Cave Creek Canyon 2014
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Large Carpenter Ant (Camponotus) At Cave Creek Ranch

This may be the western carpenter ant (Camponotus modoc), the largest ant seen at Cave Creek Ranch. Nine species of carpenter ants (Camponotus) are known from Cave Creek. Species reported from Portal & Cave Creek Canyon (according to include: C. festinatus, C. fumidus, C. fragilis, C. hyatti, C. microps, C. modoc, C. pudorosus, C. sansabeanus, C. sayi, C. schaefferi, C. semitestaceus, C. ulcerosus, C. vafer, and C. vicinus.

Aphaenogaster Attacking Harvester Ant (Pogonomyrmex)

Apparently these Aphaenogaster ants did not want the harvester ant near their nest. Two species of Aphaenogaster are reported from Cave Creek: A. albisetosa and A. texana.

Crematogaster Nest & Eggs In Cave Creek Canyon

Crematogaster Ants Attacking A Beetle

Seven species of Crematogaster are reported from Cave Creek.

This is a bombardier beetle of the genus Brachinus (possibly B. favicollis).
The bombardier beetle (Brachinus) is an example of irreducible complexity that is often used by advocates of intelligent design in their arguements against natural selection. How could such a complex and potentially lethal mechanism for repelling predators be produced by natural selection? This suborder of beetles known as Adephaga secrete a number of chemicals for a variety of purposes, only one of which is defense. Bombardier beetles inject an explosive mixture of hydroquinone, hydrogen peroxide plus several potent catalysts into a reaction chamber in the abdomen. Catalase breaks down the hydrogen peroxide into water and oxygen gas. Peroxidase oxidizes hydroquinone into benzoquinone. The mixture of chemicals and enzymes volatilizes instantly upon contact with the air, generating a puff of "smoke" and an audible popping sound. This caustic flatulence is totally controlled by the beetle, otherwise it might accidentally blow up its rear end. The explosive discharge apparently discourages predators, either by chemical irritation, heat or repugnance. The temperature of the explosive mixture of gasses and fluids is over 100 degrees Celsius, the boiling point of water. This astonishing chemical defense mechanism is discussed by D.J. Aneshansley and T. Eisner (1969) in Science Vol. 165: 61-63.

MIT scientist Eric Arndt and his colleagues have discovered that the superheated mixture comes out of the combustion chamber in a series of pulses rather than a continuous spray. This prevents the beetle's body from overheating while still scalding its would-be predator. See: Arndt, E.M. et al. 2015. "Mechanistic Origins of Bombardier Beetle (Brachinini) Explosion-Induced Defensive Spray Pulsation." Science 348 (6234): 563-567.

Other arthropods also produce some of the same chemicals found in bombardier beetles. Like bombardier beetles, these chemicals are used for defense or make the animal distasteful to predators; however, the mechanisms are not as sophisticated as bombardier beetles. Starting with these simpler mechanisms, a plausible step-by-step microevolutionary pathway culminating in bombardier beetles can be constructed. In fact, Mark Isaak (2003) discusses this in his on-line article entitled: "Bombardier Beetles and the Argument of Design."

Unusual Little Leaf-Cutters Along Cave Creek

This freshy dug nest was in the recent flood area along Cave Creek.

This spiny little leaf-cutter ant belongs to the genus Trachymyrmex, possibly T. arizonensis. I photographed a different species (Acromyrmex versicolor) at Boyce-Thompson Arboretm and in a wash north of Blythe, CA.

Acromyrmex versicolor photographed at Boyce-Thompson Arboretum in March 2013.

  See Images Of Acromyrmex versicolor  

Honeypot Ant Near Hollbrook, AZ: (Possibly Myrmecocystus mexicanus)

Characteristic honeypot ant nest. This appears to be Myrmecocystus mexicanus; however, it is very similar to M. navajo and could be the latter species. It was photographed in October 2013 near Hollbrook, Arizona.

This appears to be Myrmecocystus mexicanus; however, it is very similar to M. navajo and could be the latter species. According to AntWiki, the head, pronotum and gaster of M. mexicanus has abundant appressed pubescence. The head, pronotum and gaster of this species is shiny, without appressed pubescence; however, it does have scattered erect hairs.

Pyramid Ant Nest (Dorymyrmex) Along Lower Salt River

Red Harvester Ants (Pogonomyrmex) Along Lower Salt River

Black Harvester Ants (Pogonomyrmex) Along Lower Salt River

These ants were numerous and difficult to photograph: They readily crawl up your pant legs and sting viciously if they happen to reach bare skin. Along with the red harvester ant they have a pain rating of 3.0 on the 4 point Schmidt Pain Sting Index!

Red Harvester Ants (Pogonomyrmex) Nest In Little Dragoon Mtns

A large clearing 10 feet (3 m) across made by colony of harvester ants (Pogonomyrmex). The ants carefully remove all plants and competing root systems from their subterranean nest.

Harvester Ants (Pogonomyrmex & Messor) Along Union Pacific RR

Two species of harvester ants: Messor (left) and Pogonomyrmex (right) along the Union Pacific railroad tracks at Dateland. Although they are the same color and approximately the same size, the pogos can deliver a painful sting.