The challenge: to see how many species of ants I could find in Tucson, Arizona in two hours.
Species 2. Forelius
Most likely they are Forelius mcccooki, the species I have identified in Phoenix, but because this was a public place I didn’t take samples.
Chris Schmidt indicates that Forelius are probably the ants you are most likely to stumble upon in Tucson (Backyard Ants of Tucson).
Forelius are always easy to spot because they are active even during the hottest parts of the day and they forage in long trails along sidewalks or up trees.
I had to laugh at what I found next.
Do you remember the person who fed colored water to ants to make them turn the colors of the rainbow? (Alex Wild shows a photograph by Maxim Piessen that uses the same technique.)
Now nature imitates art.
The color was provided by…
a prickly pear cactus fruit with help from this gal.
Do Forelius ants occur where you live? What color are they? 🙂
There is a story on the Internet of a myrmecologist (unfortunately unnamed) finding 10 species of ants, including army ants, while waiting for a flight at the Tucson, Arizona airport. I had two hours in Tucson on Saturday morning, so I wondered if I could do as well. For the next few days we’ll see if I was up for the challenge.
The first ant I found was a worker of the genus Crematogaster, named for its lovely heart-shaped rear section or gaster. This cutie is Crematogaster opuntiae, a specialist often found feeding on the extrafloral nectaries of cacti. This particular cactus is a cholla, Cylindropuntia.
Although Crematogaster opuntiae workers are known for chasing herbivores away from cacti in defense of the extrafloral nectaries, they are also predators of other insects, such as termites.
For more information, try:
Charles H. Pickett and W. Dennis Clark. (1979).The Function of Extrafloral Nectaries in Opuntia acanthocarpa (Cactaceae) American Journal of Botany. 66(6):618-625.
Discover Life has a photograph of Crematogaster opuntiae raiding termites
Alex Wild also has some fabulous photographs
Finally, if your French is good, Fourmis et Cactus à Nectars Extra-Floraux