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Archive for August, 2008

In some ant species males are known to aggregate and wait to attract females, while in others females stay put at a particular place & attract males. However, there is surprisingly little known about where and when ants prefer to mate and hence this recent article is a welcome addition. In this article Noordijk & others set up window traps in 3 locations: open field, forest edge and in the forest to capture flying ants. They set up pitfall traps to identify the ants that occupy these 3 regions. They studied six ant species Lasius umbratus, Lasius niger, Myrmica rubra, Myrmcia ruginodis, Stenamma debile and Temnothorax nylanderi. By regularly checking the window traps from April to December, they were able to identify specific duration of nuptial flights for each ant species. 

The really interesting bit is that though nesting habitats of Temnothorax nylanderi, Myrmica rubra & Myrmcia ruginodis were located in forests, maximum alates were captured in the forest edges. Though nesting locations of Lasius niger was in the open field, alates were captured not only in the the open field, but also along forest edges & in the forest. The pitfall traps failed to capture Stenamma debile and Lasius umbratus, but alates of these two species were captured in the window traps. And guess where the maximum alates were found – forest edges! The authors suggest that preference of forests edges might have something do with specific micro-climate the ants require. But they think it could be more to do with the edges acting as a conspicuous landmark which ants use to find mates. For now, I am leaning towards the second possibility.

Read this article here:

Noordijk et al. How ants find each other; temporal and spatial patterns in nuptial flights. Insect Soc. DOI 10.1007/s00040-008-1002-9

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For the past few weeks I have been ardently trying to catch up on what’s known about ants segregating their niche temporally for foraging. Turns out that there are several studies that address temporal shifts in ants, mostly at the community level, and very few that actually address temporal foraging patterns. Interestingly, I learnt that two Camponotus species, C. socius and C. floridanus exploit the same honeydew sources with socius being diurnal and floridanus nocturnal. However heartening it was to learn this, its frustrating that there is no more information [ex: seasonal differences, variation in castes, facet count, competition] available about this observation from Central Florida, USA which is reported in 4 lines in The Ants [p-383], as ‘we made similar observations’. This more so, because temporal niche partitioning in foraging was recently shown in four species of Australian bull ants, Myrmecia species where all four species of ants rely on the same carbohydrate source (plant sap) produced by the same tree.

For what its worth, here are the two Camponotus species:
The diurnal Camponotus socius
Source [Mississippi Entomological Museum]

The nocturnal Camponotus floridanus 

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