A heavy load

Aphaenogaster mariae

Insects that die in the forest don’t just sit there. Typically, an ant discovers the carcass and either hauls it back to her nest herself or, in the case of larger items, recruits some sisters to carry it back together. Ants are so efficient at corpse clean-up that most are removed in less than ten minutes. Once inside the nest, the remains are fed to hungry larvae.

I took this photo of a thread-waisted ant carrying a dead moth this morning in Urbana’s Crystal Lake Park.

photo details:
Canon EOS 7d camera
Canon MP-E 65mm 1-5x macro lens
ISO 100, f/13, 1/250 sec
diffused twin flash arranged for fill + backlight

6 thoughts on “A heavy load”

  1. Wll damn, why is it everyone can find A. mariae but me?! Vanishingly rare in Missouri, I suppose. I’ll be interested to learn about the habitat where you found this one, and if you were able to determine where its nest was.

    1. This was my first A. mariae ever. I just thought it was another fulva-group thing until I started processing the photos and noticed the spines and the sculpture difference. I didn’t think to collect any, either. I’ll have to go back.

      The ants were walking up a big old sycamore in an urban park near my house. It’s not even a particularly wild setting; the grass around the trees was well-mowed.

      The ant that I embarrassingly can’t seem to find is Dolichoderus. I’ve never seen that genus anywhere in the U.S., and we supposedly have 4 species in Illinois.

  2. Back to Angela’s point, it seems that ants are incredibly significant scavengers, yet very little work seems to have been done on their ecological impact in that area.

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