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Saturday, April 23, 2011

Spring Harvesters

Pogonomyrmex barbarous aka Red Harvester Ants have barely opened their nests for the season and are busy hoarding seeds into their neatly stacked food caches. The patrollers or scouts leave the nest at dawn to locate and identify food items as far as 130 feet from the colony.

Cooper and I slip into the prairie near midmorning. We miss the return of the scouts. By the time we arrive at one of the nests, the foragers are already at the peak of their work day. Their mission is to follow well-marked scent trails. Each spend 20-30 minutes retrieving seed booty identified by the scouts. Although seeds are the primary food source of harvester ants, they will take animal matter as well. 

Today the scouts show preference for winged Siberian Elm seeds. We discover many of the returning foragers tenaciously moving comestible elm treasures. The gusty 30 mph winds hinder progress by blowing the ants clinging to seeds across any open space on their route. 

Harvester Ants prefer open grasslands and arid habitats. Their many-chambered nests have an average depth of six feet. They do not forage at night. Capturing closeup images of these interesting Llano Estacado creature is a precarious enterprise. They can be aggressive and bite ferociously. Their venom leaves painful welts.

© Ilija Lukić 2011

Lone Harvester

Amber Wave Of Grain (harvester ant territory)

Slice And Dice Operation (pogonomyrmex barbatus)

Spring Harvest Festival

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