An important first step in vegetation management is knowing what species you are dealing with and understanding what role these species are playing in the greater system so as not to create unintended cascading ecological effects. Well, in the middle of removing the Liriope and underground plastic I found leaf cutter ants, (Trachymyrmex septentrionalis – identification provided by James C. Trager and that tuba playin’ Brittany Rae Benson). I did not follow the ants to find the nest and haven’t seen them since the epic battle. Removing the plastic was incredibly disruptive to the top 4″ of soil. Our soils have a bunch of clay and don’t fit the sandy, well drained soils this species is said to associated with. It is quite likely I destroyed a micro habitat. Then again, maybe not – I will keep looking (and hoping).
I have been thinking about these ants a bunch, because they use the leaf bits (and other things) to farm a fungus that feeds their colony. As farmers, how do these ants deal with weeds? What can I learn that will help me better manage vegetation systems?