The Final Sorting

Well over a hundred harvester ant colony mounds were explored and the data used to demonstrate that harvester ant colony densities were a function of grazing intensity on the landscape around the Painted Pony Resort.  Finally, all the small crystals collected from the mounds were sorted.  Quartz, in the form of Chalcedony as well as small quartz crystals (6 sided) were noted in the samples as well as other crystal morphologies, such as cubic and octahedral crystals.  The first image below was taken with a digital microscope and shows the variety of crystalline forms found around the harvester ant colonies.  The next 2 photomicrographs show some of the octahedral crystalline morphologies found during the sorting process.  By examining about 100 colonies within about 1 square mile and estimating the amount of soil sampled by the ants at 50 cubic feet (based on measurements from an exposed ant nest), about 5000 cubic feet of soil was sampled in looking for crystals.  No more than about 20 grams of crystals were recovered and of those only 3 showed clear octagonal crystalline structure.  Not a very good yield and lots of work for very little return, but the utility of harvester ants as an indicator species made the effort worthwhile.

While some may have heard the story of the great diamond hoax of 1872 all these stones were collected from around the estate, but one has to be willing to kneel in active harvester ant colonies to collect these tiny crystals.  You can find almost anything in the boot heel of New Mexico, if you have eyes to see.

harvester ant mound crystal specimens
A photomicrograph of clear crystals from harvester ant colony mounds.

Octahedral crystals.

Octahedral crystals from harvester ant nest mounds.


  1. This is so interesting! You know your stuff and history of the area. So glad that you re there to despise all the good stuff there is!

  2. I mean to discover all that there is! Sorry....

  3. Thank you. With over a square mile of land on the estate there is always something new to do and something new to find. I enjoy placing in context and understanding what I find and learning from the landscape.