Pogonomyrmex

The approximately 20 North American species of the seed harvester ant genus Pogonomyrmex are possibly the most studied genera of ants in the world with two books and a large body of primary literature is dedicated to them (Cole, 1968; Taber, 1998; Johnson, 2000; 2001).

Figure 24.4. Solenopsis invicta laboratory colony. The colonies are kept in plastic boxes used for small rodent housing.

Figure 24.2. Founding Lasius niger queens. Queens being placed into water tubes after collection and stored in the dark until the first minims emerge.

Figure 24.3. Pogonomyrmex rugosus laboratory colony. The colonies are kept in plastic boxes normally used for rodent housing. There is an additional small box with water tubes for the area where the queen and brood live.

Pogonomyrmex contains the longest lived ant species recorded in the field, 30 years for P. salinus (Porter and Jorgensen, 1988). The best candidate model species within the genus Pogonomyrmex are P. rugous, P. barbatus and P. occidentalis.

These monogynous, multiple mating species are extremely common in the western deserts of North America, forming large conspicuous disc- or mound-shaped colonies. The colonies rarely move, facilitating permanent marking and long-term demographic studies. All of these species sting and can be very aggressive. The mating flights are usually rain triggered in the mid- to late summer months. Queens can be collected after mating flights and colonies started in water tubes as for L. niger, transferring them to larger boxes with additional water tubes as needed (Figure 24.3).

Being desert ants, they should be kept at 30 to 35°C. Seed harvesters are poor climbers, but Fluon® is

Figure 24.4. Solenopsis invicta laboratory colony. The colonies are kept in plastic boxes used for small rodent housing.

recommended to help contain them within their plastic boxes. A more elegant design is a sandwich style nest with either soil or plaster (see Johnson website for pictures and details). Pogonomyrmex should be fed pesticide-free grass seed or small bird seed, dead insects such as frozen crickets or meal worms, and a 1:1 mixture of honey and water. Colonies can be raised to large numbers and, in many cases, can produce sexuals in 2 to 3 years.

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