Have Thief Ants Escaped?

In a recent trip to western New York, I noticed a trend. Whenever I found an ant colony (flipping rocks looking for bait for a family member who likes to fish)…

cornfield-ants

an ant colony like these cornfield ants…

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I found thief ants.

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Everywhere.

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Take these Lasius.

 

lasius-claviger-group-2

Can you see the thief ants?

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Let me give you clues. The thief ant is in the top right of first photo, near cluster of three larvae in second photo, and going into the tunnel just left of center in the last photograph.

Thief ants are named for their tendency to live with or near other ant colonies and then steal food from their “hosts.”

They can also be found living in separate colonies.

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Some of the thief ant colonies I found living by themselves were quite large.

 

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Looks like quite a few new thief ants are on the way.

According to School of Ants, thief ants are distributed throughout the United States (although they don’t show any records for New York State on the map). I had never noticed thief ants when I looked for ant colonies in that location in the past. I know my vision hasn’t gotten any better, so that isn’t it. It seems like thief ants have gotten a lot more numerous there.

Have you noticed more colonies of thief ants where you study ants? Do you think this a trend or a random happenstance?

 

Reader Question About Ant Mounds

We have a question for the Consult-Ant today:

Hello

I have an ant question!

Over the years I have seen an unusual type of ant mound. It is a long, linear “mound”; actually a series of small mounds connected by tunnels of soil particles. The unusual thing about them is that extend in a straight line for several feet. Somewhere I heard these called “railroad ants”, but I don’t know if that is more than just a local name or description of the straight-as-a-string nest mound. I’d appreciate any information you might have about them, like scientific name or a reference where I could learn more. Thanks.

Dale

Dale,

Since you don’t tell me where you are from, I’m going to take a wild guess and suggest you might possibly be talking about a type of fire ant. Fire ants tend to build loose mounds that are sometimes long and narrow. (Except if they were fire ants, you’d probably know about them already).

Does the mound you are seeing look like the second photograph in this post?

If not, please let me know where you are located, which will help me narrow the choices. Also, roughly how big are the structures?

Anyone out there heard this common name and know more about it? Please let us know if you have some ideas.

(Note: As I mentioned previously, I have been the “Consult-Ant” on the Leaping from the Box website. I answer questions about ants and ant farms. From now on I will post the answers here, and when Karen has time she will also post the answers on her site.)

Ants in Winter: Part 2 Pogonomyrmex in Arizona

In the last post, I looked at carpenter ants overwintering in upstate New York.

Here is Chandler, Arizona the temperatures the day this was taken ranged from a low of 45° F (7° C) to a high of 78° F (26° C). What are the ants doing here?

Any activity at this Pogonomyrex harvester ant nest?

Can you see the ant coming out of the nest entrance?

Looks like a bit of housecleaning.

Most of the workers were coming out of the nest carrying debris.

The ants were moving about six to eight inches from the entrance and depositing.

What are ants doing where you live?