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.
Dolichoderus inpai, Ecuador
The greatest enemies of ants are other ants- including members of the same species- so when these little insects encounter each other outside the safety of the nest they make a quick chemical assessment: nestmate or foreigner? Friend or foe?
These tropical Dolichoderus workers apparently belonged to the same colony. After the greeting photographed above, each continued in peace along her own path. Had they originated from separate colonies, they would have run away or fought, depending on the context.
photo details: Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 macro lens on a Canon EOS 7D
ISO 100, f/14, 1/250 sec, strobe bounced off overhead paper