Virtual Presentation About Ants for the General Public

If you are new to ants, you might enjoy this delightful presentation by ant enthusiast Merav sponsored by the Santa Clara Valley Open Space Authority.

She discusses a bit of ant biology, with an emphasis on ant nests. I particularly enjoyed some of the questions from the “audience.”

I’m supposed to give a presentation about insects (with some ants, of course) in January. I’m hoping it will be in person by then.  If not, this might be a fun alternative.

Have you seen any virtual presentations about ants recently? Are they available for public viewing?

Ants Collecting Feathers: More of the Story Revealed

Back in 2015, we asked why ants collect feathers. We suggested food, moisture, or that feathers are left behind by anting birds.

Photograph by (Bob) Ricardo Solar at Flickr, shared under Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Now a recent article in Scientific American has another answer. Brazilian scientist Inácio Gomes, of the Federal University of Viçosa,  suggests Pheidole oxyops surround their nests with feathers to lure other insects to the area, where they fall in. Thus, the decorated ant nests serve as pitfall traps.

Gomes discounted the moisture idea by adding wet cotton balls. The added source of water apparently did not change the ants’ behavior.

This is cool, but since ants also drag the feathers into  the nest, it is likely there is still more to learn.

The original study was published in Ecological Entomology in Feb. 2019.

An Ant World View – Tiny Flowers

If you live in the North, you might be wishing for an ant sighting about now. The grass is brown and the trees have shed their leaves.

Well, maybe not all the trees. When I went out for a walk I noticed the African sumac, Rhus lancea, has a spread of yellow-green material beneath it. Is it pollen?

I had to check it out, of course.

The tree is flowering.

It isn’t pollen on the ground. Instead, it is a layer of dropped flowers.

What’s that bright cluster?

There’s another.

And another, each with an entrance hole in the center. There are eight or nine bright green clumps in all.

It seemed likely they are ant nests.

Can you spot it? Yes, an ant!

They look like Tetramorium or pavement ants.

 

One by one the workers carry a flower into the nest entrance and disappear.

 

The pavement ants are apparently taking advantage of a local abundance during the slow winter months. (The ant is blurry, but I thought the pollen on its head was cool.)

Seeing some ants at work in January? That is an unexpected bounty for me.

Have you ever seen Tetramorium gather flowers or other plant material?