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A little something about Ants - Ants through the Ages

 

JOHN HARVARD'S JOURNAL

 

by Spencer Lenfield  July-August 2011
ants
An Atta sexdens forager shears off a fragment.Photograph by Bert Hölldobler

 

TWO AND A HALF CENTURIES AGO, a young Spanish doctor named José Celestino Mutis arrived in present-day Colombia and promptly began writing hundreds of pages of groundbreaking observations about ants. He sent them in book form to the great Swedish taxonomist Carl Linnaeus, but the volume was lost at sea. “This remarkable man, working entirely on his own, was a real pioneering scientist,” says renowned biologist and ant scholar E.O. Wilson, Pellegrino University Professor emeritus and two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize. “There was nothing for him to read on ants. He learned everything by himself from scratch.” Now Wilson, collaborating with Spanish myrmecologist José Gómez Durán, has reconstructed Mutis’s field work from rediscovered diaries and papers. In their new book, Kingdom of Ants: José Celestino Mutis and the Dawn of Natural History in the New World (Johns Hopkins), the modern scholars “essentially write Mutis’s book for him”—restoring a long-lost chapter to the annals of the history of science.

The science that, in effect, began with Mutis was unable to benefit from his lost work, and only “began seriously in the mid nineteenth century with an author named Auguste Morel, a scientist from Switzerland,” Wilson explains. “Studies really began their modern phase in the United States under the leadership of William Morton Wheeler, who was a professor at Harvard.” Wheeler’s work strongly influenced the teenage Wilson, who recalls, “When I was 16 and decided I wanted to become a myrmecologist, I memorized his book.”

The two books were conceived independently, but felicitously have ended up bookending a 250-year tradition within myrmecology: Mutis was the first person to record extensive observations of the leafcutter ants. “They excavate the soil, while eating all the green vegetation in the sown lands, and [carrying away the vegetation] with intelligence and speed,” he wrote in his diary sometime within five years of 1770. Wilson and Durán present the material from his notebooks on ants in English for the first time, framing it within modern research on the same organisms and behaviors that Mutis puzzled over in an age when Spain still ruled much of South America. “It’s rather extraordinary,” Wilson points out, “to be able to bracket the beginning of the study of one of the most important insects in the world some 250 years ago and then present the latest that we know about them, which is a great deal.”

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Odorous house ants are especially pesky, prevalent

 
MCCLATCHY NEWSPAPERS

Last week, Sharon Cage walked into her kitchen and found ants marching across the counters. They were dark in color, all the same itty-bitty size, squeezing their way in around the window sill.

Ants in the house creep her out, especially when they crawl around the kitchen.

"I don't want to eat them, I don't want to drink them," said Cage, a retired hospital administrator who lives with her husband in Kansas City, Kan. She grabbed the bug spray.

The ants invading homes like Cage's around town are odorous house ants, pests that some researchers say are making a run at becoming the Midwest's public enemy No. 1 among ants in urban and suburban areas.

That's bad news for homeowners, entomologists say, because these little guys are notoriously tough to control.

Kill the ones crawling around the bathtub and 95 percent of them remain alive and well back home in the nest.

And that's not all.

"It seems the season for them is longer now," said Grzesiek Buczkowski, an urban entomologist who researches these ants at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind.

Professionals "would usually only treat in spring and summer. Now they're treating for them in winter. We are hearing from exterminators that they are getting more calls, and at really odd times, like the middle of January."

The ants started their march on Kansas City a few weeks ago when the weather began warming up. Now they're "bugging us," said Beverly White. She manages Euston Hardware in Prairie Village, Kan., where she has moved a display of her most popular ant products to the front of the store.

The odorous house ant, which many people call the sweet ant, has bad body odor. Squish one between your fingers and sniff. It smells like rancid, coconut suntan lotion. That smell is a defense mechanism, an alarm to alert other ants that something is amiss.

This stinky ant, native to North America and found from coast to coast, is living in a supercolony under you. It seems to like the Midwest and its comparatively moderate climate.

Click here to read the entire article

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San Diego Pests - Life among Ants

 

Life Among the Ants

It’s a safe bet that Mark Moffett, aka “The Indiana Jones of Entomology”, has some good travel stories up his sleeve.

Moffett, author of Adventures Among Ants, has been at the scene of driver ant raids in Nigeria, watched leafcutter ants grow fungus farms in Paraguay and weaver ants build foliage nests in Malaysia, and stood at the front lines of the world’s largest battlefield, a territory dispute between two ant empires in suburban San Diego.

Fascinated by their amazingly organized social structures, Moffett has tracked down, studied, and photographed ant societies on almost every continent. In his book, he describes a spectacular “ant garden” in Peru’s forest canopy, that two species of ants had built together:

“Nestled in this mass of epiphytes, a confederation of these two ants had constructed a quarter-meter-wide treetop house of carton, papery sheets they produced by masticating plant matter and soil. The workers then collected seeds and embedded them in the carton. There the seeds grew into cacti, bromeliads, figs, orchids, philodendrons, and anthuriums, creating a bounteous garden.”

