Myrmecology

Myrmecology

  • How often do fire ants attack electrical installations in the US?

    I have seen this video from BBC "Fire Ants and Techno-Chaos" which states that fire ants (mainly Solenopsis invicta) will attack electric equipments in the US, causing considerable damage and havoc. I have been working with fire ants for almost 10 years, but never in the US. I have made many observations in the field in  South America (French Guyana, Uruguay, Brazil), and I have never seen them attacking electric installations there in their native range. On the other hand, I have observed some species of Camponotus, such as C. rufipes, making satellite nests in power boxes in gardens however I am not sure if they were really attracted by the electricity (dead power boxes also got colonised). My aunt lives in a heavily saevissima-infested region in Rio de Janeiro, and never had one equipment colonised by fire ants.

    Thus I would like to ask US residents if, from their personal experience, they feel fire ants will enter equipments any more often than other local ants?

    Eduardo Goncalves Paterson Fox · University of Lausanne

    Dear David, many thanks for the link: it is really informative. I am forwarding it to some friends from Brazil who are also curious on this topic. 

    Dear Mackay, this is really interesting information. I will contact you via email for the reprint/pdf of your research on this topic. I am curious of why this does not seem to be common in Brazil, while being an issue in the US. I must however add that I have never been to Mato Grosso do Sul, and most of my observations are with S. saevissima, which is more common around Southeast South America. As mentioned, I did see some ants invading power boxes in gardens, but never fire ants. Actually fire ants would seldom enter houses, even in infested (=several apparent nests in every house garden and whereabouts) areas, even in French Guyana. Maybe this difference is because of abiotic factors, such as temperature?

  • Jay Siddharth added an answer:
    Would anyone perhaps know if an ant pupa would survive a leg or wing amputation?
    I would need to do some experiments on ant pupae, but I should genotype them before procedures. As such I would be needing some body part for DNA extraction. I know adults do well after one leg amputation, but I am not sure about pupae. Would anyone perhaps know if an ant pupa would survive a leg or wing amputation? Also, how could I be sure that the pupa is alive after 48h from amputation, since they do not move?
    Jay Siddharth · Nestlé S.A.

    I still suggest just swab them..or even use their shedded moult should have enough DNA:

  • Les Greenberg added an answer:
    How can we induce ant nuptial flights in the laboratory?
    I am currently working as a postdoc in Switzerland with fire ants. For obtaining more colonies of fire ants, we must travel far, to the field in subtropical regions. We currently have several colonies established in climatized chambers.
    One procedure which would prove very useful to manipulating varieties of fire ants and also help us have more colonies without travelling would be inducing artificial mating flights. I have read only one paper on such attempt, however it was incomplete and only superficially described.
    Has anyone here ever tried doing that?
    Les Greenberg · University of California, Riverside

    You can get them to fly in a greenhouse but they don't mate under those conditions.

  • Anyone interested in collaborating to study a Leptanilla collection (Hymenoptera, Formicidae, Leptanillinae)?
    During last months I've been searching for Leptanilla specimens at Madrid, Spain. Leptanillinae are minute, blind subterranean ants rare to find and placed in a basal position in the phylogenetic tree of the Formicidae. I excavated a small area of 40 square meters and used Berlese methods to extract the specimens from the soil. I collected 3 queens, 1 larvae and 535 workers, probably corresponding to 3 species (one of them Leptanilla charonea, and the others pending of identification, without precluding new sp). In a pool placed 50 meters away from the excavation area I collected 370 undescribed males corresponding to 4 (maybe 5) species.

    I am seeking the collaboration of experts in order to:

    1) Identify and describe the specimens
    2) Make DNA analysis to associate males with workers (a special problem not solved in Leptanillinae, currently with two parallel taxonomies, one of males and another of workers and queens).

