Ant species found on Mount Charleston hasn’t been seen since ’50s

The kids search for ants, and they find many.

"Hey! I found an ant!" declares Sarah Trupp, a 4-year-old in a purple shirt. They aren’t yet 50 feet from the parking lot.

"Guys, I found an ant!" says another little girl, this one in a yellow Tinkerbell shirt.

"I saw flying ants!" says another.

"I saw a jumping ant!"

"I found another ant! It just goed away."

This, ladies and gentlemen, happened Friday at the official Charleston Ant Safari, a hunting-scouting-rustling party consisting mostly of highly educated federal government scientists and a bunch of little kids.

They’re looking for Lasius nevadensis, the Charleston Ant, a species discovered on Mount Charleston 55 years ago this week. They’ve been in a box in a museum since then. Live specimens have not been seen since.

This particular ant species measures up to 5 millimeters long and has six hairy legs, three body segments colored orangish red, two beady eyes and a couple of antennas. In all, it pretty much looks like every other ant you’ve ever seen. Experts suspect it has gone underground.

They really, really want to find it. "They" mostly being Burton Pendleton, a research ecologist with the U.S. Forest Service’s Rocky Mountain Research Station, based in New Mexico.

"It’s just a matter of being here at the right time," said Pendleton, who wore his pith helmet to make the ant safari seem like a real one.

He explains the point of it all this way: Ants are really important to the ecosystem. By monitoring them, you can get a sense for how healthy a place is, generally. They’re good scavengers, meaning they clean up natural messes. They’re predators, which means they help keep things running like they’re supposed to. They aerate the soil, which is good for plants. They’re also good at moving seeds around, which is also nice for the plants. So, there’s that.

There’s also the science of it, which is how Pendleton eventually ends up on the side of a mountain late on Friday morning with that gaggle of kids hanging on his every word.

The Forest Service had sent out a call for volunteers for three days of ant safaris, the first being Friday. About a dozen people showed up at this one, and two more are scheduled. Lots of people brought their kids.

Erin Trupp did. She’s the mother of the 4-year-old in the purple shirt. She heard about the ant safari through her sister, who heard about it through her husband, who heard about it from the Forest Service. Trupp figured it would be great fun for her little girl, a way to get out of the house without venturing into the monstrous heat of the valley. Plus, her daughter loves science and animals, she said.

The ant hunt got started because the scientists are in the middle of a huge project wherein they’re gathering data on a bunch of species from this general area. They’ve compiled a list of about 60 of them that they know very little about. A few butterflies, plants, a rodent, etc. One ant: Lasius nevadensis.

This ant was discovered during the week of July 19, 1954, by A.C. Cole, a scientist who was pretty good with ants. It seems that the ant lives underground and comes out just once a year for mating, in late July and August. It seems that it is also isolated and lives only on Mount Charleston.

Pendleton, born and raised in Boulder City, knew the area well. He decided to see if the ant was still there. And how do you do that? You get a bunch of people together and walk around, looking at the ground.

There’s also stuff like satellite photos, and a scientific literature review, knowing which areas are most likely to hold the ants, knowing what they might like to eat, and the lifting of rocks and such. But mostly, it’s just walking around looking at the ground.

The kids loved it.

They scampered and climbed and moved rocks and let the ants crawl on them. They asked, "What kind of bug is that?" and "What kind of plant is that?" and if this is the right ant or if that is the right ant.

One researcher found one flying ant that might be the right species, but it will have to be analyzed in a lab with a microscope to know for sure, Pendleton said.

"Maybe we’ll get lucky," he had said at the start of Friday’s festivities, "and we’ll see it."

But probably not, he’d said. The search will likely last two or three years. The scientists will come back next year and plant some traps. They’ll figure out, first, if the ant is still around. If it is, they’ll figure out where it lives, what it eats, how it survives.

And then they’ll know just a tiny bit more about how our world works, how things fit together.

And they’ll have an ant safari conducted by a bunch of little kids to thank.

Contact reporter Richard Lake at or 702-383-0307.

