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Camponotus planatus (Hymenoptera: Formicidae), an exotic carpenter ant found in Mississippi.

The compact carpenter ant, Camponotus planatus Roger (Hymenoptera: Formicidae), occurs in the Caribbean Region and ranges from Columbia to Texas, and it has been introduced into Florida, Hawaii, and the Galapagos Islands (Creighton 1950, McGlynn 1999, Wetterer and Wetterer 2003). In Florida, it is only known to occur in the southern half of the state (Deyrup 1991, Deyrup et al. 1988, Deyrup et al. 2000, Klotz et al. 1995) where it is considered an occasional structural pest (Warner and Scheffrahan 2005).

On 7 October 2009, workers of C. planatus were collected in Bay St. Louis, Hancock County, Mississippi at a nursery that specializes in palms (Arecaceae). Many of the palm trees at the nursery were imported from Florida, which has the highest number of exotic ants in the United States (Deyrup et al. 2000), several of which are known to be associated with palms. Nurseries such as this one have an increased likelihood of receiving introduced species of ants from Florida and may serve as a gateway for exotic ants entering Mississippi. In fact, a visit to this same nursery in April of 2008 by MacGown and J. G. Hill resulted in the discovery of another exotic species new for Mississippi, Tapinoma melanocephalum (Fabricius), the ghost ant (MacGown and Hill 2009). The carpenter ants were likely introduced to the nursery in palms shipped from Florida, as this species is known to nest in leaf axils of palms (Warner and Scheffrahan 2005). Camponotus planatus workers were observed moving in trails along the irrigation system on the ground and crawling up and down sabal palms (Sabal palmetto (Walt.) Lodd), which were planted directly in the soil (rather than in pots). Workers were fast moving and difficult to collect. Colonies were not discovered, but foraging workers were observed moving toward the uppermost parts of palms, where nests presumably were located. MacGown and Hill did not observe this species during their visit in 2008. Return visits to the area will be made to determine whether or not this species becomes established.

[FIGURE 1 OMITTED]

Camponotus planatus (Figure 1) can be easily distinguished from other carpenter ants in this region by the following characteristics: relative small size with workers ranging from 3 to 6 mm in overall length; the gaster black and the rest of the body reddish-brown; and presence of abundant, long, white setae on much of the body except for the scapes. Nests are often difficult to locate, but may be found in hollow twigs, old termite galleries in dead wood, grass culms, voids in tree trunks, and leaf axils of palms (Deyrup et al. 1988, Warner and Scheffrahan 2005).

In addition to this carpenter ant, four other exotic species were collected at the site, including T. melanocephalum, Brachymyrmex patagonicus Mayr (the dark rover ant), Paratrechina longicornis (the crazy ant), and Solenopsis invicta Buren (the red imported fire ant) all of which were found during the first visit to the nursery in 2008 by MacGown and Hill (MacGown and Hill 2009). Of note was the fact that T. melanocephalum was still present at the site, having survived targeted control efforts, several days of sub-freezing temperatures, and mild flooding, which occurred as a result of Hurricane Gustav in late August 2008. In fact, this species appeared to be much more abundant than the previous year and multiple colonies with dealate queens were discovered nesting under the bark of numerous palms. Foraging workers of P. longicornis were found at the site and were also found at a gas station approximately one mile east of the nursery. Both B. patagonicus and S. invicta are well established in southern Mississippi; thus, their high levels were expected.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

Thanks to Dr. Blake Layton (Mississippi State University) for his help in collecting specimens. This research was supported by Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station State Project MIS-311080 and the USDA-ARS Areawide Management of Imported Fire Ant Project (Richard L. Brown, Principal Investigator). Approved for publication as Journal Article No J11757 of the Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station, Mississippi State University.

LITERATURE CITED

Creighton, W. S. 1950. The Ants of North America. Bulletin of the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard College 104: 1-585.

Deyrup, M. A. 1991. Exotic Ants of the Florida Keys (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Proceedings of the 4th Symposium on the Natural History of the Bahamas. 21 pp.

Deyrup, M. A., N. Carlin, J. Trager, and G. Umphrey. 1988. A review of the ants of the Florida Keys. Florida Entomologist 71: 165-176.

Deyrup, M. A., S. Cover, and L. Davis. 2000. Exotic ants in Florida. Transactions of the American Entomological Society 126: 293-325.

Klotz J. H, J. R. Mangold, K. M. Vail, L. R. Davis Jr., and R. S. Patterson. 1995. A survey of the urban pest ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) of peninsular Florida. Florida Entomologist 1: 109-118.

MacGown, J. A. and J. G. Hill. 2009. Tapinoma melanocephalum (Hymenoptera: Formicidae), a new exotic ant in Mississippi. Mississippi Academy of Sciences 54: 172-174.

McGlynn, T. P. 1999. The worldwide transfer of ants: geographical distribution and ecological invasions. Journal of Biogeography 26: 535548.

Warner, J. and R. H. Scheffrahan. 2005. Featured Creatures: Camponotus planatus (Roger) (Insecta: Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Online Article at: http://www.entnemdept.ufl.edu/creatures/urban/a nts/c_planatus.htm. Accessed January 2010.

Wetterer, J. K. and A. L. Wetterer. 2003. Ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) on non-native Neotropical ant-acacias (Fabales: Fabaceae) in Florida. Florida Entomologist 86: 460-463.

Joe MacGown

Mississippi Entomological Museum, Mississippi State University, Mississippi State, MS, 39762

Corresponding Author: Joe MacGown-JMacGown@entomology.msstate.edu
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Author:MacGown, Joe
Publication:Journal of the Mississippi Academy of Sciences
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Apr 1, 2010
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