Welcome to Pogolumina!
In the American Southwest, the glittering nest mounds of Pogonomyrmex harvester ants stand like living monuments in the desert. So striking and ubiquitous are these creatures, that they have found their way into the mythology and folklore of various Native American peoples.
Indeed, many Pogonomyrmex ants ('Pogos') found in the United States fall into the category of 'apparent' species. They, and their above-ground nest structures are conspicuous to even the most casual observer. The ants can be quite large, are often bright red in color, active during daylight hours - and in many cases, will actively defend their nests by biting and stinging. The nest mounds of some some species can be relatively enormous (over 2 ft high, and 5 ft wide), and they often sit within large clearings denuded of grasses and other plants by the ants themselves.
However, not all Pogos are so obviously observed, or well known - even to those who make a point of seeking out these ants. There are many southwestern species with reclusive, tiny workers, and nest entrances that are all but invisible. Other species have restricted distributions, and are seldom seen despite large workers and somewhat obvious nest structures.
Twenty-six (26) described Pogonomyrmex harvester ant species are found in North America, north of Mexico (U.S. and Canada). Only one of these, P. badius is found east of the Mississippi, and it is found only in parts of the SE. Pogonomyrmex salinus is the lone Pogo residing in the Pacific Northwest (arid eastern portions of Oregon and Washington states), though it is found in other states as well. The rest of the Pogos live in arid regions of the American west, at a variety of elevations, and are associated with a diverse array of plant communities.
There are probably about 70 Pogo species in total - all are found in the Americas (South, Central and North), including Haiti and the Dominican Republic. At least for now, this site will focus primarily on the North American Pogos of the United States, with occasional forays into the Mexican Pogo fauna.
As you will see, these ants play an important role within ecosystems - shaping the structure of plant communities through their foraging/harvesting activities, modifying soils, acting as scavengers and predators, and as a food source for a variety of animals. Aside from all of that, they are compelling and beautiful creatures - and their behaviors and social interactions are endlessly fascinating.
I strive to provide accurate (and aesthetically pleasing) images of the ants in their natural habitats - with minimal interference from me. Everything you see in the main galleries of this site can be observed by anyone willing to seek out these ants, and simply observe them. Below each image you will find detailed observations, and interpretations - all words and phrases highlighted in red are clickable for more information. Directly below most images you will also find a link to Google Maps™ where the exact location of each image is shown. Included also, are references to a wide variety of scientific literature spanning more than a century. You can think of this site as a detailed field-notebook, with images to document the observations.
Specimens are occasionally taken (where permitted), so that species can be verified, and studied for regional differences. There are a few images in the 'Floating Glossary' pages of one of these specimens - this was done in order to illustrate tiny anatomical features (these images are labeled as such) - except for these, all ant images on this site are of live ants in their natural surroundings, engaging in their natural behaviors - situations are not 'set up' in any way (i.e. if there is an image of an ant in a spider's web, rest assured I did not place it there in order to get a dramatic photo). Of course angle of view, quality and quantity of strobe and other natural/modified lighting, choice of camera/lens, use of selective depth-of-field, framing, backlighting and other photographic techniques all shape the final outcome of these images. I make every effort to minimize the impact on the ants and their surrounding environment.
I have also decided not to excavate nests for study (individual Pogo colonies can thrive continuously for decades), so at this point, all of the Pogo pictures on this site are of the ubiquitous workers. Images of the reproductive castes will be coming in the future, as I continue to encounter, and image them.
Pogolumina is not intended to be an empirical, experimental, or quantitative study of Pogonomyrmex ants, or ants in general. I do hope however, that this site and its contents will be of value and interest to students, teachers, naturalists, professional myrmecologists and other entomologists, and anyone at all who is interested in the natural world.
Thanks for stopping by, and I hope you enjoy this visual journey into the intriguing, beautiful, and often perilous world of these amazing animals.
---------- David Louis Quinn, Seattle, WA