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What to look for when anting? (how to find newly mated queens)


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35 replies to this topic

#1 Offline Foogoo - Posted October 9 2014 - 7:37 PM

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Aside from active hunting by lifting stones, breakings logs, etc., how do you find dealates? A lot of you seem to find new queens digging founding chambers, do you look for any indications of new queens digging?

 

It's not really mating season for any desert species, but I've been practicing finding ants. The only way that has worked for me is randomly searching the ground or looking for colony mounds (which obviously won't lead to new queens).


Edited by dspdrew, June 1 2015 - 6:59 AM.
Edited the title to make it more specific

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Camponotus vicinus, Crematogaster 1, Crematogaster 2, Formica francoeuri, *, *, Myrmecocystus testaceus, Novomessor cockerelli, Pheidole hyatti, Pogonomyrmex californicus, Pogonomyrmex rugosus, Solenopsis invicta


#2 Offline Gregory2455 - Posted October 9 2014 - 7:44 PM

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Well, if you make it on the day of the flight, you can often see them flying (and mating) and walking around.

For example, here are two videos that Drew made, when he made it on the exact day Acromyrmex versicolor, Pheidole xerophilla, and Pogonomyrmex rugosus flew.

For some species, such as Acromyrmex versicolor, it is essential to make it on the day of the flight if you want their fungus, because they spit the pellet out just after landing.


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#3 Offline Alza - Posted October 9 2014 - 7:45 PM

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if you didn't give credit to dspdrew, it would've been copy write 



#4 Offline Gregory2455 - Posted October 9 2014 - 7:47 PM

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Woah, that's a lot of videos. Sorry about that, and here is what to look for if you make it a few days after the flight.


if you didn't give credit to dspdrew, it would've been copy write 

No, because they are embedded FROM DREW'S YOUTUBE CHANNEL.



#5 Offline Foogoo - Posted October 9 2014 - 8:16 PM

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Thanks, that's great! Then what about nailing down flights? Right after a rain? Day after rain? And any clues to finding actual flights or just have to stop and walk with hope?


Camponotus vicinus, Crematogaster 1, Crematogaster 2, Formica francoeuri, *, *, Myrmecocystus testaceus, Novomessor cockerelli, Pheidole hyatti, Pogonomyrmex californicus, Pogonomyrmex rugosus, Solenopsis invicta


#6 Offline Gregory2455 - Posted October 9 2014 - 8:20 PM

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http://www.wundergro...iv=0&mm=0&hur=0

 

Use that live radar of Southern California to watch for rain. A normal monsoon can last from an afternoon to a couple of days. When it looks like the rain is going away, that is when you go out to see them fly, but you would probably have to spend the night there to get a good second day flight. Basically, try to time your trip to be on the very first day without rain, or if you are willing to spend the night there, then go out on the day the rain seems to be breaking up.


Usually, right after the rain, me Drew, and others will also be going crazy on Formiculture, so it is easy to get info here if you want to go a few days later and just dig up founding chambers. :)


Edited by Gregory2455, October 9 2014 - 8:20 PM.

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#7 Offline Gregory2455 - Posted October 9 2014 - 8:30 PM

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By the way, for the first week or so the founding chambers of 99% of species are only a few inches down, and after rain the ground is soft, so it is super easy to dig them up. :D



#8 Offline dspdrew - Posted October 10 2014 - 8:00 AM

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Greg pretty much told you most everything you need to know about the desert species. I'll just elaborate on it a bit. I had all the same questions when I first got into this, and a lot of them were never really answered by anyone, or the answers were just assumptions and whatnot. So this year, I searched for the answers to these myself, and I got most of them answered. I'm going to explain a lot of what I learned, so I can just link people to this thread in the future when asked the same questions.

 

The nice thing about desert "anting" is that there is tons of open undisturbed dirt that allows you to see their founding chambers. This means you don't have to know exactly where it's going to rain, but where it has already rained, since you can still dig the queens up for the next few days. That info is much easier to get, and a lot more accurate. In the desert there's pretty much only one thing that triggers mating flights, and that is rain. As a matter of fact, I don't even see hardly any ants out at all until it rains. But after the rain comes through, that place is just crawling with ants. The first couple storms of the monsoon season that blow through, you can be almost 100 percent sure something will be flying after. If the storm comes through in the morning, and the species flies in the morning, then you can be sure they will be flying the next morning. If the storm comes through in the morning, and the species flies in the evening, then you an be quite sure they will fly the evening of the day the storm came though, and so on. In the desert though, there are not many rain gauges, as a matter of fact, there's not much of anything really. Also, the only weather history that seems to be kept and easily accessed is info for the major airports, therefor, when you know there is storm activity in the desert, just watch the Wundermap, or any other doppler radar website. Wundermap is great, because now they actually let you go back and watch the last 12 hours of radar, so you don't have to keep checking it over and over throughout the day. If you see an area of activity, just estimate the amount of rain falling, and if it's enough to puddle on the ground, then it's probably enough to trigger a flight. Below is the key for the coloring on the radar map. Based on how intense the rain is, just imaging how long it would have to be over a given area to produce some puddling and soak down pretty far into the ground. Obviously, really heavy rain would only need to last a few minutes to achieve this, whereas light rain would have to fall for a few hours.

