It has been just over a year since I witnessed a Common Snapping Turtle laying eggs in an ant hill constructed Allegheny Mound Ants. That was the first time I had seen an ant hill chosen as a nest site for turtle eggs. Now the turtle is back and repeating last year’s performance.
The ants are naturally disturbed by her intrusion and are trying their best to defend their home. The turtle’s eye is probably the only place sensitive enough to be bothered by an ant’s bite. Sight is not needed for the turtle’s egg laying activity, so the eyes can be kept closed to keep the ants at bay.
On the other side of her head, the ants are all busy futilely attaching the thick neck skin, so the turtle keeps that eye open. She gave no indication that she noticed my presence.
The ants quickly abandon attacking parts of the turtle that do not move. The turtle’s hind legs are targets of constant ant attack because they are continually moving to push the eggs into the nest chamber.
The turtle finished laying her clutch soon after I arrived. I left when she began covering the freshly layed eggs. I kept a watch on last year’s nest in hopes of seeing the emergence of young turtles, but I missed seeing that event. I can attest that there was no evidence that egg eating predators bothered the nest. Maybe the ants provide protection to the developing turtles.
This is the condition in which I find most Snapping Turtle nests. I found the remains of this nest just hours after witnessing the placement of the ant hill clutch. Maybe ant hills are the best place for turtle eggs.