Red Ants Attack Terrapin Nest


 Red Ant Attacks Pipped Terrapin Hatchling

Turtle Pass lies on the north shore of Lieutenant Island on Outer Cape Cod.  Diamondback terrapin females ride high tides in Blackfish Creek to Turtle Pass, struggle up the steep banks and dunes, and deposit nests in June and July each year.  Nest 148 was laid on July 8th atop Turtle Pass and protected under a predator excluder by Sue Wieber Nourse.  After 82 days of incubation, yesterday seemed an appropriate time to check the eggs.

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Red Ants Attack Terrapin Hatchlings in Nest

Excavating the nest, I ran into a colony of red ants burrowing through the egg chamber.  I found recently pipped eggs with defenseless hatchlings struggling to emerge and nine plump and viable eggs.  Red ants had entered the pipped shells and were embedded in the egg white and the yolk sacs.  Some ants appeared to be stinging the forelimbs of the baby hatchlings.


Red Ant on Terrapin Eggshell

I immediately harvested the nest and cleaned red ants from the pipped hatchlings.  Eggs and hatchlings were placed in fresh, moist sand to complete the incubation process.  They will be released into the wild in a week or so.

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