Kyle stumbled upon a twig covered ant nest shortly after a hail storm. As the colony members returned to the surface to warm themselves, a few inspected a leftover piece of hail. Thank you for sharing this cool observation and capture, Kyle!
Western thatching ants construct impressive mounds covered by plant materials like small twigs, bits of grass, conifer needles, leafstalks; whatever they can collect from their immediate environment. Their chambers are located inside the mound, as well as up to 4 ft in the ground, and are climate controlled (both temperature and humidity) thanks to the mound’s exposure to sunlight and the thatch insulation. Workers constantly repair the thatch to keep it in tip-top shape and gnaw the plants surrounding it to minimize shade. Western thatching ants are omnivores, getting their protein from a variety of arthropods, and carbs from honeydew and extrafloral nectar (nectar produced from glands apart from the flower). These ants, in turn, make a tasty snack for kingbirds, woodpeckers, crows, and more.
Photo by Kyle Hartse on 6/14/20 in Silver Star, MT