Tag Archives: prairie

No Place Like Home: the Comanche Harvester Ant in the Cross Timbers

I had  a short paper published in the frist issue of Post Oak and Prairie Journal (January 2015). In this paper, I highlight some natural history work that did not make it into my dissertation on the Comanche harvester ant (Pogonomyrmex comanche). I plan to follow up on this work in the near future.

The paper is titled: No Place Like Home: the Comanche Harvester Ant in the Cross Timbers. (Notice that my photo of a Comanche harvester ant made the cover — such a great Cover Girl!)

The Cross Timbers Ecoregion occurs in Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, and perhaps Arkansas, where the eastern forests grade into the drier western grasslands and desert. This region is characterized by a mosaic of oak forests and prairie — which is exactly the mosaic of habitats the Comanche harvester ant likes. I believe that the Comanche harvester ant is an important part of this ecosystem in part because they nest only in the prairie but forage into the woods, thereby connecting these different habitats. In the near future, I plan to investigate how Comanche and other ants play a role in this dynamic ecoregion.

 

Prairies in a Changing World: State of the Prairie Conference 2014

Conferene poster

The Native Prairies Association of Texas (and the Coastal Prairie Partnership) had their annual meeting in Fort Worth at the Fort Worth Botanical Garden from May 29 – May 31, 2014.  I was invited to present my research on ants in the prairies of the Fort Worth Nature Center in Fort Worth and the Southwest Nature Preserve in Arlington, Texas.

I also attended most of the meeting and gained a lot from the presentations I attended and especially from hobnobbing with other attendees.

**I want to pass on that Native American Seed is producing a seed mix especially to attract native bees which will be available this fall. Here’s the link to this Seed Source.

Here is the agenda for May 30 and May 31, following which I post my notes on the few talks I was able to attend with some comments and finally my presentation and extensive notes on the slides.

May 30 Agenda

State of the Prairie Agenda for May 30

May 31 Agenda

State of the Prairie Agenda for May 31

My Notes and Comments

State of the Prairie Conference Notes

Demonstration Prairie 5

The Demonstration Prairie at the Fort Worth Nature Center (photo above)

I presented my research on the ant species I have found in 17 sites at the Fort Worth Nature Center and what this means for 1) the possibility of using ants as bioindicators and 2) for the ecology of the Cross Timbers Ecoregion.

“Jills of All Trades: Ant Diversity and Flexibility in the Cross Timbers Ecoregion”

Here are my notes. In these notes I include quite a bit more than I was able to cover, in part, so that if you did not attend, you can follow the slides. If you have questions, message me.

Jills of all Trades_Presentation Notes

And finally, I mention a 10 minute digital recording I made of the Comanche harvester ant “remodeling” a ground bee nest that was too close to the ant nest. Here is a the video:

Preliminary Ant Ids for the Southwest Nature Preserve

I have worked through the woodland sample from the Southwestern Nature Preserve, Arlington, Texas. Not many ants were in this sample, possible due to the continued heat.

I found

Crematogaster lineolata (acrobatic ants)

Aphaenogaster carolinesis  (I am pretty sure)

Pheidole – no species id yet (new to me) (big headed ants — definite majors and minors)

Temnothorax — not species Id yet (new to me; perhaps new find for Texas)

and one Pogonomyrmex comanche de-alate queen who may have been working as a forager for her natal colony (too late for her to be a newly mated queen). (the Comanche harvester ant)

 

The prairie sample has a lot more ants in it — which I found a bit surprising since it is so hot (still) now. I had thought the shade of the woodland would have allowed more species to remain active and the prairie ants would be on siesta. The traps are set out for several days in order to catch the ants whenever they are active.

Blanket flower (Gaillardia pulchella) at the Fort Worth Nature Center, Fort Worth, Texas

Books about Prairie

Ecology and Management of North American Savannas by Guy R. McPherson.1997. Tucson: The University of Arizona Press. pp. 208.

A Field Guide to the North American Prairie (Peterson Field Guide) by Stephen R. Jones and Ruth Carol Cushman.2004. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company. pp.510.

Grassland and Grassland Ecology by David J. Gibson. 2008. Oxford University Press.  pp. 320.

The Last Prairie: A Sandhills Journal by Stephen R. Jones. 2000. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press. pp.242.

North American Prairie by J. E. Weaver. 1954. Lincoln, NE: Johnsen Publishing Company. pp. 348.

Prairie Soul: Finding Grace in the Earth Beneath my Feet by Jeffrey A. Lockwood. 2004. Boston: Skinner House Books. pp. 145.