A couple of weeks ago the Mississippi Entomological Museum staff headed to South Carolina for the annual William H. Cross Expedition. This expedition is a commemorative trip of sorts honoring William H. Cross (1928-1984) who devoted much of his professional life to studying the geographic distribution and morphological and ecological variation of arthropods. Dr. Cross was instrumental in founding the Mississippi Entomological Museum in 1979, and he served as its unofficial director for a year. The William H. Cross Expedition Fund was created following Dr. Cross’s death while on a collecting trip in Mexico, and the fund has been endowed in the Mississippi State University Development Foundation through private donations.
This year’s journey took place in Cheraw State Park and Carolina Sandhills National Wildlife Refuge in eastern Chesterfield County, SC during 8-13 July 2013. The habitat here was predominately longleaf pine forest with scattered scrubby turkey oak sandhill habitat. Of course, our collecting was not centered around just ants, but, since this is an ant blog, I will confine my longwinded writings to the Formicidae collected during this trip.
During the trip, JoVonn and I were certainly the most serious about collecting ants, but Terry Schiefer also picked up some nice species such as Pseudomyrmex ejectus and P. pallidus while beating trees and shrubs. In addition to our typical ant collecting methods, I also snagged several species at blacklights including the likes of Camponotus obliquus.
In total, we collected 55 species of ants, which I thought was pretty good considering we basically collected them in only about three days and nights. We spent all day Monday driving to SC and all day Saturday driving home. So throw those days out. It rained a bunch Thursday and Friday, and even quite a bit Tuesday afternoon. Of these species, three were new for the state including Lasius murphyi, Pheidole floridana, and Ponera exotica!
The most common ant that we found was Pachycondyla chinensis, the Asian needle ant. This introduced species was pretty much everywhere. Nests were in leaf litter, in and under logs, under debris, and in the soil. Winged females and males were common at the blacklights as well. I was stung by several females at a blacklight on our first night of collecting. NOT FUN! The burning sensation from the stings lasted 30-45 minutes. Solenopsis invicta, the red imported fire ant, was also common here.
Some cool ants that we collected included Formica subintegra, a slave making species that was raiding a colony of F. subsericea. JoVonn found workers of the army ant Neivamyrmex carolinensis foraging near the Malaise trap. Pretty cool. I collected Proceratium pergandei in leaf litter right behind the cabin. Also, I found several colonies of the big headed ant Pheidole crassicornis nesting in open areas in the park, including right beside the cabin.
Anyway, lots of ants in a short period of time. Check out the entire list at [link].
Upon returning from the Cross Trip, I had an email from a South Carolina resident who thought he had collected Pseudomyrmex gracilis from the state, a new record. He sent me the specimen and data, and it was indeed, this species. Cool.
For the complete list of South Carolina ants, check out my site here [link].