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#1 Offline dspdrew - Posted September 16 2013 - 10:58 PM

dspdrew
  • LocationSanta Ana, CA

There were some thunderstorms in the forecast for the Mojave Desert area over last weekend (the first of the summer really), so I decided that would be a good time for me to make my first anting trip out there. I wasn't sure exactly where I was going to go, but I knew I wanted to go to one of the areas where Acromyrmex have been spotted, because I've always wanted to see them. I ended up going  to an area close to Joshua Tree National Park. There I started looking around and thought I was already being attacked by some kind of crazy desert creature, but it just turned out to be a cactus that got air-born in the wind gusts from the coming storm--either way, it didn't feel good at all when it stuck into my leg. With my new macro lens, I was able to get some decent pictures and videos during my time out there.
 
I'm going to try my best to get the species correct on these, but this is kind of going to serve as an ID thread also, so if anybody sees any errors, please tell me so I can correct them. I got a lot of my information from gcsnelling's old Mojave Desert threads over on The Ant Farm and Myrmecology Forum. I'm also going to make this thread in multiple posts because it's very large. I hope you enjoy it.
 
Here's some pictures of the habitat in this part of the desert.
 
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Myrmecocystus sp. - These were the first ants I came across. They all looked about 5mm or so, and their nest had a very large entrance, about 5cm in diameter. I ended up seeing these ants a lot out there.
 
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Myrmecocystus sp. - This was another Myrmecocystus species that looked a little lighter in color than the first ones, and also had some workers that looked a little larger with much larger gasters. After measuring, these were about 5mm - 7mm in length. For all I know though, these could be the same species.
 
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Veromessor pergandei - I saw these probably more than any other ants out there.
 
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Making dinner out of some of the swarming termites.
 

 
 
Dorymyrmex bicolor
 
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Solenopsis xyloni - I caught two of these queens the next day after the storm went through.
 
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The mud looked pretty cool in some places, and actually made it really easy to find wandering queens.
 
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#2 Offline dspdrew - Posted August 7 2014 - 5:45 AM

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  • LocationSanta Ana, CA

Pogonomyrmex rugosus - I was hoping to get some of these queens, and luckily, I found one under a rock the day after it rained.
 
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A couple of them in a brawl.
 
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Urosaurus graciosus - A very pale colored lizard I couldn't identify. Looks a lot like a Side-blotched lizard, only really faded and light in color. These things were really fast too.
 
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Forelius sp.
 
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Pheidole xerophila -  I caught six queens of this species in the evening the day after the rain storm. The minors were about 2.5mm and the majors about 4.5mm in length.
 
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Ferocactus cylindraceus cactus

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Some of the only bright colors I saw out there.
 
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Pheidole desertorum - Also taking advantage of the termite swarm.
 

 
 
Acromyrmex versicolor - I found about six colonies of these near the entrance of the park.
 
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These things make the coolest looking nests.
 
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It was pretty cool seeing them built right in the middle of the smooth dried mud.
 
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These guys shielded their nest from the rain with some leaves.
 
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This colony had covered their whole mound with dead flower buds from an Ironwood tree it was located under.
 
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#3 Offline dspdrew - Posted August 7 2014 - 5:49 AM

dspdrew
  • LocationSanta Ana, CA
At this point the storm came through and I had to wait in my car for about an hour while it poured rain. Immediately after the rain had stopped, subterranean termites started having a massive nuptial flight. About 30 minutes later, the impending flash flood started to show up.
 
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The flood had washed the road out a little ways up, so they ended up closing it and kicking me out of the park. I drove down south of the 10 freeway to Box Canyon where the flash flood was just showing up, but much further down stream, and much, much larger.
 
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Here I stayed for a few hours exploring, and even ran a blacklight for a while once it got dark. Aside from the thousands of termites, there were male and female alates of Crematogaster, Pheidole, and what looked like Myrmecocystus mexicanus. I ended up getting about 25 or so Crematogaster alates--some dealates, and one dealate of which looked like a different species than the rest. It was strange I never came across any Crematogaster workers, but sure found a lot of alates/queens. Many of these Crematogaster alates shed their wings within a day. I also got three of the M. mexicanus alates while I was out here, but unfortunately I don't think they're fertile.
 
