Monday, April 11, 2011

Ant Hill Fixer-Upper

Sunshine and warm temperatures have stimulated the Allegheny Mound Ants to work at a frenzied pace cleaning up their mounds and creating new tunnels and chambers. Tending the mound seems to take top priority at this time of year. There are very few foraging columns leading out into the fields.
The interesting thing about these workers is the fact that they are busy refurbishing an old mound that has been abandoned for several years. Allegheny Mound Ants are known for developing satellite colonies near existing mounds. The rate at which this transformation is taking place suggests that this is a band of ants that moved over from a nearby mound.
This mound is near one of my walking trails and I know that it has been abandoned for at least three years. It takes a while for moss, grass and other plants to reclaim an abandoned ant hill. You can tell that this greenery has had plenty of time to flourish.
I’ve seen ants create a medium sized mound in a single season. The old mound has many tunnels and chambers that are still usable, so renovation should be a fairly rapid business.
A month ago this portion of the mound had a plant cover similar to the rest. It didn’t take long for the ants to get it looking like a typical construction site. It’ll be interesting to follow their progress through the summer. They could have the entire mound back in order by September.


  1. They have high hopes. High apple pie hopes. ;)

  2. Why do you think they abandon mounds? I had a few of these on my place, then there was one now it seems to be abandoned as well. I wish they would come back.

  3. Right, Lois. I have yet to add Rubber Tree Plant to my Blue Jay Barrens flora list.

    Hi, Tricia. I haven't figured out why they abandon a nest. I have a nest behind my barn that has been abandoned and recolonized four times. The third time it was a species of large black ant that used the mound. The mound stays active for two of three years and then stays empty for about the same amount of time. There are nearby mounds that have been active for more than 20 years.

  4. Sometimes animals desert a nest or den to evade parasites. Maybe ants, too.

  5. Thanks for the idea, James. I hadn't thought of that. The death of the parasites after a couple of years could explain the ants reclaiming the mound.