A few for Alex…
I photographed these ants in South Africa during my visit to Borakalalo National Park (North West Province) in November 1999. Dr. Brian Taylor, author of the impressive Ants of Africa website, kindly identified and provided some information about the ants in these photos. The first photo shows a worker ant dragging another dead ant. Dr. Taylor identified the worker as Pachycondyla tarsata, which according to his website is known as the ‘Stink Ant’. This pan-African species usually forages singly and nests directly in the ground, with the entrance often surrounded by excavated soil and remains of arthropods and other food. He wasn’t sure about the identity of ant being carried but guessed that it could be the queen of Camponotus (Myrmopiromis) fulvopilosus1. That species is South African and appears to be of the right size for the individual in this photo. Ants may have taken over the world, but at least they clean up after themselves.
1 Edit 01/17/09: Dr. Taylor sent an email to me saying that, after a second look at the above photo, he now believes the queen being carried by the Pachycondyla tarsata worker probably represents Carebara vidua, discussed below.
These next photos might have been better posted on Wednesday (ahem… “hump” day). Dr. Taylor identified them as Carebara vidua. According to Lepage and Darlington (1984), colonies of this termitophagous species produce broods of alates ready to fly during the short November rains (as we experienced during our visit), as well as the longer April rains. Male and female alates are usually produced in separate nests, and after the flight the alate males seek out the females. The mating swarm I photographed shows several males attempting to mate with a single female – I counted five males at first, although one dropped off while I continued taking photos trying to get a good shot of the “lucky fellow”. I am pleased that Dr. Taylor considered these photos informative enough to post on the species page at his Ants of Africa website. Lepage and Darlington (1984) reported nests of this species established in 2-10% of Macrotermes termite mounds in Kenya, although nests can also occur well away from mounds. In the laboratory, dealate female ants exposed to Macrotermes workers remained passive and elicited no aggression. After 39 days, the mated females were capable of producing broods of about 1,000 workers, able to overpower, kill and eat the much larger Macrotermes workers.
Lepage, M. G. and J. P. E. C. Darlington. 1984. Observations on the ant Carebara vidua F. Smith preying on termites in Kenya. Journal of Natural History 18(2):293-302.