"There is no excellent beauty that hath not some strangeness in the proportion" Francis Bacon 1561-1626


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Monday, 12 January 2009

Leaf of the Day: The Identification of Ant and his Probable Home

Ant has been very busy today, running about the drawing board and up and down the two desk lamps and while looking through the Myakka photographs yesterday I was reminded that I have now discovered his identity. Pinned to the canopy walkway tower at Myakka are information boards about the wildlife including this..

I recognised my little drawing companion at once who, it seems, rejoices in a name that is several times longer than himself. He is definitely one of the Skinny Dark Elongate Twig Ants, the Pseudomyrmex.
He might be P. ferruginea because they are some of the ants who live in the Bull's Horn Acacia and I am now even more sure that he arrived with the Bull's Horn Acacia thorns. He could be P. gracilis or even P.mexicanus Roger :)... The descriptions fit in every way, particularly the colouring. Reading more about these delicate little arboreal ants it seems they are often solitary and live on tiny insects and ( ignorance was bliss) they have quite a bite, but only when provoked or defending their tree. They inhabit twigs and thorns and hollow stems and make only small colonies.

I don't yet have a good photo of my ant but this is P. gracilis from the Louisiana State University Agricultural Center here

The role of caretaker ants for various trees is fascinating. I wrote about this before here in relation to the Bull's Horn Acacia and the wonderful Thomas Belt who observed the ant's behaviour in 1868. They will attack any threat to their chosen tree ferociously and even clear the ground of vegetation to allow their favourite tree the best possible growing conditions, in return they get food and lodgings.
Perhaps Ant's loyalties have now been transferred to me, although he doesn't seem to be doing a very good job of clearing the room of mosquitoes. He seems remarkably fit, healthy and happy with lots of small insects to feed on and the occasion drop of honey and an endless supply of new and exciting bits of twig, flowers, fruit and seedpods to play with. However I feel I should to take him back to Leu to his tree as he evaded the earlier repatriation. But there are moral complications. What if he would now be regarded as an outsider and attacked and killed.. How would I feel? But does he enjoy his solitary existence? Maybe are there really two of them and they are perfectly happy here. I shall have to attend to this dilemma soon.

The drawing is of one of the major thorns of the acacia in which Ant and his friends and relations would keep house. The entrance to this particular thorny residence is through the black hole in the part which looks like a bird's head. The thorns are all hollow and this one is big, some 4 inches across. It's shape is fabulous, looking like some modernist piece of sculpture, nature's architecture at its Frank Gehry best and very fitting for my little skinny ant friend.
Oh, that I could have such an inspiring home.


Ant's Home, The Bull's Horn Acacia Thorn.


steelystyle said...

How dreadful the questions that start bugging you when you become involved in an ecosystem (yep, bugging. I'm only a little embarrassed). Have you thought about how much ant is doing for his kind and the whole insect world by being a moderately famous household pet? Pretty cool...

Susan Tomlinson said...


sharp green pencil said...

Thankyou both..:) puns are sometimes both irresistable and so apt! ..Dear Ant ..my drawing days would be lonlier without him.