Salton Sea Part 5
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Salton Sea January 2015 Part 5
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Harvester Ants (Messor) North Of Salton Sea

The predominate seedless husks around the harvester ant nests (Messor pergandei) came from the abundant nearby saltbush, mostly Atriplex polycarpa.

The common saltbush species on the north side of the Salton Sea is Atriplex polycarpa (D). The one-seeded fruit (utricle) of this species is collected in great numbers by harvester ants. After extracting the seeds underground, the empty husks are piled up outside the entrance to their nests.
An assortment of winged, one-seeded fruits (utricles) of saltbushes (Atriplex) from the Mojave and Colorado Deserts of the southwestern United States. Saltbushes belong to the goosefoot family (Chenopodiaceae). From left: (A) A. canescens, (B) A. confertifolia, (C) A. hymenelytra, (D) A. polycarpa and (E) A. parryi.

Messor pergandei: A common, shiny black harvester ant in the Colorado & Mojave Deserts. Although similar in size to the red Pogonomyrmex harvester ants, it does not sting; however, one must be cautious. The black Pogonomyrmex rugosus has an intensely painful sting that lasts for hours.

Dark harvester ants (Pogonomyrmex rugosus) or possibly hybrids with P. barbatus. Although similar in size to large Messor workers, their heads are broader than Messor pergandei. In addition, the M. pergandei colonies are polymorphic with large and smaller sized workers.

Messor pergandei workers swarming over a 50 caliber belt link. The M. pergandei colony is polymorphic with large and smaller sized workers.

Workers of Messor pergandei moving a seed-bearing fruit case. The smaller worker in this polymorphic colony is riding on top!