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Ants in Lefleur's Bluff State Park, Pike County, Mississippi [MS State Park Ants]

Joe A. MacGown, uploaded on 25 July 2011


Lefleur's Bluff State Park is located on the Pearl river just off of Lakeland Drive in Jackson, Hinds County, Mississippi. There are two entrances to the park, one of which leads to the Natural Science Museum and Children's Museum, and the other that leads to the camping and lake area. The 305 acre park offers camping, fishing, picnic areas, hiking trails, and a golf course. Because the park is situated on the Pearl River, much of the wooded habitat is bottomland hardwood forest, but upland forest ridges are present, and open grassy, park-like areas are found in the campground areas and near the Museums.

I arrived at the park at about 11 AM on Wednesday, 20 July 2011. I had limited time, as I was actually headed to Lake Lincoln State Park and Percy Quin State Park, but this was on the way, so I figured I might as well collect some here. I decided to go to the section of the park where the Nature Science Museum is located so I could talk to Tom Mann, who studies various sandhill animals including gophper tortoises and harvester ants. I had not previously met Tom, and enjoyed his exuberant ramblings about the harvester ants! Also, he is a fellow runner, and we talked about running a bit. After 30 minutes or so, I went outside to collect a few ants.

I first roamed around the open area near the building to see what common ants I could see (32°14'29"N 90°09'27"W). Of course, the ubiquitious imported red fire ants were abundant. Workers of the exotic dark rover ant, Brachymyrmex patagonicus, were also numerous. I collected the black carpenter ant, Camponotus pennsylvanus, as large workers scurried about on trees. Acrobat ants, Crematogaster ashmeadi were also present on trees, and minute thief ants, Solenopsis carolinensis were collected at the base of a tree.

After a few minutes, I headed down the trail behind the museum (32°14'28"N 90°09'18"W). The trail wound through an upland forest with some large trees, then descended rather abruptly to bottomland forest habitat. I collected three gallon sized bags of soil and leaf litter for later Berlese extraction. I collected both Aphaenogaster and Formica (sexuals were present in the Formica nests) colonies that were nesting in rotting logs.

Around 2 PM, I made my way back to the car and headed to Lake Lincoln State Park. I plan on collecting at the campground area of Lefleur's Bluff State Park at a later date.

I made second trip to Lefleur's Bluff on 11 August 2015 with Ryan Whitehouse, Claire Caprio, and Kaycee Barnes. This visit, like the first, was also fairly brief. This time, we collected at the lower side of the park near the campground area, which was quite different habitat-wise being mostly bottomland forest. We spent most of our time collecting in the open hardwood habitat near the picnic area beside Mayes Lake, but also ventured into the bottomland forests nearby. The area was very dry on this ocassion, and in fact, it was so dry, I decided not to do any soil/litter collecting for Berlese funnels. However, we did spend a couple of hours visually searching for ants and colonies, beating vegetation, and looking through sifted litter. Unfortunately, the area was overrun with Argentine ants (Linepithema humile), and basically under every log and at the base of every tree we found this species invasive species nesting. Typically, when this ant is present, the biodiversity of ants appears to be reduced. I don't have stats to prove this, but I can say that it becomes a chore to find other species, especially native ones, nesting in the soil and litter, or even in rotting wood, when this species is present in large numbers. And, when it is present, its usually in large numbers! We also found numerous colonies of the red imported fire ant (Solenopsis invicta) and the dark rover ant (Brachymyrmex patagonicus) in the area. As a result of beating low branches of trees, we picked up numerous specimens of the yellow twig ant Pseudomyrmex pallidus, as well as several Camponotus species.

Overall, 24 species of ants were collected at the park including six exotic species: Brachymyrmex patagonicus, Hypoponera opaciceps, Linepithema humile, S. invicta and S. membranifera , and Strumigenys silvestrii, all of which are quite common throughout Mississippi now. For a complete list of the ants collected, see the list below.

List of ant species collected at Lefleur's Bluff State Park (arranged alphabetically by genus)

Aphaenogaster carolinensis Wheeler
Aphaenogaster lamellidens
Aphaenogaster miamiana
Brachymyrmex patagonicus
Camponotus chromaiodes
Bolton (pest)
Camponotus pennsylvanicus
Crematogaster ashmeadi Mayr
Formica pallidefulva Latreille
Hypoponera inexorata (Wheeler)
Hypoponera opaciceps (Mayr)

Linepithema humile (Mayr)
Myrmecina americana Emery
Pheidole dentigula Smith
Pheidole tysoni Forel
Pseudomyrmex pallidus (Smith)
Solenopsis carolinensis Forel
Solenopsis invicta Buren
Solenopsis texana Emery
Strumigenys louisianae Roger
Strumigenys membranifera Emery
Strumigenys ohioensis Kennedy & Schramm
Strumigenys ornata Mayr
Strumigenys rostrata Emery
Strumigenys silvestrii Emery