Salton Sea 2014 (Part 3)
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Part 3: Ant Images
Myrmecocystus (Formicinae)

Alex Wild includes images of three species of Myrmecocystus with reddish-orange heads and black abdomens (gasters) on his website: M. depilis (Portal, AZ), M. mendax (Chiricahua Mts, AZ), and M. mimicus (Sycamore Can, AZ). The latter species also occurs at Carrizo Plain National Monument, CA and Green Valley, AZ. The three species superficially resemble the following images of honeypot ants I observed north of Salton Sea State Park.

Myrmecocystus mexicanus has been reported from the Salton Sea, but this species has an amber-colored head and body. Alex Wild includes images of this species from the Mojave Desert, CA plus images of two additional amber-colored species: M. navajo (Wilcox, AZ) and M. testaceus (Mojave Desert, CA). He also includes another species from sand dune areas of the Mojave Desert with a black head and body (M. tenuinodis). I have photographed M. navajo (or M. mexicanus) from Holbrook, AZ. M. navajo is also reported from Wilcox, AZ to the south of Holbrook.

Distinctive Myrmecocystus Crater

Entrance to Myrmecocystus nest: Harvester ant nests (Messor and Pogonomyrmex) usually have a distinct crater-like cone covered on the outside with dense layer of seedless husks from nearby shrubs and wildflowers. Myrmecocystus nests may have just a opening in the sand, or resemble shallow craters. Depending on the species and age of the colony, the crater-like nests of some Myrmecocystus can be quite distinct.

Entrance To Myrmecocystus Nest