I love to go caving but haven't been underground lately. On one of my recent walks, I thought about the harvester ants going in and out of their mounds and realized that they are tiny little spelunkers. They don't even need a helmet or three sources of light or knee pads. And somehow they can adapt to being in the total darkness to coming out to bright, blinding sunlight without pausing at the entrance of their mound.
So in fascination, I stopped at one of the harvester ant mounds and watched these little guys for awhile. They move really fast, so I was happy when I got one closeup photo that looked fairly decent (see above), showing the tiny hairs on the ant's body. If you missed the earlier post about harvester ants, click here to learn some basics about these neat little insects and see some good photos of harvester ant mounds.
As I was peering intently at the mound, I saw a couple smaller ants with darker rears than the harvester ants nearby. I'm not sure if they were a different species or simply a different type of ant from the mound. (If you know, please share!) Both kinds are on the white rock.
The entrance to this particular mound consisted of several small holes on the south-facing side. Since I've noticed that harvester ants always seem to prefer their openings on the south- or east-facing sides of the mounds, I've been examining every mound that I've found. So far I've only found one anomaly, with a north-facing opening. I'll keep an eye on it to see if that mound survives.
Many times the ants went in and out of the holes several times before deciding which way to go. I'm not sure if they were confused or communicating or just playing. Somehow I doubt that ants play, they always seem so industrious.
As I stood squatting with my eyes on the mound, I realized that a few ants were leaving the mound with bits of debris. It won't be all that long till the snow flies, so it's time for them to do some fall cleaning before they spend the winter underground.
And I was so fascinated with the ants that I took this short video. The quality has been compressed, but I did find some fun music to put to it. Look for the ant that's taking a little white something out of the hole, and later the two ants carrying a dead one. One of those two ants has to walk backwards!