Well, once again I have a new member added to my buggy life list. Meet the Elongate Twig Ant (Pseudomyrmex gracilis). I’m not sure I’m happy about this fellow.
Also known as the Mexican Twig Ant, it is native to Mexico and occurs south to Argentina and Brazil. In the U.S. it is mostly found throughout Central and Southern Florida, but there is also documentation in Texas and Hawaii.
With its long and slim build, I thought perhaps it got its common name from some throwback to the 1960s when the supermodel Twiggy was so popular. That’s when it was first discovered in Florida. But of course the name comes from something more mundane…it builds nests in twigs.
I suppose I should be happy that I spotted him walking along the wooden fence, carrying some bounty. It seems these guys give a PAINFUL BITE, and often encounters occur when you pick up brush to move it…which I do quite frequently at this time of year. Now I have to make sure I put on my gardening gloves that I’ve been known to forego if they aren’t close by when the mood strikes to clean up an area.
These twig ants hang out high in trees and have been known to drop down and land on people. Another reason I wear a hat at all times when outside…I hate having things get tangled in my hair. So, another reason I’m not so sure this fellow is welcome at my place.
I couldn’t quite make out what he was carrying, but upon closer inspection via zoom on the computer, it appears to have wings and legs, so I’m thinking a moth of some sort but then again, from a different picture, it just might be a stink bug. Whatever it is, Twiggy has the poor thing by the head.
Although it is occasionally found nesting in doors in homes, the colonies are small so not a major concern. They prefer the great outdoors and hollow twigs. Still, ornamental plant damage also is minimal from this species.
They do hunt and feed on live insects with a preference for lepidopteran larvae and fungus spores. Hopefully they are heavy on the caterpillar pests and spores and light on our butterflies. Ok, I’m being shallow. As with most ants, they are attracted to aphids for honeydew.
Yet another species for me to watch and learn more about. The never-ending discoveries in my beautiful wildlife garden continue to amaze me.
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