Posts Tagged 'ants'

Late Insecta

Not a single bee, wasp, or butterfly spotted yesterday in Green-Wood during lunch. There was a suggestion or two of fly, and at least one spider. The first real day of winter, then, bug-wise.

Last weekend, though, these stragglers were spotted:
Differential Grasshopper, a big one.
One of the confusing Syrphid flies.
Clouded Sulphur.
Vinegar fly.
Variegated Fritillary.
Large Yellow Ant, according to iNaturalist. Reproductive ants are winged, the better to spread the genes, and the wasp-ant similarity really comes through.
Speaking of wasps… there are so many species! This may be a member of the Square-headed Wasp subfamily.

Mushroom Monday

To everything there is a season, and these mushrooms were on the way to deliquescing into ooze. Ants in the first picture. In the second, the white rice-looking things are alive. They are some kind of springtails, possibly of the genus Ceratophysella, and are scavenging on the rich fruit of these fruiting bodies. As always, you can click on these images to pop them open, although you may wish to pass on this one.I read recently a comment from a lower Hudson River valley mushroom hunter, who said this fall has seen the most mushroom in half a century. It was extraordinarily wet, that’s for sure.Large Yellow Webworm caterpillar.

Whose Woods?

In Sweden, the woods belong to the red wood ants (Formica). They build large mounds, are essential forest managers, and aren’t afraid of taking on bigger critters.A young Kopparödla or Slowworm (Anguis fragilis) is being taken down. (Movie)
Duncan takes a closer look at one of the mounds. This was the last we saw of him…

Pond Life and Death

Ants in Your Stockings

Better than coal, right? Hell, what isn’t?

The Eleanor Spicer Rice series of books about ants are for the younger naturalist, but we can all learn a thing or two about these omnipresent critters in these pages. I perused Dr. Eleanor’s Book of Common Ants and Dr. Eleanor’s Ants of New York City; Chicago and California are covered in two other volumes; there’s also a Book of Common Spiders which I’m awaiting.

I’ve always been struck by the kinship between ants, bees and wasps, the main members of the order Hymenoptera. But don’t bees and wasps all have wings, you ask, “membrane-winged” being the translation of Hymenoptera? Well, reproductive ants do have wings. After mating flight, the female or queen discards hers for a life in the colony. The males, who often look even more like wasps than ants in general do, are evidently little studied. Like drone honeybees, they don’t seem to do much besides mate with queens. Nice job if you can get it? Worker honeybees (non-reproductive females) throw the drones out of the hive before winter; unable to fend for themselves, they die.

I’m now happily in possession of this fact: an ant’s abdomen is called a gaster. I think “Aunt Gaster” would make a very fine character name.

The pictures — no easy task when it comes to tiny moving insects — are by Alex Wild. The table of contents has pictures of all the ants, but otherwise it’s hard to compare and contrast the species for identification purposes. I’d like to have seen field marks, however small, highlighted. Also, there’s a bit too much repetition for my taste, both internally and between volumes, and the stories told are too cute for the old curmudgeon class, but I soldiered on.

Your best bet if not in NYC or Chi-town or Cali is to get the Book of Common Ants, which is a bit larger, with 18 species. The NYC volume covers 14 species. A drop in the ant bucket: there are at least 42 species found in the city.

Other natural history book to consider as gifts.

Ant Farm

antsAnts herding a flock of aphids. The ants protect the aphids from other predators and harvest the aphids’ sweet honeydew for themselves. The aphids go about their business sucking plant juices. Just another day in Brooklyn.

Winged Ones

antsHymenoptera, the insect order that includes the wasps, bees, and ants, are named after their “membrane wings.” But ants don’t have wings, at least not in the colony, where such appendages would get in the way. The reproductives, males and virgin queens, however, do have wings. The queens break their wings off after mating flights and start new colonies. The males, or drones, die off after their work is done. Last week, a subtle glittering in the grass caught my eye. It was this colony all a-flutter.

Ant, Wing

An ant wrestles with a lepidoptera wing. ant3ant2An aerodynamic challenge.

Long Horns

Sometimes you don’t notice the details (or the scandalously narrow field of focus) of a macro shot until later. Check out these great big antenna, like something you’d find on long-horned cattle. This worker ant is busy on that understory delight Spicebush, Lindera benzoin.

Ant swarm

Last night about 3:30 I was informed that the Back 40 (inches), my little piece of Brooklyn backyard, was swarming with ants.

Last week, I missed a twig-shaped caterpillar eating one of my plants around 4 a.m. I regretted not getting out of bed to see that.

So last night I did get out of bed, determined not to miss this mystery of the night. Holy Formicidae! It was aardvark heaven. “My” ants make their nests in between the concrete slabs. The colony closest to the door was out and about, being seen and making the scene. The drones, the males, were crawling around and whizzing through the air, crazily circling the light while it was on. Look for the big winged jobs above to see some drones. The workers were spread out all over the concrete. Perhaps there was a queen in the mix, too — that ant in the top middle looks really large — but frankly, I didn’t go outside. I wasn’t, ahem, dressed for the occasion, so I shot a couple of pictures through the window.

Half awake, I thought, this is why I have this blog, to show the astonishing variety of life right outside my urban door. To show the things biological that happen right under our noses. To marvel at it all.

And then I went back to bed.


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