Friday, September 5, 2014

The Ant Word

WHAT’S NEW: last update 22/04/2016 [click here] 


STOP PRESS!  Go HERE to order our great new field guide, ANTS OF SOUTHERN AFRICA, in press and for immediate delivery by airmail or courier ... 

INTRODUCTION 

We’ve put this website together to help anyone interested in the natural systems of South Africa to identify these tiny but fascinating animals. There’s more about recognizing ants in the pages below, with some fairly basic stuff about these insects and their biology. Our ants are as much a part of our fantastic wildlife heritage as lions and rhinos, fish eagles and blue cranes, mighty yellowwoods and king proteas. The ecological role they play is immensely important for the health of our natural systems. Ants are essential seed-distributors to thousands of charismatically-beautiful fynbos plants; they are pollinators and recyclers, too, and also vectors in the spread of many plant predators. However, just as there are plant invaders that threaten our natural systems there are insect invaders, too, and we’re keeping an eye on some pretty murderous invasive ants. The problem is, no one involved in ecological study or conservation in South Africa really knows where these invaders are, or how widespread they are. The Iziko Museums list of South African ants, for example, only places the serious pest, the Argentine ant [see below], in the Western Cape, Eastern Cape and Gauteng; yet they are all over the Northern Cape towns of Nieuwoudtville and Calvinia. What’s more, both these towns enjoy temperature extremes in winter and summer. Popular wisdom has it that Argentine ants do not survive such extremes – yet there they are! There is a proposal on the table to enlist professional and amateur naturalists, hikers, campers, climbers and outdoor people everywhere to join an Ant Atlassing project, but it’s a long term dream at this stage.

If you have any info, queries or comments please use the Comments box below. We are still working on the illustrations of the various ants and finding better ways of presenting them, so you might find something new every time you revisit this site. Eventually we hope to publish a field guide to the most common ants of Southern Africa.
The Argentine ant – Linepithema humile – is one of the most devastating invasive organisms on Earth. It may pose a very serious threat to the health of our fynbos and other ecosystems ... but do we know where they all are?

7 comments:

  1. Good morning, I was watering my fynbos and succulent garden this morning and out came ants by the thousands! It looked like they were carrying white seeds. I took a few pics and they look very similar to the invader Argentine Ant. What is the best way to deal with them without upsetting the Eco-system. Thanks in advance! Ewaldi Mostert Somerset West ewaldi@houselife.co.za

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    1. Dear Ewaldi, I am a postdoctoral researcher at Stellenbosch University. I am very interested in seeing these photos. Please could you email me on mothapo@sun.ac.za. many thanks, Natasha

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  2. Ewaldi -
    Almost certainly Argentine ants - they typically swarm out of their nests when wet. Their origin is in swampy ground in South America, and this behaviour is probably a defence again flooding in their swampy homes

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  4. Hi, I've found some really cool nests hanging in trees made from the leaves. There are several of these nests just in 1 tree in St. Lucia, KZN. The nests are beautifully contracted and looks like they've used some sort of silk, almost like a communal spiders nest but they have ants walking around on them. Do you know what ants these may be?

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    1. They sound like Weaver or Tailor ants, Oecophylla longinoda: they weave leaves together with silk produced by their larvae to make their nests.

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