Ant News from the MEM

2012

Update on the identity of the crazy ant in the southeastern US. As many folks are aware, a crazy ant going under several common names (Caribbean, hairy, Rasberry) and several scientific names (N. pubens, N. near pubens, N. fulva) has been plaguing parts of the Southeast and Texas for the past few years. Because of the similarity between N. fulva and N. pubens, a definitive name had not been used for the ant in the US. Workers are almost, if not, impossible to tell apart between the two species. However, based on differences in males, it looked like our species was actually N. fulva. A new study by Gotzek et al. (2012) has confirmed that the crazy ant in the southeastern US is indeed Nylanderia fulva (not N. pubens). The researchers used both DNA and morphometric techniques for this study. This paper is online at: http://www.plosone.org/article/info:doi/10.1371/journal.pone.0045314 Great news! Now maybe we can move forward on control measures.

Changes to the web site. Recent nomenclatural changes with generica names changes have meant that this web site needed updating. Several key name changes have occurred in the last few years. Among the names that have changed: Amblyopone to Stigmatomma (for US specimens); Cryptopone gilva is now Pachycondyla gilva; Pyramica was lumped into Strumigenys (this actually happened a few years ago, but is finally gaining further support. I expect eventually this large genus will be split up considerably); and I am using the name Nylanderia fulva instead of N. pubens, which follows Trager's treatment of the group (Trager, 1984).

Eventually, I would like to include photos or drawings for keys, especially for the generic level keys. I have finished up a couple of these with photos (Amblyoponinae, Dolichoderinae, and Ponerinae keys). Hopefully, they will ease the process of identification for people relatively new to myrmecology.

Additional specimens of recently described Strumigenys subnuda discovered. Several specimens of S. subnuda were discovered in material borrowed from the Louisiana State Arthropod Collection (LSAC). Specimens had been identified as S. margaritae, which would have been the logical name at the time they were identified. This was great news, as the original description by MacGown and Hill was based on a single dealate queen. All specimens in the LSAC were alate queens collected in flight interception traps in a longleaf pine savanna. No workers have been reported for this species.

Strumigenys epinotalis (reported as Pyramica epinotalis) discovered in the United States. While identifying material from a study of arboreal pitfall trapping techniques by researchers at Louisiana State University, MacGown discovered specimens of Strumigenys epinotalis. This Central/South American species is unlike most other dacetine ants in that it appears to be arboreal. For more information about this interesting species read the paper that resulted from this study at: http://www.hindawi.com/journals/psyche/2012/850893/cta/

2011

New detections of Hairy Crazy Ants (Nylanderia pubens) in MS and LA result in AP story and FOX News video. Within the last ten years, reports of hairy crazy ants, Nylanderia pubens, have greatly increased in Texas and Florida. In 2009, we detected this species for the first time in Hancock County at two localities. In 2010, we detected populations in Jackson, Co., MS. During this same time period, the crazy ants were discovered in two parishes in LA. As a result of these new detections and the mass populations of this species, an AP story was written that featured Joe MacGown (and other researchers). This story was circulated worldwide in hundreds of papers, blogs, etc. [AP News Story] MacGown was also interviewed about the subject on national FOX news [FOX news story] and SuperTalk Radio in Jackson, MS.

Restoration of Black Belt Prairie Remnants along the Natchez Trace Parkway (web site). Due to wet conditions during the winter of 2009, only the thinning treatments were applied. Sampling continued in all plots during 2010. Initial results showed a significant shift in ant species composition in the cut/left and cleared treatment plots, likely due to a loss of forest ant species. Burn treatments were applied during the spring of 2011.

2010

New species of Pyramica described by MacGown and Hill from Mississippi. A single delate queen of the new species, which we named P. subnuda, was discovered in grass clippings piled next to a pine tree at Jeff Davis Lake in southern MS. Repeated trips to the area did not result in our finding more specimens. After several years, we described the species based on the single specimen, which was very distinctive from other dacetines.

