Zach's Ants
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These are images of dead ants brought to me for identification by pilot Captain Zach
Updated by W.P. Armstrong, October 2020 [Plane Image: Wo sT 01/Wikimedia Commons]

1. Alpine Texas: Long-Legged Ant (Aphaenogaster = Novomessor)
2. Caspers Wilderness Park, San Juan Capistrano: Velvety Tree Ant
3. Dos Picos County Park: Stem Ant, Carpenter Ant Major & Nanite
4. Croatia: Red-Headed Acrobat Ant (Crematogaster scutellaris)
5. Paris, France: Unknown Ant From Deyrolle Natural History Store
6. Jekyll Island, Georgia On Atlantic Coast: Two Native Ant Species
7. Mt. Rose Near Reno, Nevada & Lake Tahoe: 2 Native Ant Species

1. Long-Legged Ant (Aphaenogaster = Novomessor)

Two species of Aphaenogaster (A. cockerelli and A. albisetosus) that I have photographed in Arizona and New Mexico are now placed in the genus Novomessor. The large size, long legs, and elongate head of this ant certainly resembles A. cockerelli. If it is the latter species, it would be properly named Novomessor cockerelli.

1b. Lateral Views Of This Fascinating Ant From Texas


GPS Coordinates For Above Ant Nest In Alpine, Texas

Degrees--Minutes--Seconds:
3019'53.8"N 10341'06.7"W

Decimal Degrees:
30.331605, -103.685188

Location in Alpine Texas

For GPS coordinates in Biology,
decimal degrees for latitude
& longitude are preferable.

  Degrees, Minutes, Seconds To Decimal Conversion  
Long-Legged Ant In Superstition Mtns Of Arizona


2. Velvety Tree Ant (Liometopum occidentale)

Collected by Zach & Sarah at Live Oak Camp in Caspers Wilderness Park, San Juan Capistrano, CA, 11 Oct. 2018. This ant is very fond of coast live oaks (Quercus agrifolia). It emits a strong, pungent odor when disturbed. They also bite without hesitation.

  My First Love Affair With Ants During The Early 1950s  


3. Ants Of Dos Picos County Park, San Diego County

If the queen carpenter ant from the Alcantar residence lays eggs in my terrarium, hopefully a nanitic caste (also called "minims") will appear to help the queen start a new colony at Wayne's Word. The miniature size of "minims" is due (in part) to meager nutrients supplied to them by founding queen during their larval stage.

Queen carpenter ant that may have flown into Alcantar residence before shedding her wings.


4. Red-Headed Acrobat Ant (Crematogaster) From Croatia!

Acrobat ant (Crematogaster scutellaris), a widespread species thoughout Europe and Mediterranean region. The body length is 3.0 mm although they can be a little longer. The name "acrobat" refers to their very flexible petiole & postpetiole that enables them to hold their gaster above the body. See following image of a local species from Daley Ranch in Escondido.

Crematogaster scutellaris is a natural predator of the moth (Thaumetopoea pityocampa), a devastating pest of Mediterranean pines, especially the Aleppo pine (Pinus halepensis).This ant also preys on the fig wasp (Blastophaga psenes), symbiotic pollinator of fig trees (Ficus carica) that inhabit this region.


Acrobat Ant At Daley Ranch In Escondido, CA

The name "acrobat ant" refers to the unusual way a worker holds its abdomen (gaster) up over the rest of its body by a very flexible petiole.


Acrobat Ants Attacking A Beetle In Cave Creek Canyon, Southern Arizona

This is a bombardier beetle of the genus Brachinus (possibly B. favicollis).

