A few ant nests dot the sides of a walking pathway at a nearby park, so of course I have to check them out.
For the most part the nests are small colonies of southern fire ants, Solenopsis xyloni.
There are also seemingly endless streams of Forelius mccooki workers traveling along the concrete edgers and sidewalks.
While taking photographs of the fire ant middens, I noticed the fire ants had a few visitors standing by an entrance hole.
Millimeters away from the fire ant workers stood two Forelius workers.
Curious, I watched for some minutes. The fire ants did not approach the Forelius, and the Forelius remained relatively still. They didn’t appear to be investigating the middens.
The Forelius had a nest entrance not too far away. Perhaps they were just nosy neighbors? (I did notice there weren’t any Solenopsis visiting them.)
Wayne Armstrong suggests perhaps the relationship isn’t entirely benign. In this video, Solenopsis xyloni workers flag their gasters in response to Forelius pruinosus workers encountered at an artificial feeding site. (You will notice the coloration difference between our local S. xyloni compared to his California ones.)
Interestingly, the soldiers don’t seem to respond. According to his notes (scroll down to Southern fire ant), the Forelius were ultimately successful in overtaking the food.
Ants of the Southwest has a photograph of a Forelius worker spraying a S. xyloni worker. He reports S. xyloni exoskeletons piled in Forelius middens, which is also reported here.
Even though southern fire ants are chemically well defended, perhaps they are no match for Forelius.
Have you ever encountered these two species?
Obin, Martin & Vander Meer, Robert. (1985). Gaster flagging by fire ants (Solenopsis spp.): Functional significance of venom dispersal behavior. Journal of chemical ecology. 11. 1757-68. 10.1007/BF01012125.