Two new exotic pest ants discovered in Mississippi. MacGown and Hill collected specimens of two new exotic pest ants for Mississippi, Pseudomyrmex gracilis (elongate twig ant) and Monomorium floricola (bicolored trailing ant), while collecting in Harrison County in late May, 2010. The ants were collected at an outdoor palm nursery in Gulfport. The palms, which were planted directly in the soil, were originally from Florida. These two ant species may have been accidentally introduced to MS with the palms, or they may already be established in MS. Future monitoring will necessary to ascertain whether they are indeed established, and to see if they become more widespread in the state. For more information about this discovery, go to our report about these two species.

New ant study along north/south highway corridors in Mississippi started. In May, we started a new project in which we will be making collections along transects on roadsides of various north to south highways in the state. During phase I, we began our collections in Mobile, AL and then followed Hwy 45 north into southern TN. We made collections every 40km along transects using baits, litter sampling, and general collecting methods. We hope to show distributions of roadside species, especially exotic species, and we will compare these data to future collections at the same sites three years later. Additionally, we will make collections along Hwy 11 from LA to Meridian, MS and Hwy 61 from LA to TN. Other related collections will target State Parks, nurseries, ports, and other potential avenues where exotic ant species may enter the state.

The compact carpenter ant, Camponotus planatus, found in Mississippi. Compact carpenter ants, known to be a pest species in Florida, were discovered for the first time in Mississippi during the fall of 2009. This species was found at a nursery that specializes in palm trees located in Bay St. Louis in Hancock County. Foraging workers were observed crawling on the ground, along irrigation lines, and up into palms.

Exotic ants causing problems for exterminators in southern Mississippi. In addition to the imported fire ants, several other exotic ant species including Brachymyrmex patagonicus (dark rover ant), Linepithema humile (Argentine ant) Odontomachus ruginodis (trap-jaw ant), Paratrechina longicornis (crazy ant), and others are becoming pest species in southern Mississippi where they are causing problems for home and business owners. Pest control operators (PCO's) from the area have been sending samples and reports of these species to the Mississippi State Department of Entomology, and have noted marked increases in populations of these species.

2009

Rasberry crazy ant, Paratrechina sp. near pubens, found in Mississippi. A large population of Rasberry crazy ants was recently discovered in Hancock County, Mississippi. This invasive species has become a serious pest in Texas, especially in the Houston area. Due to taxonomic difficulties in the genus Paratrechina, it has not been definitively identified, and it may be P. pubens (known from the Caribbean and Florida), P. fulva or one of its subspecies (from South America), or possibly an unknown species. This marks the first known occurrence of this species in MS. For more information about this ant go to our Nylanderia sp. near pubens web page.

Restoration of Black Belt Prairie Remnants along the Natchez Trace Parkway: Plot set up and pre‑treatment sampling has begun on a project aimed at determining the efficacy of several methods for the removal of eastern red cedar from the Black Belt Prairie remnants of the Natchez Trace Parkway, as part of a broader restoration effort. Success will be measured by assessing changes in the plant, ant, and grasshopper communities of the remnants.

Asian needle ant discovered near Birmingham, Alabama:  While on a recent vacation at Oak Mountain State Park in Jefferson County, Alabama near Birmingham, MacGown found a large colony of Pachycondyla chinensis Emery, the Asian needle ant, in a very moist, rotting log in a hilly, wooded area bordering a lake. This species has been causing problems along the Atlantic Coastal states as a stinging pest. Unlike many other exotic ant species, the Asian needle ant can nest in natural wooded locations, and may out-compete native species. It appears to be spreading throughout the Southeast. For more information about this species go to our Pachycondyla chinensis page.

