Pine tree ants, Liometopum luctuosum, are common in the 2000-4000 foot elevation range in Tuolumne and Calaveras counties. These ants prefer to nest in large pine trees. The colonies get quite large.
A Super Colony? Pine tree ants will almost suddenly appear in spring, trailing from pine tree to pine tree. I (JT) have followed trails from tree to tree, and basically see a web of interconnected trails. It seems they form some sort of super-colony. As mentioned in the previous post on pine tree ants, I once took some pine tree ants from Pine Mountain Lake, in Groveland, to Columbia College, in Columbia, during early spring when the ants are trailing out to set up spring and summer nests. I placed the Groveland ants along side of a large trail of Columbia ants, and the Groveland ants immediately joined the Columbia ants’ trail. This observation makes me wonder if they are not all part of the same super-colony.
In their spring efforts to set up nesting areas, pine tree ants often move into the ceilings and walls of houses. Homes built with Celotex insulation are common targets, with the ants tunneling through the insulation to make nests, and throwing out the insulation, into piles on the floor of the house or cabin.
pine tree ant, Liometopum luctuosum. Picture by Jose Rodriguez.
pine tree ant, Liometopum luctuosum . Picture by Jose Rodriguez.
Kissing bugs, triatoma protracta, are parasites of pack rats, living in their nests, and feeding on their blood, while the rat sleeps. Eggs are laid within the nest, and the kissing bug nymphs will also feed rat blood. Sooner or later, the pack rat will die, by predation most likely, and the dependent kissing bugs will not have anything to eat. Starvation forces them to leave the nest and seek a new host; this activity is most common at dusk, after prolonged hot spells. Being strong fliers, they are attracted to lights, but do not flutter around lights, like moths; they will land and walk the remaining distance. If a kissing bug enters your home, remember, it is there for food, and you are the target.
Kissing bugs appear to be attracted to heat and odor. People report finding them in their beds, basically waiting. It is customary for people that have a lot of kissing bugs, to take the sheets off, and check their beds before going to bed.
The name ‘kissing bug’ comes from reports, back in gold rush days, of people being bitten around the lips. This author has not seen that, and most reports of bites are on other body parts. This author was once bitten by one, on the foot. I never felt the bite, but the bite was prominent, and I’d categorize it as a nasty bite, large and really annoying. I tore the place apart looking for it and never found the bug, until…. it came back to get a second feeding a week or so later.
Below are images of adults and nymphs.
Specimens below collected by Paul Cooper, Jason Price, Heather Nordstrom.
Click on an image to enlarge it.
Kissing bug nymphs
Kissing Bug Bites Can Cause Anaphylactic Shock and Death
Chagas Disease in California
“This is the first case of indigenously acquired Chagas’ disease reported from California and the first case recognized in the United States since 1955. This investigation suggests that transmission of sylvatic Trypanosoma cruzi infection to humans occurs in California but that Chagas’ disease in humans is rare.”