You might say that summer and camping go together like milk and cereal - or ants at a picnic. But not all ant colonies are out to invade your picnic basket, as we found out on a camping trip one year.
Some, like the Golden Carpenter Ant of South America, are content to gnaw on the soft wood of living trees or the dried wood of dead and fallen trees where they chew tunnels for storing food and raising their babies.
The Carpenter Ant uses its strong mandibles (jaws) not only as tools to build – or chew – their nests and gather food, but as weapons against predators. Once an opponent is wounded, the Carpenter ant then applies a liquid toxin which causes further pain. Another key defense for Carpenter Ants is that they always face their rivals as a great big team.
When not collecting seeds or small insects for food, the Carpenter ant is quite the efficient farmer, tending herds of Aphids (tiny leaf-eating bugs), though not for the insects themselves, but for the sweet tasting droppings the Aphids leave behind on the leaves they nibble on.
Happy National Camping Month!