Monday, June 29, 2009

The Next Generation

This year my area (New Jersey) has been going through some odd weather. Our normally warm and dry month of June has been cooler than in past years and we already have an extra inch of rain that we don't normally get. The pattern that I recall in years past has usually been by now it would rain some almost every night/early morning and the days would be dryer with almost no rainfall. And on days after it's rained it would greatly increase the humidity, which in turn triggers most species of ants to hold their nuptial flights.

This June, however, has been different. I can only recall three days so far in the whole month where lots of ants have been able to fly. Because of this it seems our native Camponotus (the common name Carpenter Ant applies to some of these) have been very much behind schedule.

New Queens, pictured above with wings on, for the most part would have flown from the nests by now. But as you can see there are still a few queens present. Also present in the images are larva that will develop into next year's generation of new queens. Camponotus lay eggs in batches at certain times of the year. The generation pictured here will develop fully around the month of August. These new queens and males will over winter in the nest, in preparation for next year. Now if only the weather would correct itself the current generation of alates (winged ants) might fly sometime this year. It's hard to believe July is already here.

As a final report I'll say I haven't seen the diversity of Camponotus species that I used to see in year past. Clearly the weather is effecting the genus as a whole. The invasive and imported Tetramorium species are also flying much later this year. When we finally get a good day in July we're looking at a storm of every species that's been waiting to fly suddenly taking to the sky.