Ant biology: September 2011 Archives

I took pictures of 2 Guardian Ants working Woolly Aphids. I am trying to find the name of the ant species that is acting as guardian to this mass of Woolly Aphids, Prociphilus tessellatus, on a growing Alder shrub next to a lake.

The area this Speckled Alder is growing in is very sparse during the winter with snow and ice licking at its branches. Where would these ants keep these aphids over the winter? Do aphids, and ants have sort of anti-freeze in there system that kicks in during the winter?

Since this was on a lake shore, and at the end of a wooded hill to the lake, do I need to be concerned relative to my plants about 500 feet away? If so what do you suggest?

Thank you,
Richard and Meghan
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Dear Richard and Meghan,

Thank you for contacting AntBlog and send such nice photographs. This certainly helps with identifications. Since you are in New England, we reached out to an expert in the area, Stefan Cover, for help. Here is what he said:

"Those ants are Camponotus noveboracensis. The Camponotus are frequent aphid tenders but we know nothing about the relationship between these ants and that particular aphid. No need to worry about plants 500 feet away, though."

In addition, if you would like to read more about what ants do in the winter, please see our previous post here.

Best regards,
Stefan Cover (guest expert), Corrie Moreau & the AntAsk Team

Dear AntAsk team,

I've been rearing a colony of North American Odontomachus for about three years now. Recently I separated about 200 workers from the main colony for the purposes of another project which has since been completed. Reluctant to return them to the original colony for fear of contamination, I have been keeping these workers separate and supplying them with sandy soil, some dried wood, a cotton ball of water, a cotton ball of sugar water and biweekly termites or pinhead crickets. However, I was startled to find that over three months later I still have about 85 or so of the separated workers left perfectly alive and well. I was wondering, what is the average longevity of most Odontomachus workers? Is this common for them to live this long?

Thanks for your help,

Dear Kaitlin,

Thank you for contacting AntBlog. Your experiments with Odontomachus trap-jaw ants sound interesting. To address your question, we contacted an expert, Andrew Suarez, who has lots of experience rearing Odontomachus colonies in the lab. Here is what Andy had to say:

"We have maintained a number of Odontomachus species in the lab, and have found workers to be quite long lived under lab conditions. For a few of the larger species, we have had workers live for over a year. Six months, however, is definitely not unusual."

Good luck with your trap-jaw ant colonies!
Andrew Suarez (guest expert), Corrie Moreau & the AntAsk Team

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