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Posts Tagged ‘ants’

Here is a cool picture of the long-legged central Australian desert ant, Melophorus bagoti.

This picture is in fond memories of warm weather from cold cold Canberra!

The Central Australian desert ant, Melophorus bagoti

The Central Australian desert ant, Melophorus bagoti, Alice Springs, NT

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Drove up from Canberra all the way to Townsville a few days ago. Stopped along the way at several places hunting and photographing ants along inland Australia. This was my first road trip along this route and it was thoroughly entertaining. Found a stunning Myrmecia Jack Jumper Queen in the Floral garden of Gilgandra. Also found in the same place the super cool Opisthopsis ants, which have their large eyes placed at the posterior region of the head.

enroute to Townsville

Somewhere along the way from Canberra to Townsville

Myrmecia Queen (jack jumper)

Queen of a Jack Jumper, Myrmecia species, Floral Garden – Gilgandra, NSW

Strobe ant, Opisthopsis species, Floral Garden – Gilgandra, NSW

Mission Townsville: The world’s only inter-tidal ant, Polyrhachis sokolova calls Townsville home and so have I for a few weeks. The plan is to identify the homing strategies of these ants. The challenge for these ants is not only to find the tiny little nest entrance at the base of the mangroves, but to also get there often by swimming, yes that’s right, by swimming. First and foremost, I am hoping to tackle the foraging strategies on the ground and will then attempt to unravel the swimming part of the story. Have had five fantastic days of fieldwork so far and its getting better by the day. Now if someone could only get rid of the sandflies…

The inter-tidal ant, Polyrhachis sokolova, tears apart a dead crab. Townsville, QLD

Workers of the inter-tidal ant, Polyrhachis sokolova, transfer maggots found in a dead crab. Townsville, QLD

Oecophylla smaragdina, Townsville, QLD

An angry worker of the green tree ant, Oecophylla smaragdina agitated by the intruding photographer

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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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Lighting plays a crucial role in making an picture look presentable both technically and aesthetically. So what if the animal is nocturnal and hates light but is loved by the camera??
Here is a ant called Rhytidoponera which I found while I was at Nadgee nature reserve, a few kilometers south of Eden on the east coast of Australia. I found a nest of these ants so close to where my tent was pitched that I could watch them by actually lying down on the sleeping mat with half of me jutting outside the tent! One of those days, by late in the evening, after finishing off some experiments with solitary wasps, I set up the sleeping mat, flicked on the torch and lay there watching these fellows go about their work. They became active just before sunset and continued activity all through the night, till sunrise. They regularly returned to the nest with dead insects. I tried taking some pictures but with light levels being very low, it was proving to be a challenge. The twin lite flash I use comes with a lamp but the light was just too bright and almost always scared the ants away. So after having taken pictures for a couple of hours with no luck, I gave up and decided that just watching them may be a better option. Soon I realised that I could predict where an ant returning to its nest would be say after 5 secs. I decided to see if this would allow me to take some pictures which meant clicking in completing darkness. It turned out that in a matter of 30 mins I actually had a few nice pictures [see one below]. A gentle drizzle in the night led to a rain drop on the ant also being captured.
More and some new images of Rhytidoponera here.
A Rhytidoponera species returns to its nest carrying parts of a bull ant, Myrmecia pyriformis.
Photographed at 0215 hrs; Nadgee Nature Reserve, NSW, Australia

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