We were looking at a pair of well worn moth wings on the deck when an ant picked one up and started across the deck. Soon another ant picked up the remaining wing and followed roughly in the same direction. I followed them with this video for 5 minutes as they crossed 12 feet of the deck, and crossed 20 spaces between the boards, some openings twice their length, that looked like chasms to me, but apparently not to the ants.
|A mouthful of wing|
|Bridging the gap|
Consider the physics of this trip. The ant carrying a wing 5 times its length in front of it, in its jaws! Suppose for a minute that the wing is 20% of the ant's weight. That would be like me carrying a 30 pound door 28 feet long in front of me, holding it above the deck surface. Oh, and don't forget it is carrying it in its jaws! That makes my mouth hurt. Now it is time to see the video.
Chris Barnhart identified the moth wings as Anisota, likely A. stigma, or maybe A. virginiensis. I will go with the spiny oakworm moth - Anisote stigma, as we have been finding them by the deck light the last month. The caterpillars eat oak leaves while the adult moths don't eat, only breed, lay eggs on oak and then die. Many of our porch light moths are following pheromone scents and are drawn to the light, after having completed their biological mission.
I sent the photographs to James Trager who said that the ants appear to be Aphenogaster lamellidens.
"A native to the Southeastern United States, this ant species plays an important role in the forest ecosystem as a generalist predator, hunting and scavenging other insects and arthropods. Ants in this genus are also important for actively dispersing plant seeds. Many plants on the forest floor benefit from this behavior, and encourage ants to gather their seeds by providing attractive and nutritious food bodies just for ants. Aphaenogaster lamellidens can commonly be found nesting in logs within wooded areas, but colonies can thrive in captivity as well, making them a useful species for laboratory study or ant farm hobbyists. Colonies of Aphaenogaster lamellidens can be fairly large, with up to several thousand workers. " Dr. Lisa TaylorWe have wild ginger and bloodroot growing near by that have seeds with elaiosomes that ants plant for us. As to why, James said, "They will eat the wing muscle remnants off the wing base, then discard the rest." Like the chicken hot wing craze, there isn't much meat but apparently it was worth the trip. Quite likely there was a noisy celebration when they brought their treasure into the nest but we never heard it up on the deck.