[Taxacom] Collecting Ants in Africa

Charles Stirton chstirton at gmail.com
Mon Jun 18 13:13:02 CDT 2012

James Beach's "Collecting ants in Africa"  got my attention as I love
photographing ant hills and termite mounds, even though I am a botanist.  To
a European viewer American political adverts are a mystery and an enigma.
They seem to take negative advertising to the apogee of blatancy. But
nonetheless politicians everywhere are the same and increasingly distrusted
by their electors . Why do politicians never seem to get beyond first order
impacts on any topic. Why do they never see the bigger picture? Neither do
they understand the complexity of cybernetic feedbacks.

Let's reflect on ants a bit. The introduced /feral Argentine ant in South
Africa is a case in point. It is having a big impact on plant species
dispersal n fynbos that may have long term impacts on fynbos survival.  Who
could have anticipated that it would have become a problem in the years

Why study African dung beetles? Perhaps because Australia needs to introduce
them to get rid of the huge mound on dung that enables fly plagues? 

Or just think about zebra mussels in the North American Great Lakes system.
See http://www.epa.gov/glnpo/invasive/ . "In 1988, zebra mussels were
inadvertently introduced to Lake St. Clair, and quickly spread throughout
the Great Lakes and into many inland lakes, rivers, and canals. Since then,
they have caused severe problems at power plants and municipal water
supplies, clogging intake screens, pipes, and cooling systems. They have
also nearly eliminated the native clam population in the ecosystem". 

Readers will know of many such examples from their own bailiwicks.  

My point is that every example mentioned above or that which you have
experienced could at some stage have been the beginning study of a potential
but as yet unknown pest that could cost tax payers billions in future. How
myopic politicians are. I do not wish an invasive African ant plague on
America but it would be poetic justice if it happened in the negative
advertiser's home state.  How then would they wish for a study of "African

Finally, if there is any ant specialist out there who would like a few
hundred geo-referenced pictures of termite mounds and ant hills from
Southern Africa please email me. chstirton at gmail.com

Prof. Charles Stirton
Honorary Research Associate
Botany Department
University of Cape Town
Private Bag X3
Rondebosch 7701
South Africa
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