Tag Archives: ant nest

Prelimary Work on the Comanche Harvester Ant Colony Distribution

Here are two posters which summarize preliminary work on the distribution of nests of the Comanche harvester ant  (Pogonomyrmex comanche) in the Fort Worth Nature Center, Fort Worth Texas. The nests were located visually by walking through the habitat and locating nests and following foragers back to nests. Nests were then flagged and GIS coordinates recorded. Environmental variables, geospatial data, and co-occurring ant species (Forelius and Trachymyrmex turrifex) were also evaluated.

I am currently working through 5 years of this kind of data for my final dissertation project. In the  final project, I also have nest locations for a population in the Southwest Nature Preserve in Arlington, Texas.

From 2010: Nest Distribution of the Comanche Harvester Ant

 

From 2012: Tracking the Comanche Harvester Ant

 

Trachymyrmex septentrionalis nest, Fort Worth Nature Center, Fort Worth, Texas

Of Ants and Nests

I have always thought that ants defend their nests from other colonies of the same species and certainly from other species of ants…well, maybe not always.

I took some time to take photos of this Trachymyrmex septentrionalis nest and of the ants. The typical T. septentrionalis mound is a crescent shaped pile of soil off to one side of the nest entrance (photo above).  I have no idea why but this is what it is.

I had to look in the vegetation to find the entrance and what did I see? Yes, T. septentrionalis was busy foraging and doing nest maintenance (notice the soil in the mandibles of one of the workers in the photos below)…

Trachymyrmex septentrionalis nest maintenance workers, Fort Worth Nature Center, Fort Worth, Texas

Trachymyrmex septentrionalis nest maintenance workers, Fort Worth Nature Center, Fort Worth, Texas

but I also saw Solenopsis ants (fire ants) coming in and out of the same nest (the shiny ant in the lower center of the photo below)…

Solenopsis xyloni (smaller, shiny ant, lower) and Trachymyrmex septentrionalis (larger, rough looking ant at top) at the entrance to the T. septentrionalis nest.

Solenopsis xyloni (smaller, shiny ant, lower) and Trachymyrmex septentrionalis (larger, rough looking ant at top) at the entrance to the T. septentrionalis nest.

I collected some of the fire ants and identified them in the lab. They are Solenopsis xyloni, our native fire ant. I have no idea what they are doing in the T. septentrionalis nest. But they interacted with the T. septentrionalis and went right into the nest. In fact, both species were busy coming in and out. I could not tell if S. xyloni were also foraging.

To me, this is unheard of. So, I asked my friend Jon Seal, a myrmecologist (ant biologist) and professor at University of Texas-Tyler about this. Jon is an expert on Trachymyrmex. He has seen the same thing but does not know if the species just ignore each other or something more is going on.

I vote for something more. This kind of interaction between ant species is really unheard of — ants may avoid each other entirely, they may fight, they may parasitize other ant species. That I saw these two species interact with antennae tells me that they know they are there and are communicating — what, I don’t know. But it is difficult to think there is nothing to this. Exactly what needs to be investigated. Ah, another dissertation topic going begging…