    A brief account of the excavation at Madrid, and some observations on the fligth of Leptanilla males, can be found in these entries of my blog:

    http://www.historiasdehormigas.blogspot.com.es/2013/11/leptanilla-breve-historia-de-una-larga.html
    http://www.historiasdehormigas.blogspot.com.es/2012/10/el-vuelo-de-leptanilla.html
    José María Gómez Durán · Instituto Nacional de Investigación y Tecnología Agraria y Alimentaria

    Last August I took an step in solving the puzzle of Madrid Leptanilla. I found 7 males associated with 227 workers (Leptanilla sp Madrid-B). All the specimens appeared in the same soil sample, and were extracted by means of Berlese method. An account of the finding, with some images, is in this link:

  • Jesus Davila Barboza added an answer:
    Does somebody know about the horizontal symbiont transfer between larvae and mature ants?
    I`m searching for some information about horizontal transfer of gut symbionts between ant larvae and mature ants. I`m very thankful for any suggestions. Also information about a symbiont transfer between mature ants would be helpful.
    Jesus Davila Barboza · Autonomous University of Nuevo León

    Maybe can be utility this... 

  • Stewart Bruce Archibald added an answer:
    Can anyone help with the Paleobiology of Titanomyrma?
    I have recently been looking up data on the extinct giant (hummingbird-sized) Eocene ant Titanomyrma, as well as the closely related and possibly synonymous form genus Formicium. However, the only information I have been able to find on the paleobiology of these species is from Wikipedia, and none of the information they give cites a particular paper.

    According to Wikipedia, Titanomyrma lacks a closing mechanism on the crop (whatever that means), sprayed formic acid as a primary means of defense, and has adaptations that suggest it was either a fungivore like modern leaf-cutter ants or was predatory in a manner similar to driver ants. Does anyone know what research articles (if any) proposed these ideas, and why? It could be that they were proposed in a paper regarding Formicium (which species assigned to Titanomyrma were formerly placed in).

    Finally, as an additional question, does anyone know what living group of ants the Formiciinae (note the extra "i") are related to? The group may be extinct, but close living relatives are known it might be easier to determine how likely the presence/absence of these adaptations are.
    Stewart Bruce Archibald · Simon Fraser University
    Hi, Russell, Yes, we were interested in the kind of environment that it lived in and how that might have affected its dispersal. I know that Torsten Wappler in Germany is heading up a team to look more deeply into these ants. As David mentioned, we only had the one specimen, and it wasn't nearly as well preserved as the German ones, which are numerous and much better preserved. So, I expect that Torsten and his team will have a lot more to say about how these ants lived and where the Formiciinae fits into the ant phylogeny. Actually, you might also look at the work of Herbert Lutz for more info. Here's Torsten's contact: Cheers, Bruce
  • How long can ant brood (larvae and pupae) survive outside of their colony?
    I am running an experiment where I must remove a brood from an ant colony and store them separately. I currently have no idea how long the brood will survive while outside the colony environment and it is vital that the brood do not die. The species I am studying are Lasius niger and Lasius flavus. Any help is greatly appreciated.
    Eduardo Goncalves Paterson Fox · University of Lausanne
    Dear Thomas,
    We have Lasius colonies in the lab here, but I work with fire ants. By brood, you must mind that you refer to any immature stage, which can be an egg, 1st-, 2nd-, or 3rd-instar larva, a prepupa, or a pupa. Each one of these stages is different in terms of demands from the colony. As a general rule, outside the colony, any of those will easily dehydrate, thus you must store them in a humid container without drowning. Also note that young larvae may eat eggs, and bigger larvae may eat smaller larvae. Some instars are more active and will eat more than others, thus younger larvae will quickly die (possibly hours) without nursing workers. Some species need assistance during moults, I do not know about Lasius, so 1st and 2nd-instar larvae could die within 1 or two days. Last instar larvae should last longer, such as 4 days, and may start metamorphosis without being further fed. Prepupae are merely last-instar larvae with a developing pupa inside, thus they tend to be more whitish (no gut) and immobile, and more elongate with a small constriction in the middle of body, and will eject a black meconium. I think in Lasius these and pupae are cocoons. I would expect any mature brood inside cocoons to survive for over 10 days outside the colony, and complete metamorphosis. Some species may need assistance to exit the cocoon, thus it is possible that many pharate adults will die when leaving the cocoon. Hope this general overview helps your planing.
  • William Costa Rodrigues added an answer:
    Why do ants bury their food?
    Does anyone know why and can anyone give me any references?
    Pheidole megacephala (Big Headed ant) ants buried a 4kg carcass.
    William Costa Rodrigues · Centro Universitário de Volta Redonda
    Carcases can provide all possibilities, since directly provide food (meat and fat), and can offer prey, such as eggs and larvae of flies. I believe the two are more reasonable possibility.
  • John Lattke added an answer:
    How do the queens of ant species of Pachycondyla and Odontomachus living on the ground choose the place to build their nests?
    I´d the like to know about any information available about the nesting behavior of Pachycondyla and Odontomachus species living on the ground.
    John Lattke · Central University of Venezuela
    This is complicated by the problem regarding what is Pachycondyla, and Odontomachus. There is plenty of evidence supporting the non monophyly of Pachys, and there should be a formal publication in print relatively soon splitting the genus. Odontomachus and Anochetus may not be separate lineages, but that is still to be studied. Using present understanding of both groups, I have found nesting queens in different places, leaf litter, twigs, logs, under mats of moss on stones and logs, under stones, epiphyte roots and litter accumulated in bromeliads or tree crotches. Some species may have a preferred site whilst others are not so choosy.
  • Steffen Boch added an answer:
    Could seed deposition at elevated sites by ants be an overlooked benefit (increased dispersal distance) for plants?
    There is a strong correlation of plant height and dispersal distance (Thomson et al (2011) J Plant Ecol 99 1299-1307)

