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Photo#190064
Florida Harvester Ants; - Pogonomyrmex badius

Florida Harvester Ants; - Pogonomyrmex badius
Niceville, Florida, Okaloosa County, Florida, USA
June 11, 2008
What is happening here? I am not an entomologist, so my guesses and questions are certain to be naive. Nevertheless, I seem to have caught winged individuals from a nearby nest in copula. The red alates are queens on their nuptual flights? Black alates are males (from the same nest?)? What is the role of the surrounding workers? Helping, hindering, making sure the fertilized queens leave the nest? In the last photo a queen is pursued by a worker? What is the white exudate on her gaster?

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Florida Harvester Ants; - Pogonomyrmex badius Florida Harvester Ants; - Pogonomyrmex badius Florida Harvester Ants; - Pogonomyrmex badius

Well, well ,well...
That makes many guesses and questions, and not so naive for a layman.
First, this is indeed a copula of winged reproductives of the same species as the workers, i.e. the Florida Harvester Ant (Pogonomyrmex badius).
Second, the small black alates with yellow-orange gaster are indeed the males, while the females are the same color as the workers.
As for the surrounding workers, they simply should not be there - or this copula should not have landed there, which amounts to the same. Because the workers do all but helping; instead, they treat both members of the copula as foes.
While her strength would allow the female to escape (despite being indeed fiercely pursued by a - fortunately for her - much smaller worker, the male is obviously doomed to be recycled as food for the brood of this one nest.
The white exsudate on tip of the females' gaster is what is left from the semen of this and several previous male partners.

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