Harvester Ant Middens with Isopods

You can tell a lot about a society by what its members throw away.

Take these harvester ants, for example.

Your eye might be attracted by the flurry of activity around the nest entrance.

It does pay to look elsewhere, though.

Here’s the trash heap. Looks like these ants have been gathering a lot of Isopods, otherwise known as rolypolies.

This midden was extensive, and strewn with Isopods.

As an entomologist, my eye was drawn to the beetle elytra (hard upper wings).

Here’s another beetle.

The harvester ant mound was along a trail at Boyce Thompson Arboretum near Superior, Arizona.

About 1/2 mile away, I spotted another mound of the same species.

This one seems to have more plant material, plus a bit of egg shell.

Still a lot of Isopods, although the exoskeletons are more broken up. There’s an elytra of the same kind of beetle as was on the first harvester ant mound.

There’s another elytra.

It felt good to get out and see some ants, although the time was much too brief. I would like to have looked around more thoroughly.

And, oh yes, there were a few flowers too.

Did you get to do any hiking this weekend?

6 Replies to “Harvester Ant Middens with Isopods”

  1. I’ll have to look for trash heaps near our ant nests. My boys and I hiked this weekend through a state park that looks a bit different than your Arizona landscape. Wet, dark, Oregon forest.

  2. Coastal Oregon ants often bury their trash in abandoned chambers of their nests, but if you go to the dry inland, you may find scenes like this.

    The number of isopod remains is really striking. Typically ants don’t like these, and one can tell these Pogonomyrmex are not specialists at eating them. In the Leptogenys species that are specialist predators on isopods, the exoskeletons are more conpletely disartiuclated and throughly cleaned out.

  3. Wow! I’ve never given any thought to what ants did with all their garbage. I’m going to have to look at them and their surroundings with a new eye.

  4. Hello, I was looking for an explanation for the heaps of flower petals I saw around any holes in my area. So are these harvester ants and are they collecting flowers? I’ll post a link to the image.


    What do you think?

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