Ants in the Delta National Forest, Sharkey County, MS

Joe MacGown, uploaded on 13 October 2011

 

The Delta National Forest is located in western Mississippi in Sharkey County. This 60,898 acre forest includes prime examples of delta bottomland hardwood forest habitat.

Collections of ants were made on 13 July 2011 at two sites within the national forest. Site 1 was located at the beginning and partway down Mud Lake Trail, which was at the end of Rd. 707Aat 32°45'54"N 90°47'36"W, and site 2 was at a campsite area at the end of Rd. 703A beside the Sunflower River at 32°49'03"N 90°46'58"W. I arrived at the national forest at noon, and before collecting, I ate some lunch. This was not a good time to be picnicking with temperatures in the high 90's and humidity levels at the sweltering mark! As I headed down Mud Lake Trail, I noticed a variety of mud daubers collecting mud from the trail, of which I collected representatives. I baited several trees with peanut butter, hoping for some arboreal ants such as Aphaenogaster mariae, Solenopsis picta, and others. I also collected two gallon sized bags of leaf litter from high spots in the bottomland forest. Based on the accumulated leaves, dirt, branches, and various other forms of debris, it was quite evident that this area, as well as many other portions of the forest, were periodically flooded. Of course, this makes litter sampling less than ideal, because many species would not be able to nest in areas that are routinely under water. Despite this, we have had relative success sampling soil and litter in other bottomland forests. The trick is to find slightly elevated pockets of soil and litter.

After collecting at Site 1 for a couple of hours, I headed to Site 2. This site bordered the river, which was edged by water oaks and cypress trees. I put some peanut butter on the trees here as well and was rewarded by finding Solenopsis picta workers at the bait! I rarely see these diminutive brown arboreal wanderers, and when I do, it is usually one or two workers obtained from beating tree branches. I was surprised how distinctive they were on the tree as compared with the similar looking little black ant Monomorium minimum. I collected a pretty good series of them, and would have got more, but a serious looking storm was fast approaching. With imminent rain, I quickly scooped up some litter and made it to the truck with getting overly wet.

Although my afternoon was cut short because of weather, I still managed to collect 24 species of ants. Of these, Myrmica spatulata and Solenopsis picta were the best finds. However, it was also nice to collect Solenopsis texana with a queen. These minute thief ants are ridiculously hard to identify by the worker caste alone, as many species are similar, but queens typically differ considerably.

List of ant species collected (arranged alphabetically by genus)

Aphaenogaster lamellidens Mayr
Brachymyrmex depilis Emery
Camponotus
pennsylvanicus (DeGeer)

Crematogaster ashmeadi Mayr
Crematogaster pilosa Emery
Hypoponera opacior (Forel)

Lasius alienus (Foerster)
Myrmecina americana Emery
Myrmica spatulata Smith
Pheidole dentata Mayr
Pheidole dentigula Smith
Ponera pennsylvanica Buckley
Solenopsis carolinensis Forel
Solenopsis invicta Buren
Solenopsis picta Emery
Solenopsis texana Emery
Strumigenys dietrichi Smith
Strumigenys louisianae Roger
Strumigenys ornata Mayr
Strumigenys rostrata Emery
Tapinoma sessile (Say)
Temnothorax curvispinosus (Mayr)
Temnothorax pergandei (Emery)
Temnothorax schaumii (Roger)