1) There are lots and lots of species but no good identification key. Nothing. Even Jack Longino doesn't have a key for Costa Rican Solenopsis. And he has a key for everything.
2) They are really really small.
3) A good many of them look very, very similar. There aren't a lot of good characteristics to latch onto so even putting them into morphospecies is difficult.
4) At the same time, there is quite a lot of variation within species in terms of size, color, etc.
5) I have a lot of them to go through -- 557 at last count.
5) I think they're looking at me funny.
I have just spent the last two days back at Harvard trying to get all of my Solenopsis specimens into morphospecies. I'm not done yet but I have made significant progress. I do have a couple of morphospecies that I feel very good about but I also have a lot of morphospecies that I do not feel good about at all. Fortunately, Stefan said he would take a look at them when I was done and see if he agrees with whatever I did, so at least I have that. Thank God. Things I have learned:
- Solenopsis sucks (see above)
- Every single one of my specimens which I thought were Carebarella were actually Solenopsis. This is good in that I have one less genus to deal with but bad in that I, apparently, also suck.
- Staring at ants all day is hard. Taking a break is good. I recommend taking a break with someone who has cool ant tattoos like Corrie Moreau.
- Thief ants, a subgroup of Solenopsis, have an awesome taxonomic history. I copied the following paragraph from an unpublished revision by Isidra Moreno Gonzalez and Bill Mackay which is on Bill Mackay's website:
Bill's site, by the way, does have a key to a portion of Solenopsis, but it is incomplete, has not been published, and may or may not be useful. I personally have not found it too helpful. I have pretty much given up on putting any names on anything and am just trying to sort to morphospecies at this point. I did get one actual name -- S. virulens -- on a giant fire ant, but am not expecting much more than that. I do have a couple of very distinct ones, though, so as soon as I can get my pictures up I will put them up on my website for everyone to see. Maybe someone will just be able to recognize them.