When we first moved into our home, the yard was barren. Well, except for the numerous Solenopsis xyloni mounds.
Now, twenty years later, we no longer have Solenopsis xyloni. As the landscape has matured, the yellow Solenopsis amblychila have moved in instead. A few nights ago we noticed a swarming event just at sundown or about 6:00 p.m.
The colony was under a small fairy duster plant next to a sidewalk. The workers were swarming about excitedly.
The males came out first, like small airplanes getting lined up to take off.
One by one, the males moved out onto the open sidewalk.
In a blink of an eye, they were gone.
The princesses came out shortly later, when the light was too low for photographs.
It is unclear what triggered the ants to swarm. There hasn't been any rain in weeks. Perhaps it was the artificial rain of some nearby lawn sprinklers. Or perhaps it is simply because it is the end of the wildflower season and the fact that food, in the form of seeds, is wildly abundant.
No matter. It is always exciting to see ants swarming.
Are you ready for ant season to begin? I sure am! We've been having some unusually cold and rainy weather, so the ants haven't been very active. One warmer afternoon last week, however, I did spot a few ants other than rover ants. They were Solenopsis amblychila workers. Solenopsis amblychila workers are pale, golden yellow. Solenopsis amblychila can tolerate dry conditions. Colonies of this species are found mostly in the Sonoran Desert, that is southern Arizona, southern California, northern Mexico and Baja California, although they do extend further east into Texas as well.
These workers are nesting at one of our local parks, along a sidewalk. The surrounding area is compacted, dry Bermuda grass trampled by thousands of feet. The attraction may be a Solenopsis xyloni colony about a foot away, or may be a nearby ramada full of messy, snacking children.
I found a queen last year, but it met with an accident (also child-related as it turns out) and never had a chance to produce eggs.
Dale Ward has more information and videos of Solenopsis amblychila workers visiting extrafloral nectaries on cactus.
Have you ever seen Solenopsis amblychila? Doesn't seem like a lot of research has been done on this species.