Readers’ wildlife photos

Reader Tony Eales from Australia sent some lovely ant photos. His notes are indented:

Ants, eating and being eaten. I’m a big fan of ants, and am currently trying my hand at keeping and raising colonies from queens. It’s a fun and relatively cheap hobby that I can highly recommend for those who might be inclined. We are blessed in Australia with a huge diversity and abundance of ants, which, along with termites, largely replace the role of earthworms in ecosystem services in most Australian environments. They are also key pollinators, mutualists, predators, herbivores, prey, hosts and even parasites in many Australian ecosystems. Anyway, here’s a few happy snaps of them out in the world.

I think every school child in Australia knows the painful and leaden feeling of a Green-headed Ant (Rhytidoponera metallica) sting. They’re nearly ubiquitous in every lawn or field in this country. This is a taxonomically messy species complex and when you start photographing them you can see that there’s a lot of variation in the look of the workers, but all have some form of the characteristic purple-green iridescence. These ones are farming planthoppers from the Fulgoroidea superfamily.

One of the most common and diverse genera in Australia are members of the Iridomyrmex group. Most self-styled experts on Facebook seem to only recognise two species I. bickneli (bog standard Sidewalk Ant for Australia) and I. purpureus (the Meat Ant) but experts I talk to say that most ants IDed as I. bickneli aren’t, and half the ones IDed as I. purpureus aren’t, so I’m a little wary with my IDs. In any case here’s some Iridomyrmex sp. farming some sort of scale or mealy bug.

Another common ant I find are members of the Dolichoderus australis s.l. Here consuming some bird poop as they and other ants are often wont to do.

Ants more than bees are often the most common visitors to flowers. I’m not sure how much of a role they have in pollination but I’m betting it’s at least some. I have photos here of Golden-tailed Sugar Ants (Camponotus aeneopilosus), Iridomyrmex purpureus and a small brown Iridomyrmex sp. all feeding on a blossoming Soap Tree (Alphitonia excelsa) and Iridomyrmex cf. purpureus feeding on a grass tree (Xanthorrhoea sp.) blossom.

In the final three pictures, I went to a local dam one afternoon and everywhere I looked there were ant queens of some Camponotus sp. out on the ends of branches, leaves, tall grass, hundreds of them and they were providing a bonanza for many other creatures in the same area. The first picture has one caught by a Jewel Spider (Austracantha minax). If you look closely at the second picture it has some mites on it. I’m reminded of the poem by Augustus De Morgan, “Great fleas have little fleas upon their backs to bite ’em, And little fleas have lesser fleas, and so ad infinitum.”

The last picture shows predation of a queen by Muscleman Tree Ants (Podomyrma sp.). These ants live in the hollows of trees, never in the ground. I watched as several queens seemed to appear from somewhere above in the canopy, running down the tree trunk searching for a refuge under peeling bark. This one was interrupted by a tree ant and fled straight into the path of another and was soon surrounded and pinned. Such is life in the arthropod world.

 

16 Comments

  1. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted July 12, 2019 at 7:39 am | Permalink

    Spectacular

    ( I haven’t used that adjective yet)

  2. W.T. Effingham
    Posted July 12, 2019 at 8:02 am | Permalink

    Great photography plus excellent narration make a learning experience “stick”. I wonder if the phrase “taxonomically messy species complex” has ever been uttered on “Fox and Friends” ?

  3. Terry Sheldon
    Posted July 12, 2019 at 8:25 am | Permalink

    Beautiful photos and fascinating commentary. Thanks!

    • Glenda Palmer
      Posted July 12, 2019 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

      +1

  4. Posted July 12, 2019 at 9:27 am | Permalink

    Incredible photos!

    Tony, can you tell us about your camera?

  5. phar84
    Posted July 12, 2019 at 9:51 am | Permalink

    I’m a fan of ants now too.

    Muscleman Tree Ants (Podomyrma sp.)- what a name!

    Thanks for sharing Tony, nice photos.

  6. Posted July 12, 2019 at 10:58 am | Permalink

    This one sure gets under my skin! Gorgeous, splendid, Tony!

  7. Mark R.
    Posted July 12, 2019 at 11:55 am | Permalink

    Thanks for the ants and lively commentary. Now if they’d just stop harvesting and spreading scale around my Kaffir lime tree! I actually got some sticky stuff that stops them from crawling up the trunk. Interestingly, the ants don’t ever get stuck in the goo, they sense that it’s sticky and won’t step onto the trap. Smart little buggers.

    • tjeales
      Posted July 12, 2019 at 3:17 pm | Permalink

      They’re pretty amazing, the closer you look the more weird things you see about them

  8. rickflick
    Posted July 12, 2019 at 12:44 pm | Permalink

    Great shots. I love the clarity and depth of field. What lens do you use to get such depth? Extension tube?

    • tjeales
      Posted July 12, 2019 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

      I use a fairly normal lens but add a Raynox 250 macro filter on the front. The aperture setting is f18 which gives me a decent depth of field but of course I need a diffuser flash or the photos would be just black at that f.

      • rickflick
        Posted July 12, 2019 at 2:42 pm | Permalink

        Thanks.

  9. Posted July 12, 2019 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

    Brilli-ant!

  10. Posted July 12, 2019 at 3:15 pm | Permalink

    Wow, those are terrific. I especially like the last two.

    • tjeales
      Posted July 12, 2019 at 3:30 pm | Permalink

      Thanks Mark. I was happy with those ones too

  11. Charles Sawicki
    Posted July 12, 2019 at 3:43 pm | Permalink

    Nice pictures! I particularly like the green-headed ant shot.


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