 

Color key for precipitation on a doppler radar map

Light green:  Light rain, or light rain aloft not reaching ground
Dark green:  Light to moderate rain
Yellow:  Moderate rain
Orange Heavy rain
Red:  Severe rain or rain and hail

Purple:  Intense rain and hail

 

Once you know there is a spot that received enough rain, take note of some cross roads and head right to that spot the next day if you want to hopefully catch a flight while it's happening. The radar is amazingly accurate, but sometimes can be off by 5 miles or so. Most of the time I did this, it has been spot on. It really is amazing how on your way to the spot (if it was a very small isolated storm), everything around you will be just absolutely bone dry, and then just in the middle of the bone dry desert, all of a sudden, seemingly out of nowhere, there's mud tracked all over the road, and huge puddles everywhere. The accuracy amazes me every time. You can also go up to a few days later too if you just want to dig up founding chambers. After lots of trial and error, I have found that up to three days after you can find queens without excessive digging. Any more than three days, and you might be doing a lot of digging, depending how hot and dry it has been since the day of the flight. For me, the success rate has been around 30 percent on average, but much much worse more than three days later.

 

Here's a video of me digging up a founding chamber of a Myrmecocystus navajo queen in Pinyon Pines, California. This place is probably the easiest place to dig up queens of anywhere I have been. The ground is just soft sand as far down as I have dug, and the ant population is very dense. The day I was digging these up, there was a founding chamber about every four feet.

 

Pinyon Pines

 

med_gallery_2_238_1099991.jpg

 

 

When you are there within a day after they flew, they can be as easy as this to dig up, usually requiring nothing more than a simple scoop of a trowel.

 

This is a video of me, kellakk, and Chromerust digging up Veromessor pergandei and Myrmecocystus creightoni queens near Palm Desert.

 

 

 

Greg already covered how to look for founding chambers, so I won't go into that.

 

A black light is also a very good way to find queens. Any time you suspect they may be flying, just run a black light, and see what shows up. Insects are attracted to UV light, so they will fly right to you, making finding queens this way very little work. I'll run a back light and just sit there for an hour or two just plucking them off the sheet that the light's shining on.

 

med_gallery_2_137_512138.jpg

 

Most of the queens you catch with a black light will probably still have their wings. I don't know exactly why they don't tear them off, but I think they're probably just too mesmerized by the light to remember or even care to do so.

 

As for the mountains and foot hills, things are a bit different. I can only speak of the mountains and foothills of Southern California though, because that's where I'm from, but I know many of the members here are too, so this should be pretty relevant for them.

 

In the low elevation mountains and foothills, I have found that there really aren't many large mating flights, but more of a longer drawn out period of random spurts of flights (with the exception of Solenopsis spp. and a few others). Most of the queens I've found in the foothills were wandering around at night, usually on really hot and humid evenings in the spring time and summer time. Like the day the first storm blows through the desert, the very first, really hot evening in Spring will be one of the best days for the foothills. Rain doesn't seem to be as much of a factor in these areas as it is in the desert. I find it's easier to spot queens at night with a flashlight, but I've cut back a lot on doing this because I'm usually alone at the time, and a lot of these areas are major mountain lion spots. Considering I would come home with maybe one or two queens on a good night, I've decided that it's just not worth the risk of being eaten. Instead what I do now, is sit in my truck and run my black light. This is not only a lot safer, but like I previously said, a lot less work too. The bad thing about the foothills is you have to be there when they're flying. You don't get the luxury of showing up a few days after the flights because you really aren't going to find founding chambers around there. You might find a few places where you can actually see the dirt, but the majority of the land is covered with such thick brush, that it's impossible to see anything.

 

This was one of the only spots in the foothills where I was able to dig up founding chambers, and they were Dorymyrmex insanus. This happened to be on a trail, which is usually one of the only places where there are large bare areas where you can see the dirt.

 

 

 

The higher elevation mountains (where pine trees grow in Southern California), is sort of like the foothills and lower elevations, only colder, and there seems to be much larger mating flights. It's also a lot more like "anting" up North or back East. Information on how to look for queens in those kinds of places is abundant because there seems to be a lot more people in the hobby that live in those places. On this forum though, there is a relatively large amount of people from the Southwest. Basically what you will hear a lot, is talk about flipping rocks and breaking open logs. This definitely applies to places up North and back East, as well as the higher elevation mountains here in the Southwest. The first really hot day in April, we walked up on some major Camponotus mating flights up in the mountains. In late summer, we showed up in the middle of some big Lasius mating flights. You can have some luck showing up a few days after a flight, because it's not as dry up there, and queens will hang out under rocks and logs for a while sometimes.

