Saturday, September 3, 2011

Ant Hatching Time

It looks like the ant mounds have a bad case of dandruff. This is an annual event that really draws your attention to the mounds of the Allegheny Mound Ants. From a distance it appears that the first dusting of snow has fallen on the barrens, but with temperatures pushing near 100 degrees, you know it can’t be snow.

The light colored debris is composed of discarded casings or cocoons that protected the ant pupae as they transitioned from larvae to adults. The ants display quite a feat of synchronized hatching, because the husks all show up within a two or three day period. The volume of old casings shows that the ants were quite successful in expanding their numbers this year.

This mound was created in the back yard and I’ve mowed around it for the past 20 years. I’m careful to blow the grass away from the mound, so the mound isn’t disturbed any more than the earthquake the ants must feel as I go past. I like to think that the mower mimics a herd of bison thundering across the prairie and the sound actually calms the ants. Even though I blow grass clippings away, the mound is covered with grass. The ants apparently find the clippings the perfect adornment for their mound and spend all summer carrying in fresh bits of cut grass.

Although most ants are busy hauling casings out of the ground, there are some ants that seem responsible for properly positioning the discards. These ants do nothing but wander the mound moving casings from one place to another. I don’t know if this activity has any actual value or if these are lazy ants that are just trying to look like they’re as busy as all the rest.


  1. Interesting. I'll have to go check the ant hills on my property today. Generally, I try to avoid them!

  2. This is a great observation to post. Never seen anything like it.

  3. Hi, Karen. I hope your ants are doing something equally interesting.

    Hi, Katie. Having the mound right in the yard makes it more likely that I'll witness something like this.

    Hi, Lois. The ants always seem to be doing something fascinating. I love to watch them work.