As for the countless ant stings he’s received over the years, Moffett said in a Fresh Air interview, “I don’t take them personally.”

Atlas Obscura, the website that explores the world’s strange and curious places, has a new video series called “So There I Was”, that features people talking about their most outlandish travel experiences. The first video stars Moffett, who tells us what happened when he and some fellow travelers got lost on Cambodia’s backroads. Here’s the Atlas Obscura video:

Source: http://www.ucpress.edu/blog/?p=10184

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California Ants - Man Kills 200,000 Ants To Make Artistic Statement

 
by Jaymi Heimbuch, San Francisco, California  on 07.14.10

chris trueman ants art

The Telegraph shows the completed image of, interestingly enough, someone with a gun. The paper reports that the 32-year-old used tweezers to place the dead ants to form the picture.

Trueman's inspiration for the piece was a childhood experience of when he first knowingly tried to kill something, which was a hill of red ants when he was five years old. Apparently he figured he'd kill a bunch more to make the memory into an artistic statement. Luckily, Trueman does feel some remorse for his work of corpses. 


He said: "It took several years, not because of the actual labour, but because at one point I started to feel bad about killing all of the ants and I stopped the project for over a year.

 

"Then I decided that the first ants would have died in vain if I didn't finish the work so I decided to continue.

"It was also quite an expensive work to produce each shipment of ants would cost $500."

 

Considering most people have used a can of Raid at least once in their life to get rid of a trail of ants streaming through their kitchen, it's understandable to blow off this strange art piece as a rather eccentric medium. But also considering we're working hard to make the planet a thriving and healthy place for all species, knocking off 200,000 ants for an artistic statement is a very sad waste of life. Could he have explored the same moment in life without actually killing 200,000 ants?

If anything, the piece makes viewers consider why they value some lifeforms more than others. And, of course, "What would PETA say?"

Oh, and the most recent buyer of the work? You could probably guess...

Ripley's Believe It or Not.

 

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Ant Control - Keeping Invasive Species In Check

 

Source: PCT (Pest Control Technology)

The first time they were spotted in the United States, in 2002, it was clear that these insects were different. They looked different and certainly behaved differently - erratically. And then, these cargo ship stowaways began multiplying - exponentially. As thousands, millions and then billions of them scurried about foraging for food, we discovered the impending danger.

Houston, we have a problem.

Actually, the problem goes well beyond Houston today, as Rasberry crazy ants have pillaged their way through at least 14 Texas counties in addition to infesting the nation's fourth-largest city. Their favorite target? Electronics. Tiny enough to squeeze through minute cracks and crevices, these ants tend to cluster inside computers, shorting out circuits as they traipse over microchips. A major chemical company projects damages from this invasive pest to top $1 billion in its operations, and, had the Johnson Space Center not sought special consideration in its fight against the "crazies" in 2008, the critters could have feasibly brought NASA to its knees as well.

This is only one piece of a much broader story. Invasive pests are clearly a growing challenge to the pest management industry, and the more you know about how to handle them, the stronger your defense will be.

BACK TO BASICS.

A good starting point for learning about invasive pests is reviewing the definition of "invasive species." A species is a specific population of organisms, morphologically and genetically distinct from other organisms, and capable of interbreeding. As opposed to a native, or indigenous, species, an invasive species is one that is introduced to an area from another place and then adapts to its new environment and spreads.

We don't invite them. We don't want them. And, as a general rule, we don't become familiar with them until they're right under our noses.

Click here to read the entire article

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Ants! - Unwanted Guests

 

There are times when I feel compelled to brag about living in the Garden State. Like it is my civic duty to point out some of the qualities of New Jersey that go unrecognized by ignorant acquaintances who still think it is funny to identify where I live by a particular Turnpike exit.

“We have really large ants in New Jersey,” I tell some startled out-of-town house guests recently. I say this proudly as a few annoying ghost dots flitter openly across our kitchen floor. “They like the flooded basements in March and the hot sweltering days in early April,” I say like a knowledgeable tour guide. “They drive up from the shore to the suburbs to get some R&R before summer.” 

Everyone, especially my wife, is disgusted by the unexpected influx of ants, but I stick to my story because I haven’t figured out how to effectively drive them from the house. The ants I mean. 

“Bait traps won’t work on Jersey ants,” I say. “This has something to do with their prolonged exposure to Radon under ground. That’s also why they run so fast; they have two extra legs. Exterminators are afraid of them”.

Of course, I am just making this up, but part of the beauty of living in New Jersey is that people outside the state will believe almost anything at all if it reinforces a negative stereotype. Don’t believe me? Try telling your friends in the Midwest or in California or Colorado that New Jersey is lush and beautiful and see what kind of response you get. Now try telling them that New Jersey is known for its ants. 

“They have really big hair, too.” I say for good measure. 

