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Ants collected at Okatibbee Lake, Lauderdale County, Mississippi

JoVonn G. Hill (25 May 2006)

        Okatibbee Lake is located approximately seven miles northwest of Meridian, MS along Okatibbee Creek, and is managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.  The total management unit consists of 7,150 acres of forests and various recreation areas, and the lake that comprises 4.144 acres of the project.

        This trip had a little nostalgic feel to it, as I was heading back to my home town, (Meridian) for my 10 year high school reunion.  I arrived a day early to get a little collecting in at some of favorite adolescent haunts.  The only problem was which one to pick, since Lauderdale County has many nice natural areas.  I chose to go to Okatibbee Reservoir partly because the class reunion cookout was going to be held there which meant that I might be presented with the opportunity to do some additional collecting around the lake. What little collecting (a couple of hours and 2 bags of litter on 19 August 2005) I had previoiusly done at the lake produced some nice results, including the first specimens of Lasius flavus (Fabricius) from Mississippi for our collection.  I decided to visit the same spot were the Lasius were collected so at the very least I could get a few more specimens of them.  I tried to contact the lake biologist Van McWhorter, who I first met on field trips when my high school Environmental Science class took to the lake.  Unfortunately, Van was off that day, but I talked to the lake manger and told him what I was up to, which he had no problems with.  

            I chose to start at a primitive campground just behind the dam that was set in nice forest with some large spruce pines (Pinus glabra Walt.) and various mixed hardwoods and some ephemeral pools.  I used to go herping at this spot before for I left for MSU. (As I recall this spot had lots of Marbled, Slimy, and Mole salamanders)  The first thing I noticed was that the area just behind the picnic tables had seen some recent logging.  I was curious if the logging was a salvage job to recover some of the fallen timber from hurricane Katrina, like we have seen in other areas of the state. I will have to ask Van later.

            First I started by baiting all the trees in the campground area with peanut butter.  After which I noticed several Formica pallidefulva Latreille scurrying about.  I followed them back to their colony and proceeded to dig into it in search of any myrmecophiles. I wasn't completely unsuccessful as I found a scarab larva.  Also in a clump of grass somewhat encompassed by the Formica colony was a colony of L. flavus, so I did manage to gather a few more specimens of them.  Also about a meter away was a colony of Camponotus castaneus (Latreille) Next I check out a large deciduous stump. It became quickly evident that this entire stump was one big Monomorium minimum (Buckley) colony.  After inspecting the stump, I proceeded to check the peanut butter bait I had placed on the trees earlier.  Most of the baits were totally covered with M. minimum, however, on several trees there were some workers of Camponotus snellingi Bolton, Crematogaster ashmeadi Mayr, and Temnothorax schaumii Roger at the bait.  On a previous trip to this site there were numerous colonies of Aphaenogaster treatae Forel, however they seemed to be absent now, with A. lamellidens Mayr now being quite common.  There were several fire ants, Solenopsis invicta Buren, in the area, but they were not very numerous nor was their mounds apparent. Upon poking around the bases of the trees I discovered several more species including a specimen of Proceratium pergandei (Emery) and some Lasius claviger (Roger), both new Lauderdale Co. records bringing my total for the county up to 75.  Trachymyrmex septentrionalis (McCook) were observed carrying what appeared to be caterpillar feces into their colony, no doubt as food for their fungus gardens  below. 

View of Campground area were collections were made. 
The tree stump on the left of the picture seemed like one big Monomorium nest.

            I then proceeded to check out the area just behind the campground where the logging had occurred.  I did not find much going on out there except for a few colonies of Aphaenogaster carolinensis (Wheeler), and since there did not seem to be much happening in what leaf litter I looked at I decided not take any back to place on the Berlese funnels.  After spending about two hours at this site I decided to leave so that I could check out some spots toward the top of the dam.  However upon arriving there I was disappointed because I found lots of Argentine Ants, Linepithema humile (Mayr).  These invasive species seemed to be progressing into the forest for a ways, so I decided to pack up and head home.

            Two days later we had out Meridian High School Class of 1996 reunion cookout at the Collinsville Park area of the lake.  This spot was more open and lawn-like with a few large loblolly pines and scattered pavilions.  This event was more a family affair, so I took my daughter (my wife did not want to attend), as there would be numerous other children there.  One boy arrived carrying a small toy net and “bug house”, and walked around for a while looking quite disappointed in not finding anything.  I took the opportunity to share some of my entomological knowledge and asked if he would like some help. After searching for a while we managed to find a few spittlebugs and I showed him some netting techniques and how to easily transfer things into his “bug house”, upon which he told me I was a good helper and ran off to show his mom what we had caught.  All in all though this spot was pretty bad for ants, as I could only find some Argentine ants and fire ants.

List of Ants Collected at Okatibbee Lake.  * denotes collected on first visit to site on 19 August 2005, but not this trip. (Arranged alphabetically by genus).

Aphaenogaster carolinensis (Wheeler)
Aphaenogaster fulva Roger*
Aphaenogaster lamellidens Mayr
Aphaenogaster treatae Forel*
Camponotus castaneus (Latreille)
Camponotus pennsylvanica (DeGeer)
Camponotus snellingi Bolton
Crematogaster ashmeadi Mayr
Formica pallidefulva Latreille
Linepithema humile (Mayr)
Lasius claviger (Roger)
Lasius flavus (Fabricius)
Monomorium minimum (Buckley)
Myrmica pinetorum Wheeler*
Nylanderia faisonensis (Forel)
Pheidole dentata Mayr
Pheidole dentigula M. R. Smith
Ponera pennsylvanica Buckley
Proceratium pergandei (Emery)
Proceratium silaceum Roger
Solenopsis invicta Buren
Solenopsis molesta (Say)
Stigmatomma pallipes (Haldeman)*
Strumigenys angulata Smith *
Strumigenys louisianae Roger*
Strumigenys reflexa
Wesson & Wesson *
Temnothorax curvispinosus (Mayr)
Temnothorax schaumii Roger
Trachymyrmex septentrionalis (McCook)