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List of Ants from Shepard State Park, Jackson County, Mississippi [MS State Park Ants]

JoVonn G. Hill

            With the exception of the developed campground, Shepard State Park (30º22’38”N 88º38’02”W), located near Gautier, MS., has been closed to the public since Hurricane Katrina hit the area in 2005.  On 21 November 2006 the I visited the park briefly while on collecting trip in southern Mississippi.  After checking in with the attendant and obtaining a map and permission to roam the park,  I decided that the primitive camping area and the nature trails offered the best collecting opportunities. In the center of the campground was a sandy bare area, where immediately, the quick moving Dorymyrmex bureni (Trager) was spotted racing across the sand. I collected a few of these, then I proceeded to place some peanut butter on the trunks of several large trees.  Then I took off down one of the nature trails in search of some leaf litter to sift. There were still many trees down across the trail from the hurricane that made navigating the trails more difficult. After a short hike down the trail, the habitat opened up into sort of a pine savannah.  Unfortunately, the herbaceous ground layer was dominated by the exotic weed species, Imperata cylindrical (L.) (Cogon grass). Sifting of leaf litter in this environment yielded only a few specimens of the exotic ant, Pheidole moerens Wheeler.

            After spending about thirty minutes in this area, I headed back to the campground to check the baits.  Once arriving back in the campground I found colonies of a two more exotic species of ants, the imported fire ant, Solenopsis invicta Buren and Pheidole obscurithorax Naves, and found the baits covered in yet another exotic species, Brachymyrmex patagonicus Mayr. These exotic species are extremely common in the Gulf Coast region and seem to make up a dominant part of the fauna in the area. I sifted some leaf litter from the base of several of the large trees in the campground and collected a couple of small Solenopsis species. After finding the exotic ants extremely numerous in this area, I decided to go down a trail that led out to marsh-like area.  After a short walk down this trail it was clear that this area had been inundated during the hurricane. There were large amounts of debris everywhere, and even parts of a boardwalk up in the trees.  I got off the trail in a forested section of the trail and sifted some leaf litter.  Remarkably the soil seemed devoid of life, no springtails, mites or ants were seen. After making my way around the loop trail to the car, I decided to leave the park.  The combination of exotic species and the apparent effects of Hurricane Katrina made for a pretty low species count (eight in all) on this visit. Although once back to the lab it was discovered that one of the small Solenopsis species collected, S. tonsa Thompson, was a new state record. 

Ants from Shepard State Park
Species are arranged alphabetically by genus

Brachymyrmex patagonicus Mayr
Dorymyrmex bureni (Trager)
Pheidole moerens Wheeler
Pheidole obscurithorax Naves
Prenolepis imparis (Say)
Solenopsis either abdita or carolinensis
Solenopsis invicta Buren
Solenopsis tonsa Thompson