catching ants in Alabama

Started Sunday morn with a mountain bike ride on the trails at Tombigbee National Forest. Pretty warm, and I could tell that I had not ridden in a while. These hilly trails are tough enough. Managed to get in a couple hours, more or less. Nobody else was riding this morning, and apparently no one had been there before me based on the 5 million spider webs that I rode thru! By the time I finished, I was a sweaty, spiderweb covered dude!

biking at Tombigbee NF

biking at Tombigbee NF

Later that day, Joseph and I met Jorge, Juan, Brent, Arash, Jessica Comer, and Audrey Sheridan for a run through Starkville. Jessica had not joined us in a while, so it was great to have her back out there!  Audrey had worked out earlier, so she only did a short bit with us before then walking thru the MSU campus. As we were getting started, crazy Katie Huston, who was out running, joined us for a while. Both her and Jessica are members of the MSU XC and track teams! I ran with Brent and the girls for the first couple of miles, then picked it up to try to catch those faster mugs. I finally got Arash as we got back to the campus, but the other three finished just ahead. Audrey finished her walk up just as I came in. Then Jessica and Brent come in pretty soon thereafter. Man! It was hot. But, I felt pretty good with the last 3.5 miles were decent.

Got up Monday morn and did some pullups, pushups, curls, and ab stuff. Woke me up! Yep. No run today. In fact, I am going to take a few days off from running before hitting it harder this fall.

I headed down to south Alabama early Tuesday morning to collect ants with a crazy joker ant collector dude known as Doug Booher.

Doug with a rat snake

Doug with a rat snake

I met Doug at Splinter Hill Bog in Baldwin County where we stayed in a nice house that had been donated! We collected at this site on Tuesday and later at Historic Blakeley Park on Wednesday and Thursday. Of course, our primary aim was to collect ants! The habitats at Splinter Hill included some beautiful pitcher plants bogs, longleaf pine savanna, and some low swampy areas.

Pitcher Plants at Splinter Hill Bog

Pitcher Plants at Splinter Hill Bog

Blakeley Park is an historic area that was once a thriving town back in the early 1800s! The 2000 acre plus site includes a civil war battlefield, a restored courthouse (said to be the first courthouse in the county), and other historic areas. However, the park also has some beautiful old growth trees and nice bottomland hardwood forests, which is what piqued our curiosity. Some of the old live oaks must have been 300 years old at least!

BIg tree at Blakeley Park

BIg tree at Blakeley Park

The collecting was decent, got quite a few species of ants nesting and took back 20 gallons of soil/litter samples to extract ants out later. Lots of exotic ant species dominated both sites. The bigheaded ant Pheidole obscurithorax,  the red imported fire ant Solenopsis invicta, and the dark rover ant Brachymyrmex patatagonicus were super common near the house at Splinter Hill. The first ant I collected at Blakeley Park was Hypoponera punctatissima, an introduced species not previously reported from Alabama. Of course, fire ants were everywhere, as was the crazy cool jumping and stinging alien species Odontomachus hamaetodus! Foragers and colonies of this species were seen in great abundance.

Odontomachus haematodus feeding at peanut butter bait

Odontomachus haematodus feeding at peanut butter bait

Apparently, the eminent myrmecologist E.O. Wilson is loosely associated with the Blakeley site and has collected there on occasion. They even have a boardwalk named after him. It was very cool to collect ants along the Wilson boardwalk! The collecting was pretty good during my day trip, but it was not easy! Super hot, super humid, and with numerous mosquitoes, deer flies, and black flies for added discomfort! Whew! I was drenched in sweat. Anyway, wrapped up the journey and got back to MSU Thursday evening.

the E.O. Wilson boardwalk

the E.O. Wilson boardwalk

Did not run again until Saturday morn, when Joseph and I joined the Boardtown Running club. Got in just over 10 miles at a just under 7 minute per mile pace. It was not easy this morning after my week of being out in the heat. Fortunately, Kamau Bostic wanted a running partner and ran the entire route with me! Thanks Kamau. Joseph mostly ran with a couple of Air Force dudes Jeremy and Justin, and at times Houston Franks.  Houston ran off and on with his speedy wife Meggan who was doing a 20 mile run! Ah, I think my 20+ mile run days are over. I just don’t seem to have the desire to do long runs anymore.  Anyway, all of those jokers were in front of me today. They were ahead of us by a bunch at every water stop, and finished up the run well ahead also. Joseph said that Jeremy and Justin really picked it up the last little bit, finishing up just in front of him. I don’t for sure the pace, the route was a bit over ten miles, but they were all  definitely moving nicely. Joseph had 1 hour and 10 seconds on his watch for the route. He said he was super tired today, so that was pretty danged good considering!

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