Thursday, April 21, 2016

High Hopes

Behind our house on the gravel I came across an ant determined to transport a dead fly back home.  I followed it 15 feet, trying to get ahead of it while keeping it in macro focus.  It is amazing how fast an ant can move when you are trying to keep up with it on your knees.

Lifting it over the rocks and a "log"
The strength of an ant is incredible and after watching this one I think the ant in "High Hopes" might just be able to move the rubber tree plant.*  What caught my eye initially was its lifting the fly over huge boulders and the large "log" above which was twice its height.

Pushing it down the "highway"
Traffic jam
The ant would push it ahead when possible, turning to pull it up over obstacles.  Once it got to the hose it pulled the fly up and pushed it ahead like it was on I-44.   Aside from having to slow down because of a traffic jam from its nest mates headed the other direction it was smooth sailing.  Suddenly it hit the forest exit and entered the leaf litter where I couldn't go.

James Trager** tells me "The ant is taking home the fly as a protein meal for the younger members of her colony, the larvae.  Your ant appears to be Formica biophilica, or a close relative. There are four species in Missouri that look rather like this."

I hope the nest mates appreciate the ant's focus and stamina and give it the rest of the day off.  It probably will tell them all about the old man that was stalking it obsessively with his camera.

* For our younger readers born after 1959, here is a refresher.
** We will be hearing more wisdom from James Trager at next month's MN meeting.  A little overview of our Missouri ant ecology is here

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