    A high number of herbs in C-Europe growing in walls or also on trees (pollarded willows) are myremecochores (ant-dispersed plants) (Ulbrich(1939) Deutsche Myrmekochoren. Verlag des Repertorium, Dahlem).

    When small herbs are growing at these elevated sites from ant-dispersed seeds, their seeds might gain a high increase in dispersal distance after primary dispersal as "plant height' is increased manifold.

    This might be particularly important for diplochorous plants such as Violets (Viola spp.).
    Steffen Boch · Universität Bern
    Ants? Slugs!
    However, I would say yes. For diplochorous plant species more exposed sites are very likely better for being wind dispersed than growing in dense vegetation.
    Cheers, Steffen
  • Sajad H Parey added an answer:
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    Sajad H Parey · Sher-e-Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences and Technology
    Dear Dr. H Bharti is the specialist on this group better to follow him...............
  • Virgil Anderson Woods asked a question:
    Which is the most common supplier of stock ants in the Myrmecology field?
    I need information about any suppliers of pre-repleted Myrmecocystus specimens. I do not need living ants, so frozen samples are acceptable.
  • Ernesto Gomez added an answer:
    How can Escovopsis spp. (the coevolutionary parasite of the fungus growing ants) be transmitted among the tribe Attini?
    On the fungus growing ants symbiont parasite Escovopsis spp.
    Ernesto Gomez · Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute
    Yes there are a lot of invertebrates raleted to the attine nests.
    Thanks for sharing!
  • Jon Richfield added an answer:
    Is there an ant species that directly eats plant leaves?
    As far as I know, there are no herbivorous ants that directly eat plant leaves (not using the plant leaf as medium for fungi cultivation or other purpose). Does anyone know exceptions?
    If not, are there explanations, physiological, ecological etc., as to why ants don't eat plant leaves directly?
    Although I generally agree with Steffen's remarks, I have some reservations on his observations on the functional morphology of ants' trophi. Firstly, it is perfectly possible, even for an insect with purely cutting mandibles, to have masticatory maxillae as well. I have not investigated any particular ants' maxillae myself, so I am not in a position to urge that this is an important factor in practice, but I have observed ants feeding on various kinds of damaged plant tissues, and in particular on fleshy tissues such as those of fruit. Many of the ants in question were Argentine ants (Linepithema humile), which could both strip and feed on massive tissues such as flesh and fruit parenchyma. I cannot remember ever having seen them eat a significant quantity of any kind of leaf, but mandibular morphology does not strike me as having been a significant consideration.
  • Nitin Kulkarni added an answer:
    How can we extract the hemolymph from insects, especially from small ones like ants ?
    I want to determine the composition of the hemolymph of some ant species which are pretty small (around 1 cm.). So I have to extract the hemolymph from them. I don't know what is the best way to do so, whether I should take from adults or pupae and what kind of technique should I use. If anybody has experiences in this field, I really would like to have some suggestions.
    Nitin Kulkarni · Tropical Forest Research Institute
    I have extracted hemolymph from lepidoptera and Heteroptera. In lepidoptera the best method is to puncture thoracid legs or prolegs, while forewing base is the best place for Heteroptera. Ants, being smaller in size must be posing problems. Try puncuring near the base of thoracic legs afte removing it, under a low power binocular microsope and dribble it using micropipette. Let me know if it works. Goodluck