Once I was done here, I decided to head into the city to get some food and whatnot. I had been seeing a few people passing by on the road, so I figured it was possible to make it the rest of the way. I had no idea this whole entire road was basically built in a riverbed, and was like that for the next seven miles through the canyon. The water had gone down quite a bit, and all that was left was mainly just a lot of mud and rocks. I started making my way through the canyon but the mud and rocks just kept getting worse and worse until I started seeing small boulders and trees too. At one point there was barely any of the road left. At least five times I had to actually get out with a flashlight and walk in the water and mud hundreds of feet up the pitch black canyon until I could find the road again and see the yellow lines to make sure not to drive off it and into much softer, deeper mud. The worst part about it is every time I stopped, there was that much more of a chance I would end up stuck there, and then who knew how many more storms could have blown through. After going about three miles, I finally decided I better not take anymore chances and just go back the way I came. This seemed like the best idea until I got stuck turning around. I got out to try to figure out what went wrong, and noticed I was actually about 50 feet or so off the road, all the way on the other side of some trees. Once I realized exactly where I needed to go to get back on the road, I managed to get the truck unstuck, and gunned it all the way back onto the road making sure not to get stuck again. After this, I noticed I could see my own tire tracks and was able to follow those all the way out. That was a bit of a stressful situation to say the least. laugh.gif
 
That night I slept in my truck just outside the gate of Joshua Tree National Park right where they had the road closed. It rained lightly all night, and at about 6:00 in the morning I was woken to the sound of this....
 
Commuter moronicus - A species native to California
 
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I guess this guy didn't notice the gate was closed until a little too late.
 
Since I was awake now, I decided to look around to see if any ants were out foraging in the early wet morning, and to my surprise there actually were quite a few. Here's some of what I got pictures of the next morning.
 
Pogonomyrmex californicus - It's hard to believe these are the same species as the ones we have here in Orange County. I think these ones are so much cooler looking with their long legs.
 
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These guys were very busy digging a new nest in the soft mud after the rain.
 
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Pheidole gilvescens - These were actually found in Palm Desert. They were most likely flying, but unfortunately I never found any queens. The minors were about 2mm, and majors about 4mm in length.
 
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Last but not least, I found a cute little Western Banded Gecko, which I took home to keep as a pet. I got two of them actually. biggrin.gif
 
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It was getting late the next day, so it was time for me to head home. I tried black lighting in a few more spots on the way home, but didn't find anything else.
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#4 Offline Myrmecologeek - Posted August 7 2014 - 5:59 AM

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Wow, you're lucky to come home with such a bounty. Not only ants but lizards as well! And that's a lot of beautiful ants and also beautiful photos! I hope I could travel out of my country to watch ants.

On the unidentified lizard, I would go for Urosaurus graciosus.



#5 Offline dspdrew - Posted August 7 2014 - 6:02 AM

dspdrew
  • LocationSanta Ana, CA

Wow, you're lucky to come home with such a bounty. Not only ants but lizards as well! And that's a lot of beautiful ants and also beautiful photos! I hope I could travel out of my country to watch ants.

On the unidentified lizard, I would go for Urosaurus graciosus.

Thanks. Yes that lizard definitely does look like Urosaurus graciosus.



#6 Offline Gregory2455 - Posted September 30 2014 - 10:22 PM

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I always look at this thread, even now, the pictures and videos are just amazing! By the way, what happened with those lizards you brought home?



#7 Offline dspdrew - Posted October 1 2014 - 5:53 AM

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  • LocationSanta Ana, CA

Thanks. The geckos?



#8 Offline Gregory2455 - Posted October 1 2014 - 6:34 AM

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Yes.



#9 Offline dspdrew - Posted October 1 2014 - 7:24 AM

dspdrew
  • LocationSanta Ana, CA

I still have them both in a really nice desert terrarium I made for them. One is a male and one is a female. I'm hoping they mate and create some little baby geckos. They're both mature now and both just molted again last week. They are probably my favorite pets.



#10 Offline Foogoo - Posted October 6 2014 - 8:28 PM

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I don't recall this being asked before, but why blacklight?


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


#11 Offline dspdrew - Posted October 6 2014 - 9:23 PM

dspdrew
  • LocationSanta Ana, CA

Flying insects are attacked to UV lights. So when there are queens flying at night, as so many of them do in the desert after the first few rain storms come through, you can catch a good amount of them with a black light.







Also tagged with one or more of these keywords: mojave desert, joshua tree national park, myrmecocystus, pogonomyrmex rugosus, pheidole xerophila, acromyrmex versicolor, box canyon, myrmecocystus mexicanus, pheidole gilvescens, messor pergandei, pogonomyrmex californicus, pheidole vistana, dspdrew, ant id

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