The bombardier beetle (Brachinus) is an example of irreducible complexity that is often used by advocates of intelligent design in their arguements against natural selection. How could such a complex and potentially lethal mechanism for repelling predators be produced by natural selection? This suborder of beetles known as Adephaga secrete a number of chemicals for a variety of purposes, only one of which is defense. Bombardier beetles inject an explosive mixture of hydroquinone, hydrogen peroxide plus several potent catalysts into a reaction chamber in the abdomen. Catalase breaks down the hydrogen peroxide into water and oxygen gas. Peroxidase oxidizes hydroquinone into benzoquinone. The mixture of chemicals and enzymes volatilizes instantly upon contact with the air, generating a puff of "smoke" and an audible popping sound. This caustic flatulence is totally controlled by the beetle, otherwise it might accidentally blow up its rear end. The explosive discharge apparently discourages predators, either by chemical irritation, heat or repugnance. The temperature of the explosive mixture of gasses and fluids is over 100 degrees Celsius, the boiling point of water. This astonishing chemical defense mechanism is discussed by D.J. Aneshansley and T. Eisner (1969) in Science Vol. 165: 61-63.

MIT scientist Eric Arndt and his colleagues have discovered that the superheated mixture comes out of the combustion chamber in a series of pulses rather than a continuous spray. This prevents the beetle's body from overheating while still scalding its would-be predator. See: Arndt, E.M. et al. 2015. "Mechanistic Origins of Bombardier Beetle (Brachinini) Explosion-Induced Defensive Spray Pulsation." Science 348 (6234): 563-567.

Other arthropods also produce some of the same chemicals found in bombardier beetles. Like bombardier beetles, these chemicals are used for defense or make the animal distasteful to predators; however, the mechanisms are not as sophisticated as bombardier beetles. Starting with these simpler mechanisms, a plausible step-by-step microevolutionary pathway culminating in bombardier beetles can be constructed. In fact, Mark Isaak (2003) discusses this in his on-line article entitled: "Bombardier Beetles and the Argument of Design."


5. Unknown Ants From Deyrolle in Paris, France


6. Two Native Ants From Jekyll Island, Georgia On Atlantic Coast

Slender Twig Ant Pseudomyrmex gracilis

Note: This genus includes the infamous swollen thorn acacia ants of Costa Rica that occupy the large thorns and defend the trees against browsing mammals. I can testify that they have a painful sting, having been stung numerous times because I brought some thorns to my room to observe and photograph. Every time I picked up a thorn an ant ran out and stung me!

Range: Southern and southeastern United States to South America (Argentina & Uruguay).
Habitat: Mangroves & thorn scrub to rainforest; inhabits enlarged acacia thorns in tropics.

Stem ant (Pseudomyrmex apache) on Owens Peak north of Palomar College

Image of acacia ant (Pseudomyrmex ferrugineus) from AntWeb.org. Note stinger used to discourage browsing mammals. In addition, these ants use their mandibles to clip off epiphytic vines & competing trees that might shade out the acacia. They can even clear the ground around trees!

  Stem Ant (Pseudomyrmex) On Owens Peak  
Swollen Thorn Acacia Ant In Costa Rica

Pyramid Ant Dorymyrmex bureni

Range: Southeastern United States and Mexico.

Left image: Typical pyramid ant nest (Dorymyrmex). Tentatively D. insanus

Note: The name "pyramid ant" refers to the conical (crater-like) nest. Some references say it refers to the conical projection on dorsal side of propodeum.

Bicolored Pyramid Ant On Owens Peak: Dorymyrmex bicolor  
  Black Pyramid Ant In Merriam Mts. N. Of Escondido: D. insanus  


7. Two Native Ants From Mt. Rose, Nevada

Originally I thought this ant might belong to the genus Lasius, a common ant very similar morphologically to the genus Formica. Although Lasius occurs in California, including Mt. Rose, I have only found it in Canada between Toronto, Ottawa and Quebec City. I have yet to encounter it in the U.S. Formica is an enormous genus of ants and the best I could do on this identification is the "Fusca Group" that includes several different species.

Eastern Canada Sept-Oct 2017
  Sequoia National Park June 2019