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
The views expressed are those of the author(s) and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR(S)
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.