Arizona Road Trip Jan-Feb 2018 Part 7
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Arizona Road Trip Jan-Feb 2018 Part 7
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    See Ant Images Taken During Jan & Feb Of 2017!       Ant Images From Jan & Feb Of 2016!  
Ant Images (3)

Aphaenogaster At Boyce Thompson Arboretum State Park

Active colony of Aphaenogaster albisetosa under a rock in Queen Creek.

Aphaenogaster albisetosa: These ants are very similar in general appearance to long-legged ants (A. cockerelli) in the Superstitions and Sedona. They are much more aggressive than A. cockerelli and bite without hesitation. This is especially true when I place my hand near their nest! They have a large, deep nest entrance, and are sometimes called funnel ants because their entrance is like a funnel-shaped pitfall trap.

Aphaenogaster In The Superstitions

Aphaenogaster cockerelli: I realize that personality is probably not a valid criterion for distinguishing between similar ant species, but in my experience this species shows no tendency to bite when I place my hand in their nest.

There appears to be a difference in head shape (excluding mandibles) that is consistant with Creighton's key to Aphaenogaster (1950). I have not seen any reference describing a difference in their aggressiveness behavior.

Honeypot Ants (Myrmecocystus)

Note: As of 4 February 2018 (day of 52nd Super Bowl) there was no sign of honeypot ants at Coon Bluff (Lower Salt River). The ground was dry with a thick layer of dust like the surface of the moon (slight exaggeration). There were no wildflowers or nectar source for the ants. Perhaps they were deep underground obtaining their sustenance from repletes. For this reason, my representative Myrmecocystus images are from previous road trips to Arizona.

Coon Bluff Picnic Area (5 Feb 2018). The parched ground was covered with a thick layer of fine dust resembling footprints on the moon!. Other areas along the Lower Salt River were similar. In previous years with more rainfall and wildflowers I found thriving honeypot ant nests in these areas,

Holbrook, Arizona: Great place to photograph freight trains and the home of one of my favorite honeypot ants (cf. Myrmecocystus mexicana). It is also near the Painted Desert & Petrified Forest National Park.

This curious roadrunner stood 10 feet away watching me photograph a colony of honeypot ants (Myrmecocystus) in the Lower Salt River. These sugar-loving ants are very fond of Werther's Butterscotch! Their bright red head probably rules out M. mimicus. Tentatively, they resembles M. mendax.

Honeypot nest (cf. Myrmecocystus mimicus). Facial tissue soaked in saturated solution of table sugar was placed at the entrance to their nest near Tucson, Arizona.

The genus Myrmecocystus is commonly known as "honeypot ants." Worker ants tend special polymorphic ants called repletes. These unusual ants hang from the ceiling deep within the nest and are "living storage units." They store large quantities of nutritious honeylike fluid in their swollen abdomens to feed the colony during times of famine and drought. This is an adaptation for living in extremely hot desert environments with prolonged drought, such as the Salton Sea region. The repletes of some species become the size of small grapes. During leaner times of the year when foraging food is unavailable, workers will tap their antenna upon the head, mandibles and antenna of a replete to solicit food, which is then readily provided to the repletes' nestmates. See the following image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

From the Bakersfied Skeptic Society: A honeypot ant "replete" engorged with nectar. Like a living larder, It remains deep in the nest and supplies other workers with liquid food during times of drought. Running fast is no longer an option for this ant! This tasty, sweet morsel is highly prized by aborigines in several countries where honeypot ants live.

A gentleman that I met at the Comfort Inn in Tucson said he remembered eating these tasty ants as a child in Mexico. The Spanish translation for honey ant is "hormiga de miel". He was surprised to know there was a nest in the riverbed near the hotel!

Dateland, Arizona Near The Union Pacific RR Tracks: The
Only Place I Found Myrmecocystus On This 2018 Road Trip

A distinctive honeypot ant nest in the foreground (white arrow). The crater has a large, circular entrance without the dense outer layer of seedless husks of nearby havester ant (Messor pergandei) craters.

Honeypot ants (Myrmecocystus) are common desert ants of very dry habitats, such as the Salton Sea and Arizona; however, on this extensive 3-week road trip I only found them at Dateland, Arizona long the Union Pacific RR tracks. These sugar-loving ants are very fond are Werther's butterscotch and gather around the moistened candy like livestock around a feeding trough. I always carry several Werther's in my pocket to quickly identify these ants from other genera.

Another honeypot nest with speeding train in distance.

Desert Leaf-Cutter Ant Carrying Pinnate Leaves Of Palo Verde

Palo verde (Cercidium microphyllum = Parkinsonia microphylla): State tree of Arizona.

Desert leaf-cutter ant (Acromyrmex versicolor)