This post was written by Natural Areas Interns, Katherine Cappel and Mikayla Bishop, Campbellsville University students. Since arriving last week, they have been helping with various projects including the new arboreal ant bioinventory.
In collaboration with Dr. Steve Yanoviak of the University of Louisville, Bernheim has begin an ant study to survey arboreal (living in trees) and semi-arboreal ants of Kentucky. Attracting ants consists of baiting various tree species with a tuna and honey bait mixture, then waiting an hour before revisiting the bait sites. The strong scent attracts ants to that specific spot and makes collection easier. If ants are present at the bait site, they are collected into a vial that is numbered for that specific tree. Out of 100 trees baited, forty-nine of them had ants present.
These data can possibly show relationships between tree and ant species. Other factors that influence the presence of ants are location, condition of the environment, and the weather during the time of collection. Since this is a new study at Bernheim, any ants identified will be added to the Bernheim’s species list, which keeps a comprehensive catalogue of all species found in the area. Ants are typically overlooked and misunderstood, however from this study we hope to better understand the important relationships between trees and ants.