Salton Sea 2017 Part 8
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Salton Sea Road Trip March 2017 Part 8
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Arboretum Committee Field Trip (1 April 2017) Part 1
Our Group Near Rusty Subterranean Dragon

We suddenly noticed that Danny's little dog Max was missing. See next image!

Max in mouth of the monstrous subterranean dragon!

Near Plum Canyon

Elaine, Pauline & Susan

Honeypot Ants (Myrmecocystus)

Honeypot or honey ants (genus Myrmecocystus) are one of my favorite species of ants. They are found in arid and semi-arid regions of the western United States and Mexico, including a remarkable three species at Daley Ranch! Foraging workers harvest sweet plant fluids, including nectar from a wide variety of flowers, extrafloral resin glands, and juices from bruised or broken fruits. Active foraging is done during the day (diurnal species) or at night (nocturnal species). At Daley Ranch these ants are very fond of honey solutions and even love my Werther's hard candies. Special worker ants called repletes are fed these plant secretions until their gasters (abdomens) swell to the size of grapes in some species. The unusual repletes hang from the ceiling of tunnels deep within the nest and are "living storage units." They store large quantities of nutritious honeylike fluid in their swollen gasters to feed the colony during times of famine and drought. Workers simply go down to the replete tunnels and receive liquid food from the repletes by regurgitation (trophallaxis). This is an adaptation for living in extremely hot desert environments with prolonged drought. The habit of these ants for storing sweet liquids in replete workers was well known to indigenous people living within the range of this genus. Several other ant genera also have repletes with swollen gasters in their nests. For example, the black honey ant (Camponotus inflatus) is a favorite treat for Australian Aborigines.

Honeypot ants hanging from the ceiling of Myrmecocystus nest. Photographed at the Cincinnati Zoo.
© Greg Hume (17 September 2006), Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The black Australian honey ant (Camponotus inflatus)
© Avilasal (24 Sept. 2011), Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Honeypot Ant Nest In Palm Canyon (2 April 2017)

Honeypot ants (Myrmecocystus) enjoying a Werther's Original Caramel Hard Candy. These ants love sugar. I am not certain about the species; however, M. semirufus was reported in nearby Hellhole Canyon. I also found this species between Palm Canyon and Hellhole Canyon. It is very similar to M. mendax.

A honeypot ant near Hellhole Canyon, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. Richard Vernier reported M. semirufus from Hellhole Canyon in 2008. Ant authority Gordon C. Snelling (2008) said that M. mendax is very similar and may occur in this area.

Honeypot Ants (Myrmecocystus) Near Hellhole Canyon
  Honeypot Ants (Myrmecocystus) North Of The Salton Sea