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Entomology (Study of Bugs)/ant hills, ant meals, sources


I hope it's ok to ask three questions. I live in Tucson Arizona in  the desert outside of town.  I observe ants of many species going to enormous effort to decorate the entrances to their homes. some travel long distances to bring specific leaves, petals or sticks. some battle wind to bring in feathers. why?
 I've also wondered when ants eat. are there specific mealtimes with rations served from a larder? do the Hunter gatherers snack as they go (I've never seen evidence of this)

Can you recommend a couple books? I really enjoyed "ants at work," I don't know if I could handle anything much more technical. thank  you!

Dear Margaret - Regarding your first question, this may be an instance where only the ant(s) know. Such behavior has been observed frequently - see for an example - but the only explanation I have come across is for an Australian species that cover their nest mounds with a wide variety of materials, including bits of vegetation, which may help heat the nest more quickly in the morning.
  As for your second question, there is a very wide range of feeding and foraging habits among ants, but most, if not all, eating appears to occur in the nest after foraging. I believe that one of the books ("The Ants") I recommend below could answer that much more thoroughly.
  I recommend the following books on ants:
1. “The Ants” by  Bert Hölldobler and Edward O. Wilson -
2. “Journey to the Ants: A Story of Scientific Exploration” by Bert Hölldobler -
3. “The Superorganism: The Beauty, Elegance, and Strangeness of Insect Societies” by Bert Hölldobler and Edward O. Wilson -
4. “The Leafcutter Ants: Civilization by Instinct” by Bert Hölldobler and Edward O. Wilson -
 Finally, if you have not already come across it, there is a good web site on the ants of Arizona at

Hope this helps,

Entomology (Study of Bugs)

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Ed Saugstad


Will accept most questions in general entomology, including those related to medical entomology, taxonomy, ecology, arthropod surveillance, and pest management. If you are requesting a 'mystery bug' identification, PLEASE either attach an image to your question, or post an image on a web page (such as Flickr) so that I can look at it, as verbal descriptions frequently are insufficient for a definitive identification.


21 years in the U.S. Army as a medical entomologist; duties varied from surveillance of pest populations (including mosquitoes, cockroaches, ticks, and stored products pests) to conducting research on mosquito-virus ecological relationships and mosquito faunal studies. Ten years as a civilian analyst for the Department of Defense, primarily on distribution of vector-borne diseases worldwide. Limited experience on surveillance of agricultural insects in North Dakota and Indiana.

Entomological Society of America, West Virginia Entomological Society, Society for Vector Ecology, National Speleological Society, West Virginia Association for Cave Studies.

American Journal of Public Health, Contributions of the American Entomological Institute, Japanese Journal of Sanitary Zoology, Journal of Economic Entomology, Mosquito News, and Mosquito Systematics.

B.S. in entomology from North Dakota State University in 1963, M.S. in entomology from Purdue University in 1967.

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