August 2011 Archives


Hi there,

Writing from Caracas Venezuela to ask what huge ant this one might be. I'm guessing it was between 2.5 - 3 cm long (an inch long or slightly larger), but it's hard to say. I will go back and take more pictures of that hydrant's top nut again, with a ruler next to it, to be able to better estimate how long the ant might have been. Will post that pic also in this album on Picasa no later than this weekend:

https://picasaweb.google.com/105698362244197634202/HormigaGigante?authuser=0&feat=directlink


It is easily the largest ant I've ever seen in my life. Friends on Facebook are saying it looks more like a wingless wasp than an ant, and I sort of agree. In any case, it was the size of a wasp, and looked really mean, even though it was moving pretty slowly.

Searched for "Largest ants" on Google and came across "Bullet ants," which made me worry whether those can be found in the Jardín Botanic of Caracas, and whether I had placed my hands so near such a dangerous little creature. But the photos I saw didn't look that much like a match, specially the jaws. Then found the "trap jaw ants", and those look much more similar, but apparently those are much smaller, not this big. So not sure at all what I came across.

Your help is appreciated. Great website by the way!

All the best,
Raúl

Dear Raúl,

What great pictures! You're absolutely right: this is a "trap jaw ant," which in this case belongs to the genus Odontomachus. The one you saw is a little bigger than average because she is a newly mated queen who has just lost her wings (you can tell by the enlarged thoracic segments where her wings would have attached). She is looking for a place to start a new colony.

As you probably noticed, Paraponera clavata, the "bullet ant" has much differently shaped jaws (or mandibles). Believe it or not, they are also bigger than the ant you saw. They tend to prefer more densely-canopied forests. I would be surprised to see one on a fire hydrant, but you definitely have them in Venezuela, so it's good to stay on the lookout.

Even thought it isn't a real "bullet ant," you should still watch out: all Odontomachus have painful stings.

I can't tell what species of Odontomachus yours is, but the most common one in your area is Odontomachus bauri. Odontomachus chelifer is larger, but less common. There are many other species of Odontomachus in your region, though, and without looking at it under the microscope, though, I can't be sure.

I hope this helps!
Best,
Jesse Czekanski-Moir & the AntAsk Team

Hello from Mesa, AZ!!

Sooo... We moved into this house this past June and was horrified to see such large (large by this mid-westerners standards) ants, in very, very large numbers on our back patio one morning. That's when the war was waged. I love planet earth, and I respect the Eco system but I have a fearless 2 year old, which kind of changes my perspective on what I will allow in the backyard.

A little bit about our backyard guests. They don't like the heat. They are most active at dusk and dawn. They spread around their colony hole then have deliberate lines to food sources. Basically, they act like every other ant I've ever encountered. However, they have a very strong exoskelaton, and need to be repeatedly stepped on before being crushed. Apparently, the lizards in our yard.don't eat them, since they have such large numbers.

To date we've had an exterminator spray multiple times, landscaper used fire ant pellets, and this evening, out of frustration, I took a pick axe, lighter fluid, newspaper and a lighter to the colony. I wasn't sure if they stung before lighting them on fire, and quickly learned that they do sting/bite and.... it really hurts; which is upsetting because I don't want my curious toddler to have to endure this pain.

So... As I iced my ankle, while watching SpongeBob, and supressed the helpless feeling in the pit of my stomach, I found your site. And how WONDERFUL of a site it is!! After combing through it, I couldn't find my critters. So, here is my plea. What are these large black ants and how do I get them to move to my neighbors yard (or, how do I kill them?). My apologies for not having better pictures, it was the best I could do.

Best Regards,
Jacquelin

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Dear Jacquelin,

We are sorry to hear you are having a problem with the ants in your yard. Moving from the midwest to the deserts of Arizona means you will have to adjust to your new neighbors and this includes the ants. On a positive note, many of those new neighbors (including the ants) are really amazing! In fact, Arizona has over 300 species of ants. Antweb has a page dedicated to the ants of Arizona: http://www.antweb.org/arizona.jsp

The ants you have in your yard are harvester ants in the genus Pogonomyrmex (probably Pogonomyrmex rugosus). These ants are primary seed harvesters, although they will also collect dead insects and other foods. You can read more about this species and see photos here. You can also find distribution maps for the North American species of Pogonomyrmex here.

Although these ants do have a painful sting when disturbed they are not likely to enter your home. I know that you are concerned about your child, but I would talk to other parents in the area to see how they have learned to live with these ants. Harvester ants are a common and important part of the desert ecosystem, so trying to find a way to coexist with them will be easier in the long run than trying to get rid of them. If you are determined to get rid of the harvester ants in your yard read here and here.

