December 19, 2020
We're reaching into the archives for today's #BenInNature update! The following post was originally published on April 25, 2020.
I figured I should do a post about ants before our Associate Curator of Entomology Dr. Kal Ivanov stops speaking to me! Dr. Ivanov recently published a paper listing the known ant species of Virginia, and he knows more about ants than ants know about themselves. As such, he quickly identified these guys as Camponotus castaneus, a species of carpenter ant that is widely distributed throughout the eastern U.S.
Carpenter ants get their name because they build their nests in dead wood, chewing out elaborate galleries with their mandibles. While termites eat wood, carpenter ants do not; they generally forage at night for dead insects to eat. Many species of carpenter ant also tend aphids, offering them some extra protection in exchange for a taste of the sugary substance known as "honeydew" that aphids produce (honeydew is basically the poop that aphids produce after sucking the juices from plants, so you can see why they call it honeydew).
Carpenter ants can occasionally become a pest; if you have a spot on your house where the wood is moist and beginning to decompose, they may chew out a nest and take up residence. While this can be annoying, carpenter ants provide a great service by helping speed up the decomposition of dead trees out in the woods.
Social distancing can be difficult, but it presents a great opportunity to become reacquainted with nature. In this series of posts, Administrator of Science Ben Williams ventures outdoors to record a snapshot of the unique sights that can be found in the natural world. New updates are posted Monday - Friday, with previous posts highlighted on the weekends.
NEW: TRIVIA CHALLENGE
You've seen the posts. You've learned the facts. Now, it's time to prove you are a #BenInNature Mega Fan! The museum's education team has developed the #BenInNature Trivia Challenge to identify the most devoted fans out there! Everyone who successfully answers each trivia question correctly will be congratulated by having your own nature selfie posted to the museum's #BenInNature Mega Fan Photo Album on the official VMNH Facebook page! Learn more and download the trivia challenge today by visiting www.vmnh.net/research-collections/beninnature-trivia-challenge.
NATURE PHOTO IDENTIFICATIONS
If you discover something in nature that you would like help identifying, be sure to message us right here on Facebook with a picture (please include location and date of picture) and we'll have our experts help you identify it!