ecology

Myrmecos

Tag archives for ecology

Leptinotarsa decemlineata Urbana, Illinois Meet the Colorado Potato Beetle. If I had to make a list of ten insects all people should know, I’d probably put this one on it. Leptinotarsa decemlineata is a walking case study in evolutionary ecology. Anyone with a potato patch will recognize this large, pin-striped beetle as a particularly voracious…

From the “I-never-thought-I’d-use-this-class” file, I took a semester course once from an oil spill expert. Professor Ed Gilfillan had studied the response of Prince William Sound to various clean-up regimens following the wreck of the Exxon Valdez, and we spent weeks learning about chemistry of oil spills and the factors involved in ecological recovery. The…

Answer to the Monday Night Mystery

What was that inexplicable bit of chitin hiding away in a hole in a twig? This photo should help: It’s the heavily sclerotized head shield of a Cephalotes varians turtle ant. Ants in this mostly Neotropical genus inhabit pre-existing cavities in trees and branches, a limiting resource that spurs intense competition among colonies of various…

If I had to pick the most annoying insect in Illinois it’d be Harmonia axyridis. This lady beetle was introduced to our continent as a control agent for aphids but became a pest in its own right. It consumes not just aphids but all manner of other insects, including beneficials like native lady beetles. Swarms…

The eggs that weren’t

I did not expect everyone to nearly instantaneously solve yesterday’s termite ball mystery.  I’m either going to have to post more difficult challenges (from now on, nothing will be in focus!) or attract a slower class of reader. As you surmised, those little orange balls are an egg-mimicking fungus. It is related to free-living soil fungi,…

Ant Ecology now available

Surfing around the bookstores this morning I see that the much-anticipated Ant Ecology book is out. At $129.00 it’s not something the casual reader is liable to pick up. Nonetheless, Ant Ecology is a beautiful volume reviewing the state of the field, and scientists who work on ants should probably own a copy. Or at…

The other ant-fungi

If I were to mention an ant-fungus mutualism- that is, an ecological partnership between an ant and a fungus that benefits both- most biologically literate people might think of the famed leafcutter ants and the edible mycelia they cultivate.  But that is just one example. Several other fungi have entered into productive relationships with ants,…

An Ant Lion in Action

I spent last week in central Florida at the Archbold Biological Station. Archbold preserves 5,000 hectares of Florida sand scrub, some of the last remaining patches of an ecosystem now largely lost to agriculture and strip malls.  The sand scrub is an odd place, a fossil beach from when sea levels were high enough to…

Predator vs Harvester

A recent study by Gabriela Pirk in Insectes Sociaux provides me with an excuse to share this photo: Pirk et al examined the diet of both Pheidole species in the Monte desert of Northern Argentina.  Why would someone spend time doing this?   Ants are important dispersers of seeds, and these Pheidole are two of the…