Ant-hunting at Clinton Lake

Camponotus chromaiodes. The distinct red markings separate this from the common eastern carpenter ant C. pennsylvanicus.

I took the camera to nearby Clinton Lake yesterday afternoon looking to add some photos to the North American ant guide project. Here is some of the catch.

A prairie restoration at Clinton Lake Recreation Area
Clinton Lake north shore
An acrobat ant (Crematogaster cerasi) tending milkweed aphids (Aphis nerii)
A queen carpenter ant (Camponotus pennsylvanicus) in the nest.
Myrmica punctiventris worker with pupa
Aphaenogaster thread-waisted ants are part of nature's clean-up crew, combing the forest floor for scavengable food. Here they take care of a cockroach carcass.
Inside an Aphaenogaster nest.
Aphaenogaster tennesseensis workers were coming and going from this chestnut on the forest floor. I suspect they were preying on a beetle grub inside, but I left them alone rather than crack the nut to find out.
Synemosyna formica, an ant-mimic jumping spider. Note the light bands on the body, designed to strengthen the illusion of a narrow ant-waist and the narrow head attachment.
Not an ant, of course, but who can resist the marvelous monarch butterfly?

12 thoughts on “Ant-hunting at Clinton Lake”

  1. The spider is incredible and just how good a picture became apparent when I was checking BugGuide to see if all salticids had eyes on the back of their heads. Pretty hard to tell from most of the pictures I checked, but at least some others have a pair placed way back including the pseudoscorpion mimic (?!) Bellota longimana (Gertsch). I think I can understand an ant mimic, but a pseudoscorpion mimic? Arachnids are amazing.

  2. Every time I look at this sort of beautiful work from you, I ask myself why I even bother to try to get decent ant pics in the field — especially now that you’re living amongst the same fauna as I am.
    BTW, I’d call your second Aphaenogaster, A . fulva. What do you think?

    1. There’s at least one very good reason why you should keep going with the photography, James. Few people have your eye for natural history, with the consequence that you are liable to encounter and recognize interesting behaviors that the rest of us would miss. There is a learning curve for the photography, of course, but that just takes practice and patience. I started taking photos in 2002, but it wasn’t until 2005 that I felt I could consistently manage the medium.

      Plus, for perspective, there really aren’t that many people taking ant photos. Tens of thousands of wildlife photogs spend most of their time shooting a few species of large mammals (does the world need more lion pictures?). Surely with an order of magnitude more species we myrmecologists can manage a few dozen ant photographers…

      The ant looks like fulva to me, too, but every time I think of that group I remember Umphrey’s paper and start going into convulsions.

      1. Okay, I’ll keep trying.
        By the way, I further convulse over the fact that Umphrey seems to have disappeared form Guelph and I can’t find out to where. He promised us a real revision with real names.

  3. As always, your photos are amazing, and I especially liked the spider mimic as well as the Crematogaster cerasi photo. The aphid is Aphis nerii, but it is an aphid on milkweed, its common name is the oleander aphid. This is one of my summer favorites.

  4. How on earth did you get the queen carpenter ant? Whenever I’ve gone C. pennsylvanicus-hunting, it has involved fairly violent demolition of not-that-soft logs, and although the queen eventually turns up (usually days later in an artificial nest), I never see her in situ in a state of apparent repose! How’d you find her without making everybody panic?

    1. Hi Elsa. I definitely got lucky with the carpenter ants. This was an incipient colony occupying only a couple small chambers in a well-rotted log, and I was able to shave the wood back with a pocket knife to expose the chamber without causing all the ants to flee. It’s not a great photo artistically, but it’s about as decent as one might expect to get under the circumstances.

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