9 Dead and at Least 16 Injured as Van Hits Pedestrians in Toronto
9 Dead and at Least 16 Injured as Van Hits Pedestrians in Toronto The driver of the van is now in custody after climbing the curb and plowing through crowds of people. Witnesses describe a scene of chaos as the trail stretched about one mile before coming to a stop. Witness, via CTV Canada's Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, made initial statements after learning of the incident. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau
Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson Welcomes New Baby Girl!
Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson Welcomes New Baby Girl! The 45-year-old actor posted an adorable photo on Instagram, celebrating his newborn baby girl, Tiana Gia Johnson. Dwayne Johnson, via Instagram Dwayne Johnson, via Instagram Dwayne Johnson, via Instagram This is Johnson’s second daughter with his girlfriend, Lauren Hashian. His oldest daughter, Simone Garcia Johnson, came from his previous marriage. Johnson and Hashian first announced they were expecting another child back in January. Congratulations!!
High School Senior Wins Writing Scholarship
Kye "Kai" Catarata was presented with a $1,000 scholarship at the Las Vegas Writer's Conference Saturday at the Tuscany Suites and Casino.
It's a Boy! Duchess of Cambridge Gives Birth to Third Child
It's a Boy! Duchess of Cambridge Gives Birth to Third Child Kensington Palace announced that Prince William and Princess Kate traveled by car to the private Lindo Wing of St. Mary's Hospital in central London Monday. The child was born at 11:01 a.m. local time, weighing 8lbs 7oz. Her Royal Highness and her child are both doing well. Kensington Palace The new addition will be fifth in line to the throne, Queen Elizabeth II's sixth great-grandchild and third grandchild of Charles, Prince of Wales. Catherine and Harry married in 2011 and have two other children, Prince George, 4, and Princess Charlotte, who turns 3 next month.
Dr. Abbatangelo: Professor, Pageant Queen and Animal Dentist
Dr. Tina M. Abbatangelo, a professor of clinical practice at UNLV dentist school spends her free time and money traveling across the country to help treat exotic animals.
Joseph Otting, U.S. comptroller of the currency during an interview with RJ
Joseph Otting, U.S. comptroller of the currency during an interview with the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Otting oversees all national banks, credit unions, mutual savings banks, coops and the federal branches and agencies of foreign banks in the United States. Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal @bizutesfaye
Paris Wade discusses about his “Liberty Writers” website
Paris Wade, who made national headlines for operating a fake news website and boasts about getting President Donald Trump elected in 2016, speaks during an interview with the Las Vegas Review-Journal on Friday, April 20, 2018, in Las Vegas. Wade is running for Nevada Assembly. Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal @bizutesfaye
Police Unity Tour from New Jersey to Washington D.C. to commemorate fallen officers.
Las Vegas Metro police and Henderson police officers ride their bikes during the Vegas Team's last practice rides in preparation for the Police Unity Tour from New Jersey to Washington D.C. to commemorate fallen officers. Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review Journal @bizutesfaye
UNLV students walk out of class on national walkout day
UNLV students and supporters chanted, marched and rallied on national walkout day Friday, April 20 on the 19th anniversary of the 1999 Columbine High School shooting in Colorado. K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal
Captain Sasha Larkin Discusses Challenges, Progress in North West
Captain Sasha Larkin, of Metro's Northwest Area Command, discusses what issues face the northwest valley's residents and what police are doing to address them.
Southwest giving passengers on deadly flight $5,000 for compensation
Passengers on Flight 1380 have been receiving checks as a gesture of goodwill from the airline.
Ellis Island Buys Mt. Charleston Lodge
Ellis Island, which operates a casino, brewery and hotel just off the Strip, purchased the Mt. Charleston Lodge in early April.
LVMPD Arrests Suspect in Sunset Park Shooting
Captain Robert Plummer held a press conference at LVMPD headquarters Thursday to provide updates on the arrest of Anthony J. Wrobel, accused of killing a Venetian executive and wounding one other in a shooting on Sunday.
Two Black Men Arrested at Starbucks Share Their Story
Two Black Men Arrested at Starbucks Share Their Story Rashon Nelson and Donte Robinson sat down with ABC’s ‘Good Morning America’ on Thursday and said the Starbucks manager called the police two minutes after they arrived. Donte Robinson, to 'Good Morning America' Donte Robinson, to 'Good Morning America' The men were meeting with a friend for a business meeting at the store’s location at around 3:45 pm on April 12 and declined to make any purchases. Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson issued a public apology and vowed to fix the issue by closing 8,000 stores nationwide next month for training on unconscious bias. Both Nelson and Robinson were released without charges after spending hours in jail, and the manager is no longer with the company.
Hero Southwest Pilot Was One of the Navy’s First Female Fighter Pilots
