Friday, June 19, 2015

Episode 271 (6-22-15): Ants’ March Across Land Includes Direct and Indirect Connections to Water (featuring “March of the Picnic Ants” by No Strings Attached)

CLICK HERE to listen to episode audio (4:11)

Transcript of audio, notes on the audio, images, and additional information follow below.

All Web addresses mentioned were functional as of 6-19-15.


From the Cumberland Gap to the Atlantic Ocean, this is Virginia Water Radio for the week of June 22, 2015.

MUSIC – ~6 sec – Excerpt of “March of the Picnic Ants,” by No Strings Attached

This week, we feature a tune for a large group of insects whose image as hard workers fits their widespread impacts.  Have a listen for about 35 seconds.

MUSIC – ~35 sec – Excerpt of “March of the Picnic Ants”

You’ve been listening to part of “March of the Picnic Ants,” by No Strings Attached, on the 1999 CD “In the Vinyl Tradition Volume II,” from Enessay Music.  Ants are familiar for seemingly non-stop work, big nest mounds, social organization in colonies, and—of course—finding human food at picnics.  Scientists categorize ants as a family within the insect group that also includes bees and wasps.  The ant family includes an estimated 15,000 species worldwide and perhaps 1000 species in North America.  Ants live in colonies in all kinds of land-based, or terrestrial, habitats, with colony workers possibly numbering in the thousands or even the millions in some cases.  Ants’ diversity and numbers make them important factors in terrestrial food webs, nutrient recycling, and soil conditioning.  But what about ants from a water perspective? 

Land and water ecosystems are connected in many ways, so ants’ terrestrial impacts can eventually affect water bodies.  While no known ants are aquatic, some species live in wetlands, and for dryland species, moisture and humidity can influence where ants nest and when they leave the nest.  Finally, water is a key factor for at least two notorious ant pests: moisture-seeking carpenter ants often nest in damp wood or other materials in human buildings; and Red Imported Fire Ants—South American natives that now infest Virginia and several other southern states—survive flooding of their nests by joining together into water-resistant rafts. 

Innumerable, unavoidable, socially networked—lots of things about ants are well-known.  But with possibly several thousand species still lacking full scientific description, we don’t yet see the whole anthill.  Thanks to No Strings Attached for permission to use this week’s music, and we close with a few more seconds of “March of the Picnic Ants.”

MUSIC - ~ 10 sec – Excerpt of “March of the Picnic Ants”

For more Virginia water sounds, music, and information, visit us online at, or call us at (540) 231-5463.  Virginia Water Radio is produced by the Virginia Water Resources Research Center, part of Virginia Tech’s College of Natural Resources and Environment.  Thanks to Stewart Scales for his banjo version of Cripple Creek to open and close the show.  In Blacksburg, I’m Alan Raflo, thanking you for listening, and wishing you health, wisdom, and good water.


This episode’s music was “March of the Picnic Ants,” by No Strings Attached, from the 1999 CD “In the Vinyl Tradition Volume II,” copyright by Enessay Music, used with permission.  More information about No Strings Attached is available online at

Thanks to Eric Day, Virginia Tech Department of Entomology, for his help with this episode.


Carpenter ant from house in Blacksburg, Va., May 18, 2015.

Area of moisture where carpenter ants were located under the floor of a Blacksburg, Va., house, May 15, 2015.

Ant colony on a sidewalk in Blacksburg, Va., May 27, 2015.

Small ant-colony mound in a residential area of Blacksburg, Va., May 30, 2015.

Ants on a plant in a floodplain wetland along Toms Creek in Blacksburg, Va., June 20, 2015.


Brian L. Fisher and Stehan P. Cover, Ants of North America, University of California Press, Berkeley, Calif., 2007.

Laurel D. Hansen and John H. Klotz, Carpenter Ants of the United States and Canada, Cornell University Press, Ithaca, N.Y., 2005.

Iowa State University Department of Entomology, “BugGuide,” online at

R. W. Merritt and K. W., Cummins, An Introduction to the Aquatic Insects of North America, 2nd Edition, Kendall/Hunt, Dubuque, Ia., 1984. – only aquatic hymenopterans are some parasitic wasps that either enter water as adults to contact aquatic hosts, or may parasitize non-aquatic forms of insects that have an aquatic forms; p. 438).

Vincent H. Resh and Ring T. Cardé, eds., Encyclopedia of Insects, 2nd Ed., Elsevier Academic Press, Burlington, Mass., 2009.

Gary J. Skinner and Geoffrey W. Allen, Ants, Richmond Publishing, Slough, England, 1996.

University of California-Davis, “Pests of Homes, Structures, People, and Pets,” online at

University of Florida Department of Entomology, “Featured Creatures/Red Imported Fire Ants,” online at

Brian Vastag, “The Incredible Floating Fire Ant,” Washington Post, 4/25/11; online at

Virginia Tech Department of Entomology Insect Identification Lab, “Household and Pantry Pests,” online at

J. Reese Voshell, Jr., A Guide to Common Freshwater Invertebrates of North America, McDonald and Woodward, Blacksburg, Va., 2002.


For previous episodes on insects in Virginia, please see the “Insects” category at the Index link above (


This episode may help with the following Virginia’s 2010 Science Standards of Learning (SOLs):

Grades K-6 Earth Resources Theme

4.9 - Va. natural resources, including watersheds, water resources, and organisms.

Grades K-6 Life Processes Theme

3.4 - behavioral and physiological adaptations.

Grades K-6 Living Systems Theme

2.5 - living things as part of a system, including habitats.

3.5 - food webs.

3.6 - ecosystems, communities, populations, shared resources.

5.5 - organism features and classification.

Life Science Course

LS. 4 - organism features and classification.

LS.6 - ecosystem interactions, including cycles and energy flow.

LS.8 - community and population interactions, including food webs, niches, symbiotic relationships.

LS.9 - adaptations for particular ecosystems’ biotic and abiotic factors.

LS.11 - relationships between ecosystem dynamics and human activity.

Biology Course

BIO.8 - dynamic equilibria and interactions within populations, communities, and ecosystems; including analysis of the flora, fauna, and microorganisms of Virginia ecosystems.

Virginia’s SOLs are available from the Virginia Department of Education, online at