Honeypot Ant In Merriam Mtns

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Honey Pot Ant In The Merriam Mtns N. Of Escondido
I originally thought this was the desert species Myrmecocystus mexicanus; however, it just doesn't fit the AntWiki Key to Myrmecocystus. Although this amber-colored species is similar to M. mexicanus & M. navajo, it is a little darker orange. Unlike the nocturnal M. mexicanus & M. navajo, this species is active during the daylight hours (diurnal), even on a hot summer day. It appears to fit the subgenus Endiodioctes and may be M. wheeleri. The latter species is reported from the Santa Ana Mountains of Orange & Riverside Counties just north of San Diego County.

I-15 and Merriam Mtns north of Escondido, site of Myrmecocystus discovery.

Dirt road into Merriam Mtns north of Escondido. The entrance to the nest of a Myrmecocystus mexicanus) is quite distinctive. It is typically a large circular opening on a shallow crater that often contains coarse gravel. This area has two species of large harvester ants: black Messor andrei and red Pogonomyrmex californicus. It also has the gray field ant (Formica moki) and the black pyramid ant (Dorymyrmex insanus). The Myrmecocystus nest was quite a surprise.

Entrance to nest of Myrmecocystus in the Merriam Mtns. It doesn't have a distinct crater-like mound like M. mexicanus & M. navajo in Arizona.

  Myrmecocystus cf. mexicanus (M. navajo?) near Holbrook, Arizona  

Entrance to nest of Myrmecocystus (probably M. wheeleri) in the Merriam Mtns.

Workers moving (forcing) large wolf spider into their nest entrance.

This ant has an acidopore and definitely belongs to the subfamily Formicinae along with the genus Formica. It differs from Formica with its longer maxillary palps.

Another labeled image showing maxillary & labial palps.

The genus Myrmecocystus has maxillary palps longer than the head.>

Myrmecocystus (probably M. wheeleri) in the Merriam Mtns.

A wad of facial tissue saturated with sugar water and placed near a Myrmecocystus nest entrance in the Merriam Mtns.

Honey Pot Ants After Consuming Sugar Water

Enlarged gasters of Myrmecocystus after consuming sugar water.

The Merriam Mtns are separated from Owens Peak by Twin Oaks Valley. These two mountains are only a few miles apart at their closest distance.

Black Harvester Ant (Messor andrei)

Until recently I thought this species of Messor on nearby Owens Peak was M. pergandei; however, close examination of the head revealed that it was a different species (M. andrei). It is much hairier than M. pergandei and the head has conspicuous parallel lines (grooves). The propodeal spines are also longer than M.pergandei. In addition it is monomorphic while M. pergandei colonies in San Diego County are polymorphic. Because of its hairiness M. andrei doesn't appear as shiny black as M. pergandei.

Harvester ants (Messor andrei) are very fond of tissue paper saturated with sugar water.

Red Harvester Ant ( cf. Pogonomyrmex subnitidus)

Pogonomyrmex subnitidus in the nearby Merriam Mtns: This species is very similar to P. californicus and is listed as a subspecies of the latter species in some references. P. subnitidus has also been reported from Palomar Mtn, Scripps Ranch, and near Santa Ysabel. This species clearly has propodeal spines which are typically absent in P. californicus.

Pyramid Ant (Dorymyrmex insanus)

Dorymyrmex insanus: This species is similar to D. bicolor except it is all black (dark brown). D. insanus has been reported from Orange County, just north of San Diego County. The specific epithet "insanus" apparently refers to the confusing taxonomy of this species where it has been shifted between different genera and species numerous times during the past century. Fisher and Cover (2007) state "In all Dorymyrmex, the propodeum has a single, more or less vertical tooth, or "cone," at the junction of the dorsal and posterior faces. If you find a worker ant within the confines of the Colorado Plateau with this morphology you have collected a Dorymyrmex species. If the workers possess a black gaster and light colored (various shades of yellow- red) head and mesosoma, you have collected Dorymyrmex bicolor. If the workers are concolorous brown or gray your best solution, pending a revision of the group, may be to provisionally assign it the name insanus."

Cone-like (pyramid-like) crater of Dorymyrmex insanus in the Merriam Mtns.

Pyramid ant (Dorymyrmex insanus) in the Merriam Mtns.

Dorymyrmex insanus Found On Owens Peak

Dorymyrmex insanus ID confirmed on Owens Peak.

Gray Field Ant (Formica moki)

Other Images From The Merriam Mtns

A ground mantid (Litaneutria minor) on nearby Owens Peak. If you take your eyes off one of these small, fast-moving, well-camouflaged insects, it is difficult to spot it again! The U.S. Penny is 19 mm in diameter.

The remains of one of the largest puffballs (Calvatia gigantea) I have ever seen.

Fragrant sage (Salvia clevelandii), an endemic sage in San Diego County & Baja California.

Calochortus weedii var. weedii, a beautiful golden mariposa lily.

"Leaves of three, let it be; berries white, poisonous sight." This attractive shrub (Toxicodendron diversilobum) is turning bright red in the hills along I-15 north of Escondido. Wayne's Poison Oak Article

Climbing penstemon (Keckiella cordifolia) on April 19, 2015.

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