Late season anting in New York

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The deciduous forests of New York's finger lakes region turn brilliant in mid-October. Canandaigua lake runs north-south in the background.

On Monday we dropped by a favorite childhood insect collecting spot, a woodlot atop a hill in upstate New York. The habitat is a mix of mature oak and second growth maple forests surrounding an open field maintained by seasonal mowing. Over the years I’ve recorded around 35 species of ants, including some gems: Stigmatomma dracula ants, Polyergus amazon ants, Formica thatch-mound ants, Temnothorax acorn ants, and others. I have yet to find a single non-native ant. It’s a pretty special place, and one I was happy to revisit.

Mid-October is the end of the season. With the autumn flights of Myrmica Lasius the year’s last ants have mated and above-ground activity dwindles. Below ground, though, some species remain busy. I spent a couple hours looking under stones and logs, curious about the late-season ants, finding a surprising amount of activity from one species in particular: Lasius nearcticus, a common but poorly-studied subterranean ant. Below are photos of these attractive yellow ants, along with photos a few others.

Lasius nearcticus with eggs and young larvae. Given the prolific rate of fall egg-laying, colonies must overwinter with eggs.

Lasius nearcticus feeds extensively from the honeydew of root aphids.
An acorn ant, Temnothorax longispinosus, walks across a fallen maple leaf. This species was not actively foraging, but I collected an acorn nest that, once warmed, sent out a few workers to explore.
I happened across several young queens raising their first daughters in sealed chambers under stones. This Lasius foundress will not leave her chamber, feeding the first larvae from her own body reserves.
An Aphaenogaster foundress queen in a slightly larger claustral chamber.

5 thoughts on “Late season anting in New York”

    1. I do too. You’re really good at them, Ted!

      This trip was literally no more than a couple hours, alas, a brief side excursion from a 2-day drive back from Maine.

  1. Steven McDonald

    Do acorn ants have their complete colony in one acorn? I saw a mention of ants that did that in a documentary. I thought it was awesome, handy for an ant farm for a small room maybe! I wonder if there’s an equivalent here in Australia.

  2. James C. Trager

    Wow! The Aphaenogaster queen’s nest is cavernous! I wonder if she moved into somebody else’s abandoned nest?

    Steven’s question is interesting. Do certain tiny Australian ants live in, say, eucalipt fruit hulls?

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