Ants in Holmes County State Park, Holmes County, Mississippi [MS State Park Ants]

Joe A. MacGown, JoVonn G. Hill, and Rebekah J. Jones

            Holmes County State Park is located 4 miles south of Durant just off of I-55 in Holmes County Mississippi. The park is built around two lakes, English Lake and Odom Lake, which together cover some 88 acres. Much of the forest in the park is hardwood in composition and provides abundant wildlife and outdoor activites. The park offers both camping sites and cabin rentals, various playing fields, nature trails, and other attractions.

           We arrived at Holmes County State Park at about noon on 23 May 2005 and set out to see what ants we could collect in a few hours. We first drove down to an area by English lake with picnic tables at 33°01'53"N 89°55'20"W. While here, we took the opportunity to eat a little lunch. We then got to work and soon realized that the area was inundated with exotic Argentine ants, Linephithema humile (Mayr). These ants were everywhere and we were hard pressed to find other species of ants there. We even crossed the levee and entered a heavily wooded area hoping the habitat might be less suitable for the Argentine ants, but were dissappointed to find that they were more than abundant there as well, crawling on virtually every surface, ground and tree. However, we were able find a few nests of Paratrechina vividula (Nylander), Formica pallidefulva Latreille and Trachymyrmex septentrionalis (McCook) in the soil along the edges of the lake. The Paratrechina colony was in an old pipe that was about one foot above the level of the ground. This is a common species in open areas such as was seen here. There were several colonies of the Formica here, and apparently they were able to somehow competed with the overzealous and voracious hordes of Argentine ants. Perhaps their speed coupled with their ability to forage far from their colonies aided them in living in this Argentine infested land. The Trachymyrmex, being fungus growing ants, were probably much less affected by the foraging strategies of the Argentine ants, since fungus growing ants basically grow their own sustenance. Another species, Pseudomyrmex pallidus (F. Smith), was collected by sweeping vegetation that was growing along the edge of the lake. This big eyed, elongate, yellow colored species nests in hollow twigs and stems and resembles a wingless wasp.

           Due to the extreme abundance of the abundance of the Argentine ants at the lake site, we soon vacated the area in search of a locale with more ant diversity. We decided to collect at the primitive campsite area (33°01'54"N 89°54'41"W) because it looked like excellant formicid habitat with its open hardwood forest and sandy soil. We hopeful that perhaps this site lacked the strong Argentine ant presence and indeed, we did not find any of them here and instead were rewarded with a plethora of other species. Plethora may be a strong word, but as compared with the area beside the lake, the camping area was teeming with diversity. Of course many of the species were commonly collected species such as three carpenter ants, Camponotus americanus Mayr, Camponotus pennsylvanicus (DeGeer), and Camponotus snellingi Bolton. These three species are found in forested habitats throughout much of the state and it is likely that there were further species of Camponotus here as well. These species are easily distinguished from each other and C. americanus can be recognized by its blackish head and reddish body shiny body, C. pennsylvanicus by its black body with significant pubescence, and C. snellingi by its by body being mostly being shiny reddish except for the last few segments of the gaster, which are blackish. Another very common species, the odorous house ant, Tapinoma sessile (Say), was also found here. This ant is often associated with man-made structures, but we frequently find it in more natural settings as well.

           The campsite area apparently was ideal habitat for the genus Aphaenogaster and we found five species from this little area including A. carolinensis (Wheeler), A. fulva Roger, A.lamellidens Mayr, A. mariae Forel, and A. treatae Forel. This is an exceptional quantity of this genus to have been collected in one spot and we were overwhelmed with happiness to have been here on this momentous occasion. Most of these species are very common in forested landscapes, but the presence of the arboreal A. mariae is always a treat, as this is a rarely collected species. This species was collected at peanut butter bait that we had spread on oak trees. Only two species of Pheidole were collected here, P. dentigula Smith and P. metallescens Emery. Pheidole dentigula is a very common species found in Mississippi forests, but P. metallescens is usually confined to nesting in sandy soils, and consequently its distribution within the state is more limited. Minor workers of this species are magnificent to behold with their irridescent blueish-green reflections on an otherwise blackish colored body. Two common species of acrobat ants, Crematogaster ashmeadi Mayr and Crematogaster lineolata (Say), were collected as they foraged the forest floor. Three species of Temnothorax, T. curvispinosus Mayr, T. pergandei Emery, and T. schaumii Roger were collected at the site. The first two species were found foraging on the ground or in leaf litter, whereas the latter was collected at peanut butter bait on oaks. The little black ant, Monomorium minimum (Buckley), was also found nesting in the soil at the campground.

           Additional species collected at this site were from soil and leaf litter samples and included Stigmatomma pallipes (Haldeman), Pachycondyla gilva (Roger), Hypoponera opacior (Forel), Ponera exotica Smith, Ponera pennsylvanica Buckley, Discothyrea testacea Roger, Strumigenys pilinasis Forel, Strumigenys pulchella Emery, Strumigenys louisianae Roger, Trachymyrmex septentrionalis (McCook), and Myrmecina americana Emery.

List of ant species collected (arranged taxonomically by genus)

Forelius mccooki (McCook)
Linephithema humile
Tapinoma sessile
Paratrechina vividula
Brachymyrmex depilis
Camponotus americanus
Camponotus pennsylvanicus (DeGeer)
Camponotus snellingi Bolton
Formica pallidefulva Latreille
Pseudomyrmex pallidus (F. Smith)
Stigmatomma pallipes (Haldeman)
Pachycondyla gilva(Roger)
Hypoponera opacior (Forel)
Ponera exotica Smith
Ponera pennsylvanica Buckley
Discothyrea testacea Roger
Strumigenys louisianae Roger
Strumigenys pilinasis Forel
Strumigenys pulchella Emery
Trachymyrmex septentrionalis (McCook)
Monomorium minimum (Buckley)
Solenopsis invicta X richteri
Aphaenogaster carolinensis (Wheeler)
Aphaenogaster fulva Roger
Aphaenogaster lamellidens Mayr
Aphaenogaster mariae Forel
Aphaenogaster treatae Forel
Pheidole dentigula Smith
Pheidole metallescens Emery
Crematogaster ashmeadi Mayr
Crematogaster lineolata (Say)
Temnothorax curvispinosus Mayr
Temnothorax pergandei
Temnothorax schaumii
Myrmecina americana Emery