The Fire Ants: Chapters 1-3

So, how did the first three chapters go? Pretty straightforward?

Chapter 1.

In all the reviews of The Fire Ants, most centered on Walter Tschinkel’s very first sentence of Chapter 1, “I love fire ants.” What do you think of this statement? What about the attention is has received?

A few years ago, I attended a talk E.O. Wilson gave at Arizona State University. It was about ants and conservation issues. At the end of the session someone asked him if there were any ants that he disliked, basically if there were any ants he would remove from the ecosystem if he could (I don’t remember the exact wording). I remember being taken aback when he said, “Fire ants.” I was surprised for a couple of reasons. First, I thought of the fact E.O. Wilson’s career started out when he discovered fire ants in Alabama. I also thought he would consider fire ants have positive attributes as well as negative ones. I would like to know more about why he answered that way.

What is your attitude towards fire ants? Do you side with E.O Wilson or Walter Tschinkel, or fall somewhere in between? It will be interesting to see if your ideas change after reading the book. Let us know.

Any questions or thoughts about chapter 1?

Chapter 2. Taxonomy

Tschinkel covers the recent literature about Solenopsis classification, saying that it is a difficult group to study. He concludes that the days when species can be identified solely by morphological characteristics are probably gone and that a variety of characteristics, ranging from behavioral to genetic, will have to be considered to identify species.

Anyone working on Solenopsis taxonomy here? Any comments on his synopsis?

Recent paper:  JK Wetterer (2010). Worldwide spread of the tropical fire ant, Solenopsis geminata (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Myrmecol. News 14:  21-35. (available as a .pdf from Myrmecological News).

Chapter 3: Fire ant anatomy

Everyone familiar with the specific terminology to describe ant external anatomy? Any questions?

To get the conversation started, why not leave a brief comment introducing yourself (as much as you feel comfortable) and let us know what ants you are studying or hope to study.

I’ll start:  I studied the black carpenter ant, Camponotus pennsylvanicus and the New York carpenter ant, Camponotus novaeboracensis a number of years ago. The ant I’d most like to study is the leafcutter Trachymyrmex arizonensis, but right now rover ants are what I have available.

Reading for next week:  Let’s try for chapters 4-6. It’s about 70 pages, but it all ties together. The topic is the history of the importation of fire ants into the southern United States, what was done to try to contain them, and where the fire ant, Solenopsis invicta, may spread.

(Please send me an e-mail if your comment doesn’t appear in a day or so, and I’ll try to retrieve it.)

One Reply to “The Fire Ants: Chapters 1-3”

  1. Chapter One — My view: Fire ants paid my bills (and fed my family) for 8 years. It was a sort of “show me the money” deal, though I was far more interested in certain other ants. What’s to love? For me, admire would be a better word. So what’s not to love? Well, they’re dirt common where they occur (and everyone appreciates the uncommon), sometimes they occur in such numbers and density as apparently to the exclusion of ther ants, and the stings – annoying, at least.

    Chapter Two — As a frequently cited reviser of the genus, and one who thought my successor, Pitts, did a good job, and who has been privy by personal communications and publications to the advances made by K.G. Ross’s lab, I think Walter did a great job with the synopsis. (Dare I say, “especially for an ecologist”? :~} )

    Chapter Three — Later…

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