Hero Southwest Pilot Was One of the Navy’s First Female Fighter Pilots Tammie Jo Shults is being called a hero after safely landing the crippled Southwest Flight 1380 in Philadelphia. According to a spokesperson, Shults began her Navy career in 1985 and was one of the first female pilots to “transition to tactical aircraft.” She served for another eight years before moving to the Naval Reserve, retiring completely in 2001 with the rank of Lt. Commander. The Southwest flight, which was headed for Dallas from New York, was forced to make an emergency landing after one of its engines blew. One passenger was killed in the explosion when shrapnel flew through a window. Seven others suffered minor injuries aboard the flight, which carried 149 people. Passenger Peggy Phillips, to NBC News Passenger Peggy Phillips, to NBC News
Bump stock manufacturers under fire
The Justice Department said last month that it had started the process to amend federal firearms regulations to clarify that federal law defines bump stocks as machine guns.
Artist, Community Paint Winchester Skate Park
Andrew Schoultz, a Los Angeles-based artist with an upcoming exhibit at UNLV's Barrick Museum, painted the skate park at Winchester Cultural Center on Tuesday.
Prince death investigation coming to an end
Prosecutors in Minnesota plan an announcement Thursday on the two-year investigation into Prince's death from a drug overdose Prince was 57 when he was found alone and unresponsive in an elevator at his Paisley Park estate on April 21, 2016. An autopsy found he died of an accidental overdose of fentanyl. Search warrants unsealed about a year after Prince died showed that authorities searched his home, cellphone records of associates and his email accounts to try to determine how he got the drug. The county attorney has scheduled a morning announcement at which time charges could be filed.
David Copperfield executive producer testifies during the magician's civil trial
A British tourist is suing illusionist David Copperfield saying he was injured during a trick. Chris Kenner, executive producer for illusionist David Copperfield, was on the witness stand all day Tuesday, April 17. Kenner testified that a business manager for the show talked to the man after he fell. Kenner testified that the tourist, Gavin Cox, said he was OK moments after the fall. Cox later told the crew: “Maybe I will have this looked at.” Copperfield is the next witness in line for Cox’s attorneys. K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal
Art Bell’s Top 10 Shows
A selection of radio host Art Bell’s most popular shows.
CCSD Teacher Is a Living Organ Donor
June Monroe speaks about her kidney donation to her brother and advocacy work with the National Kidney Foundation.
Shadow Ridge High School teachers protest
Shadow Ridge High School teachers protest. Teachers are upset over many things, including the fact that the district is fighting an arbitration ruling for pay raises. Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal @bizutesfaye
Clark County commissioners debate getting rid of Henderson, North Las Vegas constables
Clark County commissioners are debating whether to get rid of the Henderson and North Las Vegas constables after RJ's story pointing out questionable spending by the Henderson Constable Earl Mitchell. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
1 Dead, 7 Injured After Southwest Airlines Flight Makes Emergency Landing
1 Dead, 7 Injured After Southwest Airlines Flight Makes Emergency Landing Dallas-bound Southwest Airlines Flight 1380 out of New York, which had 143 passengers and a crew of five onboard, landed in Philadelphia on Tuesday. According to NBC10, a female passenger was partially sucked out of a broken window, which was a result of the plane's engine ripping apart. It's not known if the female passenger was the one who died. Emergency personnel met the battered plane upon its landing. According to the Federal Aviation Administration, the blown engine resulted in a smashed window and a damaged fuselage. Southwest Airlines The FAA said that the NTSB will lead the investigation into what happened.
Single vehicle crash kills man
A man died Tuesday morning in a single-vehicle crash in northeast Las Vegas. The crash occurred Tuesday morning on the 1900 block of Pasadena Boulevard, near Lake Mead Boulevard and Mt. Hood Street. Police had few details, but Metro's fatal detail was on the scene investigating.
Sunset Park Homicide (update 2)
LVMPD gives update about suspect in homicide at Sunset Park (Blake Apgar)
Sunset Park Homicide (update)
Update from LVMPD on Sunset Park homicide. Releasing suspect's name (Blake Apgar)
Sunset Park Homicide
Police give details about Sunset Park homicide on Sunday, April 15, 2018. (Blake Apgar)
Parents of autistic child talk about their experience waiting for care
Parents of autistic child talk about their experience waiting for care. Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal @bizutesfaye
Donald Trump Calls Out James Comey After Book Details Emerge
Donald Trump Calls Out James Comey After Book Details Emerge The President took to Twitter to criticize the former FBI director as information emerges from Comey’s new book, ‘A Higher Loyalty’. According to 'The New York Times', Comey describes Trump in the book as “unethical, and untethered to truth and institutional values.” James Comey, A Higher Loyalty, via The New York Times A Higher Loyalty hits stores on April 17.
News Headlines
Local Spotlight
Home Front Page Footer Listing
You May Like

You May Like