Following up the post from last Friday, here’s is some extremely dramatic and engaging cell phone footage of a mating flight of fire ants on a stump outside our lab.
Video courtesy Collin McMichael. And yes, that is us having an engaging discussion about why this colony has not succumbed to our regular fire ant harvests:
Alison: That is quite the flight.
Collin: I’m taking a video.
Alison: I guess when you nest in the base of a stump nobody messes with you.
Collin: Nope, no one digs you up.
Alison: Yeah. Can’t get mowed.
PS: I have updated my “Things That Are Not Fire Ants” page with 4 new images and 14 new pest control companies. Clearly I am enjoying the Google “search by image” tool.
Here’s an interesting video for you of some interactions between fire ants (the invasive ant species closest to my heart) and a newly invasive ant species beginning to spread across Texas. Rasberry crazy ants (Nylanderia sp. nr. pubens) were first noticed in the Houston area around 2002. (For people who don’t keep up with the world of ant taxonomy, most of the genus Paratrechina was moved into Nylanderia in 2010.)
Crazy ants take their name from the way in which they run about very quickly while turning frequently. The common name is applied to a number of ant genera. As you can see in the video these ants are fast. I’ve personally witnessed another invasive “crazy ant” (Paratrechina longicornis) fall into my fire ant colonies and become trapped many times. Although they can’t climb out again and they are vastly overnumbered they’ll hang out in little groups by the water tube for days, apparently too fast for the fire ants to catch. Trying to squish them is like playing whack-a-mole. They also got into the sterile buffer and the coffee.
Thanks to Danny McDonald for providing the Rasberry crazy ants and helping to referee their valiant battle. Danny is one of the few researchers working in this system right now.
Here’s a video I put together of the “maggot art” I talked about earlier this week. Enjoy!
Since I’m on the topic of mating flights and founding colonies, here’s a video of some fire ant foundress queens tending their eggs, brood, and young workers.
…I sort of really, really want to add Justin Bieber’s “Baby” as the sound track to this video. Would that be too much?
Fire ant workers swarm defensively prior to a mating flight.
Sexual fire ants typically fly on clear, windless afternoons following a rain. Workers open large holes in the nest, and then spread out, swarming the surrounding area to eliminate any potential threats. Male and female alates are urged out of the nest, where they typically climb surrounding plant material before taking to the air to seek a mate. Below are a few clips of a colony I found swarming on a sidewalk near my house.
Alates Leaving Home
A Heap of Queens
The Sad Plight of Male Ants
Queen Ants: Founding a new colony
Video of the floating fire ant bridge, as promised. The music is a bit odd, but I couldn’t resist.
Chinese mantis first instar nymphs (Tenodera sinensis).
Here’s some video clips of the Chinese mantises I reared out of an egg case early this year. I enjoyed watching them hunting fruit flies, grooming, fighting, and molting. These are pictures of mantises in the first instar, or first molt, not long after hatching. At this age they’re tiny and fairly vulnerable, but also fast and terrific jumpers. I’ll include some pictures of adults in the next post.
Mantises are a lot of fun to raise as pets. They’re low maintenance, fun to observe, and one of the more charismatic and interactive insect pets–they’ll turn their heads back and forth to watch you and even take bits of food offered with tongs. In the spring you can find mantis egg cases (ootheca) for sale on a variety of garden websites as well as eBay.
A mountain of exposed fire ants, mounded up on the brood pile to conserve moisture.
Okay, last fire ant post for a while . (Next I’ll do things that live with ants!) Here’s a video I put together a little while back showing some of my lab work with fire ants. In particular, you can see the drip floatation technique, which I discussed in my last post, as well as the set up for an experiment on arboreal foraging behavior (climbing), and just a little bit of an experiment that involved using a fluorescent dye to track how collected food is fed to the brood.