Wayne's Word Index Noteworthy Plants Trivia Lemnaceae Biology 101 Botany Scenic Wildflowers Trains Spiders & Insects Search
Borrego Valley March 2020
W.P. Armstrong, 10 March 2020
Cameras Used On This Trip: Nikon D-3200, Sony HX-60, Sony T-10, iPhone 6
This short road trip included a wildflower walk with members of the Palomar College Aboretum Committee. Unfortunately, there were very few wildflowers in bloom. Apparently the blooming season was over due to lack of rain. According to my observations in and around Borrego Springs, the most abundant native wildflower with the highest frequency of occurrence was desert pincushion (Chaenactis fremontii) in the Asteraceae. The most abundant native ant of open fields was the black harvester ant (Veromessor pergandei).

Most Abundant Native Wildflower

White pincushion flower (Chaenactis fremontii) and beavertail cactus (Opuntia basilaris) near entrance to Anza-Borrego State Park. This little wildflower was everywhere!

The old, uncoiled inflorescences (scorpioid cymes) of another common wildflower called "white forget-me-not" (probably Cryptantha angustifolia), in the Boraginaceae.

Most Abundant Native Ant In Open Fields

Desert Harvester Ant (Messor = Veromessor pergandei)

Veromessor pergandei: The common black harvester ant throughout Borrego Valley. Unlike the red harvester ant Pogonomyrmex, this species does not sting. It typically makes conspicuous piles of seedless husks around its crater.
Harvester Ant (Veromessor pergandei) & Filaree (Erodium cicutarium)

Harvester ants of the genus Veromessor and husks of Erodium cicutarium (blue arrow).

Veromessor pergandei: A large, shiny black harvester ant.

Desert harvester ant (Veromessor pergandei).

Aluminum cast of Veromessor pergandei subterranean nest.

Honeypot Ant In Coyote Creek

Honeypot ant Myrmecocystus from Coyote Creek. Species of Myrmecocystus have very long maxillary palps. This ant runs so fast in short distances that it appears to jump a foot or more in an instant. I am hesitant to assign a species name to this ant. It appears a little different from other species reported for this region, including M. semirufus, M. mendax, M. flaviceps, and M. mimicus. In Roy Snelling's key to Myrmecocystus species, it keys out fairly close to M. mimicus. Maybe it is a lighter-colored populatuion with orange head & thorax or possibly an undescribed species.

The resolving power of my Nikon macro lens is pretty good in order to count the teeth in mandibles (jaws) of my Coyote Creek honeypot ant. The name "honeypot" refers to special workers of this genus called repletes who are fed nectar until their gasters (abdomens) swell to the size of blueberries. They serve as a food reserve during times of famine and drought. Workers go deep into tunnels where repletes are located and are fed sweet liquid from repletes by regurgitation. See following image:

Note: Myrmecocystus flaviceps has been reported from sandy areas near Coyote Creek; however, what I call M. flaviceps from Box Canyon north of the Salton Sea appears quite different in my humble opinion. If my tergum numbers are correct, tergum #3 of coyote creek ant is not hairy, while tergum #3 of Salton Sea ant has dense, appressed hairs (see following image).

Correction: Tergum I In My Labeled Images Is Actually Tergum III

If you count the propodeum as tergum (tergite) I and petiole as tergum II, then the first tergum of expanded abdomen (gaster) is tergum III or tergum IV depending on whether there are one or two petiole nodes.

  Other Ant Species In Borrego Valley  

A Few Scenic Shots

Harlan's ground sloth (Paramylodon harlani) endemic to North America during the Pliocene through Pleistocene epochs, living around 4.9 mya to 11,000 years ago.

Coastal rain clouds over Borrego Valley.

Same view in late afternoon.

Super Worm Moon from Borrego Springs, Sunday night (8 March 2020). This is the first full moon in March, so named because ground begins to thaw and earthworms reappear!

View of dawn sky from Borrego Springs, Monday morning (9 March 2020).

Problematic View While Leaving Borrego Springs

This view from Montezuma grade shows a distant green tinge. Unfortunately, it is not native vegetation. It is a mass of dense Sahara mustard (Brassica tournefortii) that can literally take over fields of beautiful native wildflowers.

  The Sahara Mustard Invasion In Borrego Valley