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Ants in Lake Lincoln State Park, Pike County, Mississippi [MS State Park Ants]

Joe A. MacGown, uploaded on 12 September 2011


Lake Lincoln State Park is off of Hwy 51 and Hwy 55 near Wesson in the northwest corner of Lincoln County, Mississippi. The park has improved and primitive camping sites, one cabin, and a large lake. The roads are flanked by mixed hardwood forests, which included lots of southern magnolia, beeches, and oaks.

I arrived at the park at 3:15 PM on July 20, 2011. I planned on hanging out at the park collecting ants until dark, then spending the night there. I was in luck; the single cabin in the park was open. The cabin was isolated from the other areas of the park, which made collecting ideal. I did most of my collecting near the open grassy areas and the woods near the cabin (31°40'47"N 90°20'27"W).

Cabin at Lake Lincoln

After unloading my gear, I wandered around the open area near the cabin to see what ants I could find. Similar to other open areas in south Mississippi, the place was over run with dark rover ants, Brachymyrmex patagonicus, a minute invasive species from South America. These tiny black ants were "roving" around everywhere along the ground, trees, and crawling on the cabin! The imported red fire ant, Solenopsis invicta, was also a very abundant species, although mounds typically associated with the species were not obvious. I was hoping to find colonies of native species nesting in open areas, especially in spots with bare ground exposed, which tend to be ideal for certain ant species to nest in. However, I had no luck finding some common species that I would have expected such as Dorymyrmex bureni, Forelius mccooki, or Pheidole bicarinata. The lack of fire ant mounds made me wonder if this species had been treated by park personnel, which may have in turn also killed native species (depending on the treatment method). Indeed, I found relatively large amouts of granular pesticide scattered in the areas where I expected to find native species.

Open area with bare patches of soil

I next ventured into the woods behind the cabin that lead to the lake. The woods were mixed hardwood/pine with lots of southern magnolia and plenty of oaks. The understory was fairly open, and there was a rich humus layer held together by the magnolia leaves. I baited some trees with peanut butter, but had limited success, only finding Crematogaster. I collected a gallon of sift soil and leaf litter from the base of a pine, a gallon from the base of an oak, and two large pillowcases of the rich magnolia/oak/pine litter from various depressions and bases of trees.

Edge of woods behind the cabin

While searching for ants in the bark of a large pine, I came across a young colony of Temnothorax pergandei with a single queen and about 12 workers.

After collecting for a while, I called it a day and headed to nearby Brookhaven for some supper, which ended up being a Subway sandwich. The next morning I got up fairly early and scouted the swim/picnic area, again hoping for native soil nesting species. Unfortunately, the area was also over run with fire ants. I stopped by another open area and had similar results. I decided to call it quits and got on the road headed toward Percy Quin State Park to see what ants I could find there in 2 to 4 hours.

View of lake through the trees

Overall, I collected 22 species of ants at the park including only three exotic species, Brachymyrmex patagonicus, Strumigenys membranifera, and Solenopsis invicta, all of which are quite common throughout Mississippi now. For a complete list of the ants collected, see the list below.

List of ant species collected at Lake Lincoln State Park (arranged alphabetically by genus)

Aphaenogaster carolinensis Wheeler
Aphaenogaster fulva Roger
Aphaenogaster lamellidens Mayr

Brachymyrmex depilis Emery
Brachymyrmex patagonicus Mayr

Camponotus chromaiodes Bolton
pennsylvanicus (DeGeer)
Crematogaster ashmeadi
Crematogaster pilosa Emery
Discothyrea testacea
Formica dolosa Buren

Hypoponera opacior (Forel)
Nylanderia faisonensis (Forel)
Nylanderia vividula
Pheidole dentigula
Solenopsis invicta
Stigmatomma pallipes (Haldeman)
Strumigenys louisianae Roger
Strumigenys membranifera
Strumigenys ornata Mayr
Strumigenys talpa
Temnothorax pergandei (Emery)