alexwild

BugShot returns to California – May 9-12, 2019

I am very pleased to announce my return to the fabulous BugShot photography workshops!

This May we’ll be in the stunning Anza Borrego desert in southern California, a landscape that typically resembles Mars but in rainy years bursts into a flurry of life and color. And this has been an exceptionally rainy year! We expect a full buggy explosion.

Click to register.

BugShot is now eight years old. What started as a one-off weekend course in St. Louis has grown to an international community of nature and photography lovers. If you are already part of our community, we’d love to see you again! If you are new, we’d love you to join!

Winter Ants Testing the Boundaries

Following my gallery opening last week in Minnesota, I was privileged to spend a couple hours poking around at Macalaster College’s beautiful Ordway Field Station on the banks of the Mississippi. Fall had advanced suddenly and the temperature was too cold for much insect activity. Of course, the ubiquitous cool-tolerant winter ants, Prenolepis imparis, were foraging.

Along the trail we happened across an unusual sight. About 100 ants in a cluster on the forest floor, moving cautiously around each other, sometimes lunging with open mandibles, sometimes cautiously tasting other ants, moving from ant to ant.

I am not 100% certain what they were doing, but the scene looked a great deal like the ritual battles known from other ant species. When two ant colonies meet, they sometimes estimate each other’s strength by engaging in a bit of pushing and shoving, apparently tallying the size and number of the opposition. This behavior is thought to allow them to retreat in the face of a stronger opponent before matters escalate into loss of life (see this 1981 work by Bert Hoelldobler for an example from honeypot ants.)

 

Photo details- Panorama: iPhone

Macro photos: Canon MP-E 65mm macro lens on a Canon EOS 5D Mk IV, f/13, ISO 200, 1/200sec, diffuse twin flash.

Myrmecos in the Twin Cities

Click to view large!

Here’s something unusual: an actual gallery of printed, high-quality Alex Wild prints!

Where is this rare beast? In Minnesota:

Smail Gallery – Olin-Rice Hall, Macalester College
Saint Paul, Minnesota
September 2018 to August 2019

As you may know, I am a digital creature. I do not often translate my files into physical prints. But my streak of lasting a decade as a pro photographer without staging a large showing has broken. Macalester College in Saint Paul has worked with me over the past few months to bring you “Ants: Alien Civilizations Among Us“. It features 70 of my pieces on metal or canvas, including a giant panoramic focus-stack I created specifically for the showing.

800 individual photographs were composited in a stacked micro-panorama of Messor cephalotes, an African harvester ant.  I created this nearly 5-foot wide piece, printed on a metal plate, exclusively for the Smail gallery. 

At the gallery’s heart is the Diversity Wall. Ants from all over the world, photographed alive and scaled proportional to actual size, are printed on high-quality aluminum plates and interspersed with softer images on canvas of ant scientists working. The effect surpasses even what I had planned. It looks stunning!

A few ant action shots.

The gallery is located in the atrium of Macalester’s science building, Olin-Rice Hall, and will remain until August 2019. If you are in Minnesota this year, I encourage you to have a look.

Facebook

At 10:15 this morning I deactivated my facebook account. I’ve had the account for over a decade. No more.

I can no longer in good conscience participate in a company whose actions- wittingly or no- have served to increase social and political ills around the world.

What could replace the facebook-sized void, which isn’t really a void since I don’t use it much anymore anyway? I don’t know, but let’s dust off this bloggy blog.

 

Dolichoderus, at last

One of the more common ants in eastern North America is, ostensibly, Dolichoderus. I’ve read that, while restricted to particular habitat types, within those bogs and pine forests they are supposed to be abundant. In theory.

Yet in my entire decades-long career as an ant guy, I have never once seen them alive in North America. Anywhere. It got to the point where I was embarassed to admit such a glaring failure.

Anyway. I broke down and finally begged Ant Guru James Trager to send me a few live workers, and James kindly took pity on me. Herewith, at last, photographs of our North American Dolichoderus:

Dolichoderus mariae – Peninsula State Park, Wisconsin, USA.
A grooming Dolichoderus plagiatus worker shows the protruding propodeum that is diagnostic for the North American species of this genus. Baileys Harbor Beach, Wisconsin, USA.

 

Dolichoderus plagiatus – Baileys Harbor Beach, Wisconsin, USA.

Introducing Tetramorium immigrans: a better name for the long-established pavement ant

No longer fighting over a name.

Meet Tetramorium immigrans. 

I have never been more pleased to report a taxonomic name change than this one. Long called “Tetramorium caespitum”, then “Tetramorium species E” once it became clear the Eurasian T. caespitum was a complex of cryptic forms, the pavement ant has spread across the world and is now among most common urban ants in North America. After decades of confusion, Herbert Wagner has published a fine monograph on the taxonomy of the species complex. Among Wagner’s many discoveries was that Santschi’s 1927 “immigrans” was valid for this world-traveller. An apt change, and a fine resolution of a long-standing problem.


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