  • Mario X. Ruiz-González added an answer:
    Are ants conscious?
    There is lot of uncertainty to whether to consider smaller insects like ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) conscious. Considering that consciousness is born out of neural complexity, yet ants do show much social behavior which may point to them being termed as conscious sentient creatures, what are your views?
    Mario X. Ruiz-González · Universidad Técnica de Machala
    Dear Sidharta:
    I have worked with ants and I can tell that their tasks and behaviours have never look like simple but all the opposite. I keep in mind, however, that complexity does not implies intelligence. The most complex phenomena in nature generally arise as the product of physical laws, chemical interactions, and mathematics. Organisms with complex behaviours DO NOT have any programmer, but the do have a kind of a programme, the genetic code. The expression of the genetic code and the development of the 'ant' organism (epigenetics) happens in a combination of chemical interactions and physical laws in a given environment. We can add a temporal variable, time, and iterate the process of life generation after generation following the rules of evolution; and, what we obtain during this evolutionary process are colonies that produce workers that are quite fitted to gather individual information to be used in a general context. As a personal example, I was puzzled when starting to study Allomerus ants and their trap building behaviour through fungus cultivation. The complexity relies in that these ants cultivate a fungus to strengthen a trap built with plant trichomes and not for food as other ants do. However, when you spend time watching them through the microscope or the magnifying glass you realised how self-organisation occurs (unconsciously for the individual but selected at the colony level).
    Do you know the software Avida? It is a very good simulator to test for self-organisation in digital organisms and several other traits e.g., in social insects.
    By the way, I am enjoying a lot the discussion that you opened.
  • Exélis Moïse Pierre asked a question:
    Asian weaver ants novel nesting behaviors by systematic odd number construction in oil palm trees. Can modelling equations explain the phenomena?
    Two years of observations on oil palm trees plantations in Malaysia had shown a novel nesting behaviors of the Asian weaver ants Oecophylla smaragdina (Fabricius) that was never reported.
    These contained an average of 3.98 ±1.74 (mean ± SD, range 1-13) nests per tree with only odd number of nests in each surveyed trees.
    The phenomena exist during both dry and rainy seasons of the year. In biological system, only one case is clearly reported in North America for the cicadas insect eaten by birds when with a life cycle of 13 or 17 years, which still remain a mystery. The ants exhibited polydomous nesting behaviour, as reported by other authors (Debout et al. 2007), with multiple nests in a single palm tree, and multiple queens were sometimes observed in the main nest, suggesting polygyny (Exélis Pierre and Azarae, 2012- in press).
    Four experimental design testing had shown all positive results demonstrating that there are factors regulating the mechanism, from the queens. How and why? it is yet to be found out...
    I would like to know if the modelling equation system could help to explain the underlying biological mechanism regulating this. Beside the swarm intelligence of these ants. Any ideas or suggestions are welcome.
  • Ant larval morphology
    http://bioflukes.com/Others/bioflukes/1

    Please anyone is invited to peer and provide feedback directly on the paper. We are awaiting on further contributions from any field.
  • Francesco Simone Mensa asked a question:
    ANTS - Nature's Secret Power
    ANTS - Nature's Secret Power

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