

Looked like the perfect place to study ants to me.

Not bad views either.

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You can tell a lot about a society by what its members throw away.

Take these harvester ants, for example.

Your eye might be attracted by the flurry of activity around the nest entrance.

It does pay to look elsewhere, though.

Here's the trash heap. Looks like these ants have been gathering a lot of Isopods, otherwise known as rolypolies.

This midden was extensive, and strewn with Isopods.

As an entomologist, my eye was drawn to the beetle elytra (hard upper wings).

Here's another beetle.

The harvester ant mound was along a trail at Boyce Thompson Arboretum near Superior, Arizona.

About 1/2 mile away, I spotted another mound of the same species.

This one seems to have more plant material, plus a bit of egg shell.

Still a lot of Isopods, although the exoskeletons are more broken up. There's an elytra of the same kind of beetle as was on the first harvester ant mound.

There's another elytra.

It felt good to get out and see some ants, although the time was much too brief. I would like to have looked around more thoroughly.

And, oh yes, there were a few flowers too.

Did you get to do any hiking this weekend?