The Bug Geek

Insects. Doing Science. Other awesome, geeky stuff.


On that too-hot day this past weekend, I walked along a paved trail running between two cattail ponds.  Paired geese honked and hissed and curved their necks at me before slipping silently into the water as I passed.    A small flicker of movement, black on white, caught the corner of my eye.   A thin white birch tree at the water’s edge was positively bustling with activity!

From two small, fresh gouges in the tree’s papery bark, clear sweet sap flowed freely; ants were busy making short work of the tasty meal.  Lots of ants!

I have a new appreciation for people who photograph ants.  They never. stop. moving.  I had my camera set to some completely random setting (not intentionally) and most of my photos came out as big black blurs; these were the few where the ants were discernible as, well, ants. 

These were the first active ants I’ve seen this season.  I’ve found the odd one or two half-frozen beneath shaded logs in the past few weeks, but none so industrious as these.   They’re such great fun to watch!  I am hopelessly uselessly ignorant when it comes to ant ID…they fall into categories of either “black” or “red” according to my own carefully thought-out classification system.  Little help?

11 responses to “Sappy

  1. peteryeeles April 7, 2010 at 8:43 AM

    “they fall into categories of either ”black” or “red” according to my own carefully thought-out classification system.”

    Those are quite clearly of the black variety. 🙂

    They look like some brand of Formica to me. I’m sure someone of with more ant oriented background will be along to clarify.

  2. jason April 7, 2010 at 2:06 PM

    Peter beat me to it: yes, the identification is as simple as saying these are indeed “black ants” as opposed to “red ants.” Problem solved. To be more specific in the ID, they are “sap sucking black ants.” Hey, this identification thing is easier than I thought.

    But OK, I can be serious: I haven’t a clue on the ID.

    And for totally random camera settings (an approach I know all too well), these are pretty darn good pictures!

  3. myrmecos April 7, 2010 at 9:36 PM

    Nice shots- ants aren’t easy! I agree. These are black ants.

    (or maybe, Formica subsericea)

  4. Joy K. April 7, 2010 at 9:49 PM

    I also use the dual category system, but my varieties are either “big” or “little.”

  5. peteryeeles April 7, 2010 at 9:57 PM

    I’m really beginning to see the potential of this new ant ID system. Can I suggest also adding stingy and non-stingy?

    So, these ants are: black-small-nonstingy.

    By way of contrast, these ants at myrmecos blog are: red-small-stingy!

    I like it!

  6. myrmecos April 7, 2010 at 10:05 PM

    When I was collecting ants in Argentina- a country that must have more than 600 species- most people divided ants into two species: The little red ones that sting, and the black ones that eat the garden.

    One guy insisted that Argentina had more than that. There were three species: the red stinging ants, the black garden-eating ants, and the winged ants.

  7. TGIQ April 8, 2010 at 2:38 PM

    I’m glad to hear so many other people employ similar ID systems! (And that we’re all in agreement that these are, indeed, Black Ants) 😛

  8. Pingback: Ant Classification System – REVISED « Fall To Climb

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