One of the things that first drew me to ants is the existence of castes. Raised side by side, two sisters from the same genetic background can develop into morphologically distinct types of adults - minor workers, major workers, and even queens - simply on the basis of nutrition. Here we have small and large worker pupae of Cerapachys biroi. They are clones (genetically identical!), but must have been raised differently - the large one has eyes, while the small one completely lacks them! (Hymenoptera, Formicidae, Cerapachys biroi; New York, New York)
This ant is in the genus Stigmatomma. It’s in the subfamily Ambyloponinae, and this is the first member of that strange group that I’ve ever seen. They’re specialized predators of centipedes. These ants are sometimes called “vampire ants” because the adults only means of getting food is by sucking blood of the larvae. And it’s crazy looking! (Hymenoptera, Formicidae, Stigmatomma sp.; Millbrook, New York)
I now have in my care a colony of 297 (3 died) workers of Cerapachys biroi. Hopefully we’ll be doing some serious genetics with them in the coming months. Here they’re eating pupae of Solenopsis invicta, which is great because that’s the ant I’ve been studying for the last few years. Moving up in the world… (Formicidae, Cerapachys biroi; New York, New York).
Dung beetle has dung (Coleoptera, Scarabaeidae; Hawley, Pennsylvania).
This carpenter ant was hiding. They had a nice trail that was covered at most parts, but at parts like this one, they had to run across open space. When I stepped back a few feet there was a lot of activity, but when I got close all of the ants hid under cover (Hymenoptera, Formicidae, Camponotus sp.; Hawley Pennsylvania).
Sphecid wasp. It’s basically sleeping as I take this photograph (at dusk), with its jaws clamped onto the leaf to hold on (Hymneoptera, Sphecidae, Ammophila (?); Tappahannock, Virginia).
This is just great. Here’s the coolest ant I’ve found in the last year. It’s not at all common, a member of a rare subfamily called Proceratiinae. Very little is known about them and, in fact, a quick search on antweb, bugguide, and the global ants database didn’t even find records of this subfamily occurring in Virginia. They have a stinger that points forward, perhaps because they are specialized predators of spider eggs. See here for info: http://www.antweb.org/description.do?name=proceratium&rank=genus&project=allantwebants. Yet, never outdone, my little sister upstages even the coolest of ants (Formicidae, Proceratiinae, Proceratium; Tappahannock, Virginia).
The enduring goal of scientific endeavor, as of all human enterprise, I imagine, is to achieve an intelligible view of the universe. One of the great discoveries of modern science is that this goal cannot be achieved piecemeal, certainly not by the accumulation of facts. To understand a phenomenon is to understand a category of phenomena, or it is nothing. Understanding is achieved through creative acts.” - Alfred Herschel
I really like this. From the Principles of Virology introduction. You should listen to the This Week in Virology podcast.
Heh. I was trying to figure out a way to visualize my data and accidentally made this graph. This is all of the data from my fire ant sociometry. For each of the 32 colonies I used in my analysis, it has approximately 35 measures of things like colony mass, number of queens, number of larvae. Kinda shows you how meaningless “big data” is without an actual human there to interpret it (Abstract nonsense; Fredericksburg, Virginia).
I think this is an elephant mosquito. If so, it’s cool. Typically only female mosquitos bite, and they do so to get energy to make eggs. These mosquitos don’t bite, though, because they have predatory larvae, so they get their nutritional needs met before adulthood. That might also be why they’re some of the largest mosquitos on earth and have bizarre-looking mouthparts (Diptera, Culicidae, Toxorhynchites (?); Athens, Georgia).
HOLY COW! Ron Carroll, Associate Dean of Ecology & ant biologist (fire ants nonetheless!) just gave me the nicest gift ever. = 0 (Hymenoptera, Formicidae, Phiedole spp.; Athens GA)!
Same mantis, maybe in a cheerier light (Mantodea, Mantidae; Yonah Mountain, Georgia).
Robberfly (Diptera, Asilidae; Yonah Mountain, Georgia).
Juvenile mantis over the mountain (Mantodea, Mantidae; Yonah Mountain, Georgia).
This thatch ant made a great model when we were camping yesterday morning. Here she is standing on a hat, overlooking the campsite and the fire (Hymenoptera, Formicidae, Formica; Yonah Mountain, Georgia).