 

Hope this helps. I'll add more to it if I think of something I missed. I have a few more pictures to add later once I get them off my camera.


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#9 Offline Foogoo - Posted October 10 2014 - 8:29 AM

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Thanks for all the great information in this thread! My only experience is with drywood termites (unfortunately) and they seem to fly on the first nice, picturesque spring day after a period or so of less desirable or rainy weather. I wonder if this also applies to other urban ants.

 

I did randomly find what appeared to be a Crematogaster drone in my garage last week, so I don't know if he was a lost outlier or if there was a flight nearby.


Camponotus vicinus, Crematogaster 1, Crematogaster 2, Formica francoeuri, *, *, Myrmecocystus testaceus, Novomessor cockerelli, Pheidole hyatti, Pogonomyrmex californicus, Pogonomyrmex rugosus, Solenopsis invicta


#10 Offline dspdrew - Posted October 10 2014 - 9:37 AM

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You could definitely find Crematogaster alates this time of the year. They seem to be one of the very last to fly.



#11 Offline Gregory2455 - Posted October 10 2014 - 10:16 AM

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Some Crematogaster are yet to fly, Foogoo, drywood termites fly daily here during summer months. :D Also, now that you know a bunch about desert ants, lets talk about mountain ants. Ants in the foothills (where it is not a high enough elevation for snow), what are usually really dry oak mountains here in Southern California. Foothill ants are stimulated to fly by rain as well as the desert ones. Mountain ants, (where it snows) are stimulated to fly on a warm day. Suburban ants, fly unpredicted, but the good thing about them is that is that you will without a doubt see them, because they fly right outside your house!

#12 Offline Foogoo - Posted December 1 2014 - 8:16 AM

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How do ants fly? Does it vary between species? I noticed drywood termites fly in a very calm manner, not quick and zig zagging like flies, as if they are wandering around and very easy to swat out of the air. Do ants fly similarly?


Camponotus vicinus, Crematogaster 1, Crematogaster 2, Formica francoeuri, *, *, Myrmecocystus testaceus, Novomessor cockerelli, Pheidole hyatti, Pogonomyrmex californicus, Pogonomyrmex rugosus, Solenopsis invicta


#13 Offline drtrmiller - Posted December 1 2014 - 9:25 AM

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Mating generally occurs several hundred meters off the ground, after which the queens fall back to down to begin colony founding.

 

Little is known other than what is observed on the ground, which is that the queens fly rather clunkily, and it is up to the males to home in and to grapple onto them.


Edited by drtrmiller, December 1 2014 - 9:25 AM.


#14 Offline dspdrew - Posted December 1 2014 - 10:28 AM

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A lot of the males I have seen flying were swarming almost like gnats, flying round and round in circles in one spot. Most of the queens I have seen almost look like they are just blowing in the wind, even though sometimes they are actually flying against the wind. From what I saw, the queens flew a lot like termites.



#15 Offline Foogoo - Posted December 1 2014 - 10:32 AM

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Has anyone tried or thought about trying to catch queens mid-flight with an insect net? If they're anything like the termites I have around here, I could easily catch more than a few of them with a medium-size net.


Camponotus vicinus, Crematogaster 1, Crematogaster 2, Formica francoeuri, *, *, Myrmecocystus testaceus, Novomessor cockerelli, Pheidole hyatti, Pogonomyrmex californicus, Pogonomyrmex rugosus, Solenopsis invicta


#16 Offline dspdrew - Posted December 1 2014 - 10:36 AM

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I grabbed a few out of the air with my hands before.



#17 Offline LAnt - Posted December 4 2014 - 5:03 PM

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So for P californicus, I've read that their flights are triggered from the sun's positon in spring or something. Have you found this to be true or does the rain work too? And do you know the best time period to see queens foraging? Thanks

Edited by LAnt, December 4 2014 - 5:03 PM.


#18 Offline AntsAreUs - Posted December 4 2014 - 5:07 PM

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So for P californicus, I've read that their flights are triggered from the sun's positon in spring or something. Have you found this to be true or does the rain work too? And do you know the best time period to see queens foraging? Thanks

Only semi-claustral queens forage which is Pogonomyrmex, you can find them foraging for seeds but I don't know where to look. There are a number of things that trigger a nuptial flight such as wind, humidity, rain, time of year, temperature, ect. so you will just have to go looking on nice days sometime after it rains but there can be flights without rain so just go look and find out.



#19 Offline Gregory2455 - Posted December 4 2014 - 6:06 PM

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Haha, yeah, you can find semi clausteral queens foraging even a month after they fly. :D 



#20 Offline LAnt - Posted December 4 2014 - 8:37 PM

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Now i just got to get my dad to drive me, which i tried last year




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