Saturday, July 20, 2013

Blooming Texas Rangers

No, not a British slur thrown at a Texan law officer. A flowering bush, Leucophyllum frutescens, imported to our garden from the Chihuahuan Desert. It doesn't belong here, we are in the Sonoran Desert, but it is one of the few deviations from local vegetation that we included. It blooms reliably and profusely for a couple of days about a week after every heavy rain storm, hence its other name, Texan Rain Sage.

Desert Leafcutter Ant - Acromyrmex versicolor
Today I was alerted to its bloom by a line of busy leaf-cutter ants loaded with purple flowers. These ants can schlepp! They removed buds and flowers from the bush, carried them high above their heads along a path and across our brick terrasse, up a three foot wall and then 6 feet down again on the other side to one of their nest entrances.

There they stored their bounty, maybe to dry or at least wilt the material, before tomorrow it will all be carried into one of the subterranean fungus gardens. The gardens provide the only nourishment to these highly organized ants. 

The blooming Rangers also finally attracted bees back to the yard. Mostly just feral honey bees that can be flying in from anywhere in a 2 mile radius. A very hungry Bee Assassin, a female probably needing nutrients to lay a clutch of eggs soon, was stalking the bees.

Apiomerus flaviventris (Yellow-bellied Bee Assassin)
She spread her fore legs and just about jumped a bee. She immediately bit the bee wit her proboscis and injected her paralyzing digestive juice into the victim. The bee made several attempts to sting but couldn't penetrate the exoskeleton of the Assassin. When I checked several hours later, the assassin was still holding its prey, sucking the liquified contents.



  1. Wow! That Apiomerus sure is colorful! Much brighter than the ones in Florida.

  2. Those ants are so amazing. I often see them carrying palo verde flowers or the leaves of the desert willow. I really admire your insect photos.

  3. I love the photo of the flowers around the ant nest! So great! Gotta love Acromyrmex.

  4. Those bee assassin shots are AMAZING. What a spectacularly stylish animal! =)