Harpegnathos saltator – Jumping Ant
I thought I would have to travel all the way to India (the horror!) to photograph one of the world’s most charming insects, the jumping ant Harpegnathos saltator. But I recently learned that myrmecologist Juergen Liebig, a professor at Arizona State University, maintains dozens of captive colonies in his lab in Phoenix. Juergen studies these ants’ rather unusual behavior. Unlike most ants that show a clear division between reproductive queens and sterile workers, Harpegnathos workers can mate and produce fertile offspring, leading to soap opera-style power struggles over who gets to be queen within the nest. All of which make for a research program full of plot and intrigue.
In any case, Juergen was kind enough to let me play with some of his ants earlier this week. Harpegnathos are wonderfully visual creatures, leggy and delicate, with jaws like needle-nosed pliers. They’re great photographic subjects.
Incidentally, while up at ASU we fit in a short but fun macrophotography workshop with the social insect folks. Apparently it went over well.
photo details, top photo: Canon MP-E 65mm 1-5x macro lens on a Canon 20D,
twin flash diffused through tracing paper.
bottom photo: Canon 100mm f2.8 macro lens on a Canon 20D
indirect strobe fired into white box.