 

Click here to read the entire article

 

 

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Carpenter Ants

 

Insects Set To Surge, Thanks To Active El Niño Weather Pattern


(NAPSI)-El Niño-the wet- weather pattern blamed for this winter's record snowfall in the East and mudslides in the West-is expected to wreak more havoc this summer with a surge in insects.

Just how bad your pest problem will be depends on several factors, explained Dr. Bob Davis, entomologist and scientist with BASF, the world's largest chemical company. Dr. Davis offered the following pest problem outlook for specific U.S. regions.

The South

With its hot, humid summers and temperate winters, the South offers ideal conditions for a wide range of pests, including many species of ant. Ant populations are expected to grow across the South this year, bolstered by an influx of foreign invaders, including the "Caribbean crazy ant," which had only recently been seen in Texas but has begun to spread to multiple counties in Southeast Texas and may now be in the neighboring state ofLouisiana. The threat of termite infestations could also intensify this summer, with forecasts predicting average temperatures in Florida,Georgia and other surrounding states and above-average to average precipitation.

The West

Colder-than-normal temperatures and heavy precipitation hit many areas of the Western states this past winter. February packed a punch of precipitation and, in March, California officials said the average water content in the Sierra mountains' snowpack had reached 107 percent of normal seasonal levels. One frequent menace is the Western subterranean termite. This native pest can enter structures through cracks less than one-thirty-second of an inch wide, including the tiny openings in concrete slabs, around drainpipes and between the slab and a home's foundation.

The Midwest

States from Missouri to Iowa to Wisconsin saw more flooding last year, with thousands of homes damaged by water. The residual effect this year could be a proliferation of household pests that thrive in damp conditions, such as silverfish and spiders. Moisture also increases the odds for termite invasions, especially in Midwestern states such as MissouriIowaOhio,Indiana and Illinois. In the colder Northern-tier states, carpenter ants are a greater threat to homeowners. Carpenter ants prefer to nest in trees and wood next to homes, but they'll come inside to nest if the opportunity arises.

The Northeast

With record snowfall in the Northeast, wet conditions will likely persist. Combined with the warming temperatures, this will create attractive conditions for a variety of bugs. Common culprits include the Eastern subterranean termite and the black carpenter ant.

Click here to read the entire article 


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Country Ants Go to Town

 

ScienceShot: Country Ants Go to Town
By: Gisela Telis on April 1, 2010 3:12 PM  sn-antcolonies.jpg Photo Credit: Bill Beatty/Visuals Unlimited Inc.

In North American forests, odorous house ants (Tapinoma sessile ) lead quiet lives. The insects-called "odorous" because they smell like a piña colada when crushed-make their homes in hollow acorns and form simple colonies of 50 to 100 workers beneath the sway of a single queen. But as soon as they move on up to cities and suburbs, these mild-mannered ants live large, exploding into complex supercolonies of more than 5 million workers and thousands of queens. The insects also begin to act like an invasive species, robbing other ant species of resources and raiding buildings for food, researchers will report in an upcoming issue of Biological Invasions. Future studies will focus on the odorous ant's genetics, in hopes of learning why urban life turns it into such a swarming bully-and how to stop it.

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Weather Warms and Ants Venture Indoors

 

Thursday, March 18, 2010
By: NPMA

As the No. 1 nuisance pest in the United States, ants often become a problem in the warmer weather, as they move indoors in search of food.

But homeowners can take proactive steps now to help prevent a major infestation later.

With more than 700 species in the U.S., it's not surprising that ants are a very common home invader. According to the National Pest Management Association (NPMA), one of the most destructive species is the carpenter ant, which tunnels through wood to build its nest. These insects, which are found nationwide, tunnel through decaying wood before attacking undamaged wood. A carpenter ant infestation can cause severe property damage, which is usually not covered by homeowners' insurance.

Fire ants are a species found in the southern U.S., usually in landscaped areas, garages and near structural foundations. When their moundlike nests are disturbed, fire ants attack with a painful sting.

The most common home-invading species include odorous and nonodorous house ants and pavement ants. These ants will eat almost anything including fruit, meat and cheese, and can contaminate food sources that they infest.

Click here to read the entire story publichsed by the NPMA

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City closes food producer because of mice, ants

 

March 24, 2010 6:51 PM

Chicago Breaking News

Mayor Daley's Dumpster Task Force has closed the American Accord Food Corporation, 9485 S. Ewing Ave., due to an active infestation of mice and ants and other problems.

Task Force inspectors were responding to general complaints in the area related to rodent activity when they visited American Accord which produces ready made meals, according to a news release from the city's Department of Streets and Sanitation. Inspectors found more than 200 mice droppings spread out across the food preparation, storage and receiving areas, officials said.

They also found that the main hand wash sink American Accord Food Corporation was not in sound condition, making it difficult to ensure that employees could keep their hands sanitized. Slime was found in the ice machine and 100 ants were spotted crawling near a grease trap. It was determined that management had not properly maintained a grease disposal container, according to officials. 

Click here to read the entire article 

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