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Arizona Road Trip Fall 2013: Arizona Ants (1)
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Superstition Mtns

Myrmicinae: Dark Harvester Ants (Pogonomyrmex rugosus)
Or Possibly Hybrids With Pogonomyrmex barbatus

Myrmicinae: Long Legged Ants (Aphaenogaster cockerelli)

A group of long-legged ants (Aphaenogaster cockerelli) have entered a swarming mass of harvester ants (Pogonomyrmex) and are carrying away their piece of Nature Valley granola. The fast-moving Aphaenogaster are taking the granola to their nearby nest. Although these long-legged ants have been described as the "cowardly lions of the ant kingdom," I'm not sure this description is appropriate. The Pogonomyrmex are very powerful ants with a painful sting. The Aphaenogaster appear to easily outmaneuver the Pogonomyrmex with their long legs. They are able to lift up the granola chunk and run using teamwork and precision coordination. They can even run over the dorsal side of the Pogonomyrmex.

This group of long-legged ants (Aphaenogaster cockerelli) are running away with a large chunk of Nature Valley granola placed near the entrance to a Pogonomyrmex nest. The Pogonomyrmex (red x's) appear to be outmaneuvered by the fast-moving Aphaenogaster. The Aphaenogaster use precision teamwork and coordination to carry the granola chunk. They rotate in clockwise motion as the travel back to their nest. In fact, they are used in robotics research at Arizona State University.

Myrmicinae: Dark Southern Fire Ant (Solenopsis xyloni)

Formicinae: Honeypot Ant (Possibly Myrmecocystus mimicus)

The genus Myrmecocystus is commonly known as "honeypot ants." Worker ants tend special polymorphic ants (repletes) called plerergates. These unusual ants hang from the ceiling deep within the nest and are "living storage units." They store large quantities of nutritious honeylike fluid in their swollen abdomens to feed the colony during times of famine and drought. This is an adaptation for living in extremely hot desert environments with prolonged drought, such as the Salton Sea region. See the following image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Honeypot ants hanging from the ceiling of Myrmecocystus nest. Photographed at the Cincinnati Zoo.
© Greg Hume 17 September 2006, Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Boyce-Thompson Arboretum

Formicinae: Arizona Leaf-Cutter Ant (Acromyrmex versicolor)

In the following leaf-cutter ant images I increased the ISO to 400 with a faster shutter speed using Nikon SB-400 flash. Ideally, I think a ring flash would have been superior. The ants are mostly carrying the pinnate leaves of palo verde (Cercidium floridum).

Leaf-Cutter Ant Nests

Distinctive nests of leaf-cutter ants (Acromyrmex versicolor). The right image (red arrow) shows numerous smaller craters made by antlion larvae, remarkable ant predators.

Close-up view of an antlion larva showing its peculiar (grotesque) fusiform body and enormous, toothed jaws (mandibles). It waits at the bottom of its crater to grab an unfotumate passer-by who happens to fall in.