Thursday, May 27, 2010

Mini-update to previous ants post

In regards to my latest post on ants that I discovered in my herb bed...

The great Tom Turpin from Purdue University's entomology department emailed me identification on my little guys:

"These are Lasius ants.  Sometimes called piss ants.  They tend aphids (which might be a problem for plants) but cause no direct harm to plants.  So your saffron bulbs are safe but the presence of the ants might mean that there is a healthy population of aphids on some plants in the vicinity. Regards."

(heh, "piss-ants"  Ok, a little puerile, but I'm amused mostly because I'm a fan of entomology as well as etymology I've heard it used a few times, really! It's in Merriam Webster:

Main Entry: piss·ant 
Pronunciation: \ˈpis-ˌant\
Function: noun
Usage: often attributive
Etymology: pissant ant, from 1piss + ant
Date: 1945
sometimes vulgar : one that is insignificant —used as a generalized term of abuse

and from

Also, piss-ant.

1655–65, in sense “ant”; piss antprob. orig. on the model of pismire Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2010.
Cite This Source
 Link To pissant
Word Origin & History

1661, "an ant," from first element of pismire (q.v.) + ant. Meaning "contemptible, insignificant person" is from 1903.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
Cite This Source

Anyways, thus far I haven't noticed an ant problem in my herb bed, but thanks for the heads up Tom!  I'll probably inspect it closely tonight and possibly give it a spray-spray of soap or neem or just knock 'em off with water.

Admittedly, it would be kind of cool (and uncool) to see ants milking aphids like farmers.  But I'll just tune into the Discovery Channel (if I had tv...oh, yeah, the internet!) if I really want ant-milking-aphid action. 

1 comment:

Anna said...

HAHHA...Thanks... really... and thanks to Dr. Turpin:
It's good to know my grandmother wasn't being vulgar when she would refer to a certain ant as 'piss ants'.
Too bad I didn't pay close attention back then and thus had no clue regarding your photographed ants.

LOL... Piss ants do exist.