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Insects found, and not found, at Middlefork Savanna

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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Chicago's Middlefork Savanna is among the world's last remaining tallgrass oak savannas

I hope you’ll forgive a post with no point other than to share a few photos.

Yesterday I drove to Chicago in search of an ant I’d not yet photographed for an Ants of North America project. The ant is the charismatic Dolichoderus mariae, a species that isn’t actually all that rare but seems to magically elude me every time I go looking for it. Other entomologists have recorded D. mariae from the area, so I figured I had a good shot at finding some.

The Middlefork reserve hosts a beautiful landscape of tallgrass savanna and restored prairie. While the insect fauna I encountered was indeed plentiful and diverse, my precious Dolichoderus stayed frustratingly out of sight. I was ultimately unsuccessful.

Still, the trip wasn’t a complete wash. Below are a few non-target photos from the afternoon:

Formica montana tending Publilia treehoppers for honeydew. A dominant ant of the northern prairies, yet one I'd not previously photographed.

Formica montana worker ant with Publilia nymphs

A Lytopylus wasp (Braconidae) lays an egg. These insects are parasites of seed-feeding moth larvae. (Thanks to Mike Sharkey for the ID)

Campylenchia latipes, the widefooted treehopper, is a thorn mimic.

The presence of the winter ant, Prenolepis imparis, suggests summer is at an end. Here, a worker tends aphids on the underside of a leaf.

I disturbed a nest of Crematogaster cerasi acrobat ants. The workers rushed in to rescue the exposed brood.

Goldenrod in full bloom

Alex Wild About the Author: Alex Wild is Curator of Entomology at the University of Texas at Austin, where he studies the evolutionary history of ants. In 2003 he founded a photography business as an aesthetic complement to his scientific work, and his natural history photographs appear in numerous museums, books and media outlets. Follow on Twitter @myrmecos.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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