What are these ants inside a log? (Andree, Barton, VT, USA)


Hi,

We live in the northeast corner of Vermont - close to the 45th parallel. My husband was logging dead trees just inside the woods. He cut down a two-part cottonwood that was large. It was like two cottonwoods had grown together or one had been cut long ago and shoots grew up onto the old tree. But where the V of this tree was, there was soil and that is where the ants lived. When the tree fell, the ants began moving the pupae into the forest floor. Right down under the earth. I did the best I could with the photos and have collected them into a Flickr set. Could you please ID them, if possible? The photos were taken on July 9, 2011.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/meeyauw/sets/72157627234873339/

Thank you very much for any help,
Andree
Barton, VT

Lasius.jpg

Lasius umbratus with pupae in rotten log.

Hi Andree,

Thanks for your question. We have deferred to James Trager, an ant expert with a lot of experience in ant identifications and a expert naturalist in general. Here is what he had to say:

"Almost certainly Lasius umbratus. This speices is not arboreal, but lives in soil, logs, stumps, or dead hollows of trees. It lines its nest chambers with a mix of wood pulp and a characteristic black fungus, visible in the pictures. They cultivate large numbers of pale reddish tan aphids on roots, probably including those of the tree in which they lived. In winter, the aphids are gathered up and pass the cold period in a large chamber together with the ants, then in spring are dispersed out among the roots to feed. The aphids provide lots of honey dew and some meat."

So, you not only found ants, but an entire little ecosystem when cutting the wood. Very interesting!

All the best,
James Trager (guest expert), Steffi Kautz & the AntAsk Team

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