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"...mysterious and little known organisms live within walking distance of where you sit. Splendor awaits in minute proportions.”
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DISCLAIMERI am a photographer, not an entomologist. I do my best to have professionals assist in identifying the subjects of my photographs. However, positive identifications can not always be done unless the specimen is dead and viewed under a microscope. If you do find an error, or have doubts about the identification provided, please let me know in the comments or by email.
Tag Archives: Carpenter ant
If you want to begin photographing ants, the carpenter ant is a good place to start. Camponotus (this is most likely C. herculeanus, or perhaps the closely related C. modoc ) are large ants — the majors can reach a length of up to 13mm (½”). This particular ant was photographed climbing a spruce tree on an island in Astotin Lake, Elk Island National Park. They are named ‘carpenter’ ants because they nest in logs or tree stumps where their presence is often revealed by the quantity of sawdust that accumulates nearby. Carpenter ants do not feed on wood like termites: their food consists of mostly of aphid honeydew, plant sap and insects. They are known to be predators of spruce budworms, which are considered a major pest by the forestry industry.¹ In turn, carpenter ants are a major food source for bears and one of the boreal forest’s most stunning birds, the pileated woodpecker.²
The genus Camponotus is highly diverse. While C. hurculeanus is known as quite a passive species, there are other Camponotus that are notorious for their aggressive or self-destructive behaviour. C. femoratus of the Amazon is described as being the most aggressive ant in the world, where the mere presence of a person can cause nests to erupt and ants to literally launch themselves at the unfortunate bystander (pg 203)³. C. saundersi of Malaysia goes to another extreme to protect the nest — they behave like suicide bombers:
“…these ants are anatomically and behaviourly programmed to be walking bombs. Two huge glands, filled with toxic secretions, run from the mandibles all the way to the posterior tip of the body. When the ants are pressed hard during combat, either by enemy ants or by an attacking predator, they contract their abdominal muscles violently, bursting open the body wall and spraying the secretions onto the foe.” (pg 67)³
For more on the lifecycle of carpenter ants, see this article at Boundaries.
(Photograph scanned from Kodachrome 64, 05/2004. Originally photographed 05/1996 with Olympus OM2 with 50mm Zuiko macro lens and lit with a single Olympus T20 flash)
¹[PDF] western spruce budworm.pub
- Kamikaze Ant (neatorama.com)