Ants of Noxubee National Wildlife Refuge:  MacGown and Hill recently concluded a year long survey of ants of the Noxubee National Wildlife Refuge in Oktibbeha, Noxubee, and Winston Counties in Mississippi. The 48,000 acre refuge has a nice mix of bottomland hardwood, upland hardwood, pine, and mixed pine-hardwood forests, as well as open fields and aquatic habitats. A total of 95 species were collected during the survey, including several new state records and other uncommonly collected species. For more information about this project, visit our web site: Ants of Noxubee National Wildlife Refuge, Oktibbeha and Noxubee Counties, Mississippi. An Adobe Acrobat pdf version of the final report is available online [pdf].

2008

The Ghost ant, Tapinoma melanocephalum detected in southern Mississippi:  While conducting a preliminary survey of ants at Mississippi nurseries that import plants from Florida, MEM staff (Hill and MacGown) found ghost ants. The nursery is located in Bay St. Louis in Hancock County, MS and specializes in palm trees. The ants were found crawling on the ground and on trees that were planted in the ground. Ghost ants are considered one of the major nuisance pest species in Florida. Additional visits to the area are necessary to ascertain if this species has become established.

Ants of the Ohoopee Dunes, Fall Line Sandhills, and Big Hammock Natural Areas in Georgia:  During 2007 Macgown and Hill conducted a survey of ants in three sandhill habitats in Georgia: Ohoopee Dunes, Fall Line Sandhills, and Big Hammock. Distinct differences in ant diversity were noted between the three natural areas, with 77 species found at Ohoopee, 33 at Fall Line Sand Hills, and 25 at Big Hammock. Differences were due in part to more collections at Ohoopee, but also likely due to much reduced habitat at Big Hammock and the high disturbance levels at Fall Line Sand Hills. For information about this project visit our web pages: Ohoopee Ants, Big Hammock Ants, and Fall Line Sand Hill Ants. An Adobe Acrobat pdf version of the final report, which also includes grasshoppers, is available online [pdf].

Harvester ants in Mississippi: In December 2006 a colony of the Florida harvester ant, Pogonomyrmex badius (Latreille), were found in Smith County, MS by Lucas Majure, an MSU graduate student in Biology. A follow-up visit to the site by Hill and MacGown revealed several more colonies. Some researchers had speculated that this species was extirpated from the state as a result of imported fire ant competition and wide area pesticide application aimed at killing fire ants. It had not been collected in MS since the mid 1930s, even at some localities where it was known to be historically present. However, subsequent surveys of relict sand habitats in southern MS by Tom Mann of the Nature Conservancy have produced numerous records of this species; albeit, in apparently low densities. It appears to be a species in dire straits, mostly due to loss of habitat. Information about the initial finding of this species was published in 2008 (MacGown, J. A., J. G. Hill, L. C. Majure, J. L. Seltzer. 2008. Rediscovery of Pogonomyrmex badius (Latreille) (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) in mainland Mississippi, with an analysis of associated seeds and vegetation. Midsouth Entomologist 1 (1): 17-28. [pdf] ).

2007

Carpenter ants of Mississippi: The MEM produced a full color guide to the Carpenter ants of Mississippi, which was published by MAFES (Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station). The guide includes species lists, identification keys, biological info, distributional maps, drawings, full color photos, and other information. An Adobe Acrobat pdf version of the final report is available online [pdf]. Additionally, some printed copies are still available. For more info contact Joe MacGown.

Dark rover ants in the Southeast: The dark rover ant, Brachymyrmex patagonicus Mayr, is a small, dark brown exotic species native to Argentina that is fast becoming a nuisance pest in the Southeast. This species was only detected in the US about 30 years ago, but now is abundant in most of the southeastern states, into Texas, and even in Arizona. It appears to be spreading at an alarming rate. The MEM published a paper about this species to aid in identification and give distributional information (MacGown, J. A., J.G. Hill, and M. A. Deyrup. 2007. Brachymyrmex patagonicus (Hymenoptera: Formicidae), an emerging pest species in the southeastern United States. Florida Entomologist 90: 457-464.). An Adobe Acrobat pdf version of the final report is available online [pdf].