Perhaps it is no coincidence that two are also among the most apparent or readily seen animals in the forest. Stings are painful and usually give rise to white pustules within twenty-four hours. It eats animals and plants, whether living or dead, as well as secretions and excretions of the same. The queens dig a new nest and the males die.
Bibliography of the reptiles of Texas / RepFocus
Red imported fire ants Solenopsis invicta. Atlantic Ocean to Central Texas, with spot infestations farther north and west, and a major infestation that was developing in southern California at the time of writing. This introduced species is now the most apparent insect in the forest and perhaps the most apparent animal of any kind. The largest workers have unusually large heads. The sting is not as painful and pustules rarely form. Tropical fire ants Solenopsis geminata. The workers are also more orange in color when exposed to bright sunlight.
The structure is a low mound, disk, or crater usually less than one foot in diameter. Comanche harvesters do collect and store seeds as their common name suggests, but they also prey upon other insects, and they scavenge dead animals and excretions as well. Mated queens remove their wings and begin a nest as the males begin to die. This ant closes its nest for the night and opens it in the morning. One or two workers often remain outside until dawn. Distribution: Comanche harvester ants occur within the United States in a central corridor stretching from southern Texas to central Kansas in the north and from Louisiana in the east to the Pecos River area of West Texas.
Similar species: The red harvester ant Pogonomyrmex barbatus is more robust in build than the Comanche species and tends to build larger nests in less sandy soil 41 Ants, Wasps, and Bees Fig. Comanche harvester ant Pogonomyrmex comanche. Because the red harvester tends to avoid sandy soil, it is less common in the Lost Pines.
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We saw only two colonies compared to hundreds of Comanche harvester nests. Distribution: From the Mississippi River to central Arizona. This is the consequence of a venom especially adapted to protect stored seeds from rodents and other small mammals. Similar species: See Comanche harvester ant. In the Lost Pines the favored forage consists of farkleberry leaves, yaupon leaves and fruits, and the small, berrylike cones of eastern juniper red-cedar. The nest is visible at a distance as a large bare patch of sandy hills and troughs, typically located near the edge of a clearing.
Mounds of the Texas leafcutter ant Atta texana in a deep-sand clearing. This too is the work of the fungus-growing leafcutter. Distribution: The Texas leafcutter ant occurs within the United States only in a narrow southern corridor stretching from the Big Bend of Texas in the west to Louisiana in the east. Leafcutters are active night and day but are most likely to be seen on cloudy days after a rain. These lines of returning foragers can be more than one hundred feet long. Similar species: Workers are red and resemble harvester ants, but they have spines above and beyond the single pair that Lost Pines harvesters display near the waist.
Big-headed workers process seeds for the colony and defend the large, volcano-shaped nest built in the pure sand of meadows and other clearings. The scarcely known biology could be worked out in the Central Texas forest, where the animal is reliably abundant and easy to locate. Workers are small and honey-colored. The diet is omnivorous and includes the insect prey that we saw being carried into a nest.
A juvenile broad-headed bug Hyalymenus tarsatus that we captured on frostweed bears a great resemblance to the minor worker of Camponotus festinatus, even under a microscope at low power. Distribution: The dusky carpenter ant is one of the relatively few western animals of the Lost Pines, ranging from Arizona to an eastern limit in or near the Central Texas forest.
The large black Pennsylvania carpenter ant so common in the homes and forests of the eastern United States has not colonized these Fig. Dusky carpenter ants Camponotus festinatus ; queen at top, worker at bottom. Similar species: Several orange or amber carpenter ant species are likely to occur in the Lost Pines.
A microscope, the proper keys used by specialists, and much patience are needed. They make their nests beneath stones and especially beneath and within decomposing logs, dwelling under the loose bark as well as within the wood itself.
The trap-jaws of the jumping ant Odontomachus clarus. They capture arthropod prey with spectacular jaws that function like a bear trap, springing shut when long sensory hairs are touched by the victim. The resulting force is great enough to dismember or decapitate. Hence the jumping ant jumps with its jaws, not with its legs. Distribution: From the Atlantic Ocean to southern Arizona.
This ant is one of several Lost Pines species considered to be of a primitive type. None of them should be handled because of their potent stings. Slender ponerine ant Leptogenys elongata. These prey are not as common in the forest as one might imagine.
Perhaps the semiarid climate is responsible for the scarcity of moisture-loving pillbugs. Slender ponerine ants are also notable for the absence of a winged queen. Instead, the egg layers look much like ordinary workers. Colonies are small and consist of less than one hundred individuals. See jumping ant. Colonies consist of no more than two hundred individuals. The predatory diet includes millipedes and other arthropods.
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Some egg layers in the colony resemble typical ant queens but others bear a greater resemblance to workers. However, as far as we can tell, the black carpenter ant does not occur here, and it surely cannot sting. Several wingless queens are often seen in a single colony. Workers are the smallest ants that visitors are likely to see in the forest. They often appear at picnic tables, where they favor peanut butter. Nests are built in logs, in the soil beneath stones, and beneath piles of pine needles that completely obscure the colony from view. In the eastern United States crater-shaped nests have been reported on open ground, but we never saw the species in such obvious circumstances.
The nest itself could not be found. They hunt both above ground and below, mainly at night, and have very Ants, Wasps, and Bees Fig. Dark army ants Neivamyrmex nigrescens ; queen on left, worker on right. On a summer evening at dusk one of us encountered a seemingly endless column crossing the Lost Pines hiking trail. The queen eventually appeared within the protection of a racing bulge in the column. The small size and ordinary-looking jaws of this army ant are likely to disappoint those who expect a Neotropical giant with ice-tong mandibles.
One curious feature of the workers is their distinctive meaty or musky odor. Similar species: Several army ants that might occur in the Lost Pines bear a great resemblance to this species. We found two colonies, both of them ensconced in decomposing pines. One pine was a huge log and the other was a small stump.
We never saw the red army ant exposed to daylight. It appears to be more subterranean than the dark army ant. Carolina red wasp Polistes carolina. Similar species: Reddish color and shinier body distinguish this species from the other army ants, which are brown and dull. These typically hang in the hollows of snags and logs or even unprotected from the branch or trunk of a tree.
Colonies often consist of only a few dozen individuals. The paper is made by chewing wood and herbaceous vegetation and mixing the substance with saliva. Excursions into forest and meadow for building materials are supplemented by forays into green vegetation for caterpillars and other insects to feed the grubs back at the nest. Each grub lives in one of the exposed cells, which give the nest a honeycomb appearance. Queens overwinter beneath the bark of logs or in hollow spaces within logs.