Ants On Merriam Mtn

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San Diego County Ants:
  Owens Peak  
  Merriam Mtns  
  Palomar Mtn  
  Daley Ranch  
Ants On Palomar Mountain, San Diego County

Distant Marine Layer From South Grade Road

Flight over Palomar Mouintain. Scanned from 35 mm Kodachrome transparency (April 1969).

In June, 2007 Phil Ward (UC Davis) recorded 16 species of ants in Palomar State Park: Boucher Lookout and along Boucher Trail and Adams Trail. Collections were made in a mixed coniferous forest with Pseudotsuga macrocarpa, Calocedrus decurrens, Abies concolor, Quercus kelloggii and Q. chrysolepis. Dr. Ward's checklist is available at the following URL. Special thanks to John Henning for finding some of the ants on this page.

  Ants Of Palomar Mountan State Park by Phil Ward  

Amblyoponinae: Dracula Ant (Amblyopone pallipes)

The dracula ant (Amblyopone pallipes = Stigmatomma pallipes) is one of the most interesting species on Palomar Mountain. This small, subterranean predator of forested areas is seldom seen. It has greatly reduced eyes composed of only one or two facets and long, slender mandibles each lined with a row of teeth. It is a specialist predator on geophilomorph centipedes that live in the forest soil and duff. I have yet to find one of these curious ants.

Photo courtesy of

Other Species Reported For Palomar Mtn State Park By Phil Ward:
Species In Bold Have Image Links On Wayne's Word Ant Pages

Tapinoma sessile

Formica moki, Lasius pallitarsis

Solenopsis molesta, Crematogaster, C. hespera, C. mormonum, Monomorium ergatogyna, Myrmica punctinops, Stenamma punctatoventre, S. cf. snellingi, Temnothorax andrei, T. nevadensis.

Undoubtedly, Some Ant Species On Owens Peak, The Merriam Mtns
& Twin Oaks Valley May Also Occur On Palomar Mtn.

Grey Field Ant (Subfamily Formicinae): Formica moki

Field Ant (Subfamily Formicinae): Lasius pallitarsis

Lasius pallitarsis: Photo courtesy of

Boucher Lookout, Palomar Mountain State Park

Myrmicinae: Harvester Ant (Pogonomyrmex subnitidus)

Pogonomyrmex subnitidus: This species is very similar to Pogonomyrmex californicus and is listed as a subspecies of the latter species in some references.

Pogonomyrmex subnitidus with prominent propodeal spines.

Pogonomyrmex californicus From South Escondido

Harvester ant (cf. Pogonomyrmex californicus) with no propodeal spines. Notice the basket of hairs (psammophore) protruding from underside of head. See following two images (presumably a queen of this species) with conspicuous psammophore

The basket of hairs (psammophore) around & below mandibles helps this queen carry mouthfuls of dry, loose sand without spilling out.

  Ants Of The Merriam Mountains  

The 18-inch Schmidt Telescope: In 1993 the Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 was discovered by Eugene and Carolyn Shoemaker and David Levy in this observatory. The following year this famous comet collided with the planet Jupiter.

Dolichoderinae: Pyramid Ant (Dorymyrmex bicolor)

Nest of small mound-building ants of the genus Dorymyrmex.

Formicinae: Carpenter Ant (cf. Camponotus semitestaceus)

I originally thought this was Camponotus vicinus; however, C. vicinus has a black gaster like C. dumetorum. The species on Palomar Mountain has a feruginous (rust-colored) gaster & thorax. It appears to be in the C. vicinus-complex that includes C. semitestaceus and C. ocreatus.

This is not a wasp! It is a large queen carpenter ant (probably Camponotus ocreatus) almost 20 mm in length. It was discovered under a pillow in a friend's bed who lives on Palomar Mountain.

Doane Pond, Palomar Mountain State Park

Formicinae: False Honey Ant (Prenolepis imparis)

Prenolepis imparis is sometimes called a false honey ant because the colonies have food storage repletes like honey pot ants (Myrmecocystus). "False honey ant" is an unfortunate name, since the storage product in the swollen gasters of young workers (repletes) of these ants is fatty, not sugary.

Lower Doane Valley, Palomar Mountain State Park

A forked ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa) in Lower Doane Valley.

Watch out for rattlesnakes when crawling around looking for ants!
Large Southern Pacific rattlesnake (Crotalus viridis ssp. helleri).

Minute pseudoscorpions live under the bark flakes of ponderosa pine.

Addendum: Palomar Mtn 18 May 2018

Dolichoderinae: Velvety Tree Ant (Liometopum occidentale)

These aggressive, biting ants give off a pungent odor if disturbed.

Velvety tree ants (Liometopum occidentale) under a coast live oak (Quercus agrifolia) If you place your hand near their ant trail they will quickly crawl onto your fingers and proceed to bite without hesitation! These ants are appropriately described as "bitey."

Dolichoderinae: Black Pyramid Ant (Dorymyrmex insanus)

This native southwestern ant appears to be holding its own against massive army of Argentine ants in my yard. The specific epithet "insanus" refers to its confusing taxonomic history and not any aberrant behavior.

Formicinae: A Dark Honeypot Ant (Myrmecocystus mimicus)

Note: This species of Myrmecocystus has a black or dark brown body (integument), although the head and thorax are slightly reddish. Ants in the subgenus Eremnocystus are typically blackish or dark brown. Ants in the subgenus Endiodioctes are typically bicolored with red heads & mesosomas, and with black gasters (M. wheeleri has an orange-ferruginous gaster). Ants in the subgenus Myrmecocystus have yellowish (amber-colored) bodies. The latter species are typically nocturnal with large eyes. As a botanist for my entire career, I must say that some ant genera are very difficult to key down to species. Myrmecocystus is one of those genera! I have observed this species at Daley Ranch and near the old Palomar Mtn School on the road to the Palomar Observatory.

I carefully attempted to key out this dark honeypot ant using the on-line dichotomous key to Myrmecocystus species. Some of the couplets were quite difficult, but I got down to couplet 15: Tergum III with "little or no pubescence" (M. mimicus) and "Tergum III with dense (appressed) pubescence" (M. faviceps). According to entomologist Dr. Phil Ward at UC Davis (personal communication, 17 August 2015), my ant is M. mimicus. My images match those of entomologist Dale Ward, so apparently this species can be quite dark in color.

 See Amazing BBC Video About Honeypot Ants (Myrmecocystus mimicus) In Horseshoe Canyon, Arizona 

  Mymecocystus mexicanus at Joshua Tree National Park  
Mymecocystus semirufus or mendax in Borrego Valley
cf. Mymecocystus wheeleri in nearby Merriam Mtns

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