Location: San Juan Loop Trail, Cleveland National Forest, California
Habitat: Oak forest, chaparral
Coloration, hue and pattern: All red
Length: 5 mm
Original ID Thread: http://www.formiculture.com/topic/62-
I've been trying to get a colony of these since I first saw and learned about them four years ago. They are a honeypot ant species that is not seen very often, which of course made finding a queen extremely difficult... but I finally did.
I knew honeypot ants were flying in the local foothills earlier this year after all the rain we had gotten, so I figured there was a good chance this particular species was flying as well. It was March 16th 2017 when I headed out to a trail right off Ortega Highway in the Santa Ana Mountains where I knew there are an abundance of them. It took so long to get there in traffic that I was left with only 20 minutes of daylight after getting there. Surprisingly, I spotted a founding chamber, and after a few scoops dirt, out popped the queen.
It was one of the strangly-colored queens that always seem to turn out to be M. mimicus, so I initially posted about it on my M. mimicus journal, but now that its workers have eclosed, I can see it is exactly what I had hoped it was--Myrmecocystus wheeleri! If it wasn't for all the M. mimicus queens I found in the past with these exact same colors, I would have immediately assumed it was M. wheeleri. I guess this also means the orange and black colored colony I have been posting on my M. mimicus journal is probably a different species as well.
From original post:
The only other species I think it could be is M. wheeleri, one I have always waned to find. The area I was at is loaded with them, and was actually the main reason I went there. I guess we'll find out once the workers arrive.
She laid two eggs before I even got her in her "dirt box". She had one of them with her here.
She seems healthy so far, as she had her new chamber dug and closed up the next day.