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Posts Tagged ‘solenopsis’

Queen of the Sand Ants

pergandei2Solenopsis pergandei queen and workers
Archbold Biological Station, Florida, USA

Photo details: Canon MP-E 65mm 1-5x macro lens on a Canon EOS 50D
ISO 100, f/13, 1/250 sec, diffused twin flash

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invicta30

A Solenopsis invicta queen attempts to escape a pair of tormentors

Life is perilous for young ant queens. This fire ant (Solenopsis invicta) is being pursued by native Forelius ants after her mating flight in central Florida. She frantically climbs a grass blade to escape, but to no avail- the attackers follow. She will make an excellent source of protein to feed the Forelius larvae.

Two larger points about this photo. First, establishing new colonies is tremendously difficult. The founding stage is when most colony-level mortality happens, and this excessive mortality is why ant nests produce hundreds of queens every year in the hopes that a handful survive.

Second, native ants may be our best friends in combating the spread of introduced pest ants. Healthy, intact native habitats with thriving local ant populations make it more difficult for intruders like the fire ant to gain a toe-hold. The more we alter habitat and the more we use generalized pesticides, the more problems we cause our native species and the easier it is for pests to establish.

Photo details: Canon 100mm f2.8 macro lens on a Canon EOS 20D
ISO 400, f/8, 1/500 sec, ambient light

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Solenopsis invicta- invasive or just disturbed?

Solenopsis invicta - invasive or just disturbed?

Prevailing wisdom holds that imported fire ants marched across the southern United States on the virtue of their fierce nature and superior competitive ability.  The fire ant conquest of the south reads like a tale of bravery and intrigue, but according to Walt Tschinkel and Josh King it is also not true.   They have a must-read study in PNAS this week detailing a tight set of field experiments that turns the conventional wisdom upside-down.

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