Ants, ice halos, and a sun pillar

The last two weeks saw some wild swings in the weather here in New Jersey. Jumping from warm, spring-like conditions back into winter in the matter of days. The middle of winter is not normally considered a good time to look for ants, or any insects for that matter.

More unusual, is finding ants actively foraging during a snowstorm. As strange as that sounds, that is exactly what I found! Here, a lone Prenolepis imparis worker is inspecting a snow-covered leaf for food.

An unusual sight, no? This ant is commonly referred to as the Winter Ant. That is because this ant is typically active during cooler seasons. In fact, they are dormant through most of the summer!

There is officially only one species of Prenolepis in the United States. There are a few different varieties though. Here in NJ, we have a larger dark version along with a smaller pale version. I caught the two varieties engaged in battle before the snow set in.

The darker variety of P. imparis can be seen on the left, while the paler version is to the right. The pale version here takes on an orange/brown color.

The past two weeks have also been full of nice halo displays. Unlike in Florida, the 22-degree halo was very prevalent this time around.

Also, I managed to take a picture of a Sun Pillar as the sun set the other day.

     

In the image on the right, also noticeable are crepuscular rays. These are caused by sunlight being blocked by clouds in this case. I’m not sure, but a sun pillar may also be visible in the image on the right.

A sun pillar (as in the image on the lower left), is a vertical column of light extending upward from the sun. They are not vertical rays, but instead are the collective glint of millions of ice crystals.

This is the first time I’ve ever witnessed a sun pillar. It was a very cool experience, and it only lasted about 10 minutes.

(More on sun pillars: http://www.atoptics.co.uk/halo/pillar.htm )

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About wxmatt

I'm a meteorologist with a deep interest in insects as well as the weather.
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