The first storm of the 2014 monsoon season went through Phelan/Victorville, California area of the Mojave Desert July 4th. Knowing this, Chromerust and I headed out there the next day.
First we stopped at a spot in the foothills near Phelan around 8:30 in the morning, where we saw Pogonomyrmex californicus having another mating flight. There were also founding chambers all over the place, and we even found a few dealates running around. There's tons of Messor andrei nests at this location, but none of them were active at all at this time.
Next we drove straight to the area that showed the most intense rain on the radar yesterday. On the way there I was starting to get a little worried as everything looked bone dry, but just as we got within a couple miles of that location, we started seeing lots of very large puddles and mud all over the road, so we knew we were in the right spot. We stopped at a place near the El Mirage Off Highway Vehicle Recreation Area, close to the intersection of Mountain View Rd, and El Mirage Rd, around 9:30 am and started looking around.
First we hiked around on the eastern side of the road, where we saw plenty P. rugosus, P. californicus, and Messor pergandei, but no dealates, founding chambers or any signs of a mating flight. Finally we noticed one P. rugosus nest that actually had alates taking off, but we just weren't sure exactly where they were headed. After a little more walking around, we decided to go back to the roadside since that always seems to be the best place to find find queens, and sure enough we found the first P. rugosus dealate. We crossed the road over to the western side, and there were tons of them. By this time it was about 11:00 am, and there were so many flying around that they were hitting us in the face. We definitely picked the perfect spot, as we both took home quite a few queens.
There were so many founding chambers, some were just inches apart.
I noticed these don't dig their nests into the side of a hill or lump of dirt the way P. californicus seem to do, instead they dig them almost straight down right on the flat ground.
Some were completely circular.
This one didn't pick the best place for her nest.
P. rugosus queens digging their founding chambers.
I managed to catch a queen removing her wings on video.
Aside from the P. rugosus queens, we also found one Forelius sp. queen, and dug up the biggest Dorymyrmex insanus queen I have ever seen. After getting home and comparing them, I could see this one was about two millimeters larger than all my other D. insanus queens.
Messor pergandei attacking some Pheidole gilvescens.