The return of the Monday Mystery from hiatus was met with swift, correct answers:
1. The species was Liometopum occidentale, the velvety tree ant.
2. According to Ward et al 2010, the sister lineage to Liometopum is Aptinoma + Tapinoma.
3. California’s Mediterranean climate means wet winters and hot, dry summers. By August, California’s lowlands and foothills are parched, and most above-ground ant activity has ceased. Thus, in typical years you’d be less likely to see ants in August than in February.
So. 8 points to Boud, and 2 consolation points to Ted MacRae, for contributing his… um, insightful revision of North American ants.