I hope you find a way to enjoy these beautiful ants (see close up photo here)!

Best regards,
Corrie Moreau & the AntAsk Team

I recently traveled to Florida, I observed these ants. Could you please tell me which species are they?

Thanks for your time, Greetings

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Dear Annie & Jose,

The ants you found are likely the following:

Photo 1 (reddish ants on sand): Dorymyrmex bureni
Photo 2 (black ants): Paratrechina longicornis
Photo 3 (black ants attaching large ant): Paratrechina longicornis attaching Camponotus floridanus

If you are interested in the ants of Florida, the following websites may helpful:
http://www.antweb.org/florida.jsp
http://www.antweb.org/floridakeys.jsp

Best of luck,
Corrie Moreau & the AntAsk Team

Hi Antweb,

I am a PhD student in Synthetic Biology and I've read that you talked about artificial insemination trials in ants, which have not be very successful. Would you mind giving me the references of the papers talking about that?

Best,
Xavier


Hi Xavier,

Thanks for your question! As you have read in this post on "How to breed ants", artificial insemination in ants has not been very successful and only been tested on very few species. Cupp et al. (1973) conducted an experiment in which the authors decapitated males. Queens were anesthetized with CO2, and stroked against the males to induce ejaculation. This experiment was done using fire ants (Solenopsis invicta). Read here to find out more about the red imported fire ant.

In a study by Bell et al. (1983) instrumental insemination was conducted, also using the fire ant Solenopsis invicta. Virgin queens were induced to fly, anesthetized with CO2 and inseminated with either a mixture of sperm extracted from the male seminal vesicles and accessory gland contents or sperm alone. Of the females we artificially inseminated 65% produced workers. Artificial insemination techniques have also been carried out using Atta leaf-cutter ants (den Boer et al. 2010).

A recent review article on the copulation biology of ants has been published by Boris Baer (2011) in the journal Myrmecological News. Here is a link to the pdf. In this paper, some more references to studies conducting artificial insemination in honey bees and bumble bees are given.

All the best,
Steffi Kautz & the AntAsk Team


References

Ball DE, Mirenda JT, Sorensen AA & Vinson SB (1983) Instrumental insemination of the fire ant, Solenopsis invicta. Entomologia Experimentalis et Applicata 33: 195-202.

Baer, B (2011) The copulation biology of ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Myrmecological News 14: 55-68.

Cupp EW, O'Neal J, Kearney G, Markin GP, (1973) Forced copulation of imported fire ant reproductives. Annals of the Entomological Society of America 66:743-745.

den Boer SPA, Baer B, Boomsma JJ (2010) Seminal fluid mediates ejaculate competition in social insects. Science 327: 1506-1509.

Hi,
We live in Puerto Rico, where ants are varied, plentiful, painful (lots of fire ants...) and often like to move into our (concrete block) house.

We've been having frequent infestations of these little (2mm or so) ants. At first I thought they were pharaoh ants but now I'm thinking the coloration is wrong (these guys have light colored abdomens and dark heads, not the other way around). We have been trying to get rid of them using Maxforce and more recently Advion. They swarm the bait and then wander around like they are dazed and confused, sometimes seem to dwindle a bit but they don't die out. They seem to like to make nests in small openings in our walls (e.g., breaks in the grout lines but they also like our kitchen cabinets (but don't seem to bother getting into the food, just collect crumbs etc.) and have even once moved into our clothing chest of drawers (we don't notice their new trail quickly enough).

Seems I need to know exactly what they are to get rid of 'em effectively so would very much appreciate your thoughts.

Best,
Miri
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Dear Miri,

We are sorry to hear you are having problems with ants in your home. The ants you are finding are the ghost ant, Tapinoma melanocephalum. This species is a pest in many places in the world.

You can read more about this species of ant here, here, and here.

In addition, you may try some of our suggestions for other pest ants in homes from this previous post here.

Best regards,
Corrie Moreau & the AntAsk Team

Hi Antweb Team,

I am Dai, in Viet Nam. These are some pictures of Polyrhachis species that I found in a wet land, Sai Gon outskirts.

I kept them for a while. They ate only sweet things like sugar, watermellon... I did put some fish pellet but they took and threw away from the nest.

They also use larva to "weave" like P. dives but I am not sure it is. I am not specialist, maybe other species in the genus also do "weave"...

From these pictures, could you please tell me what species it could be?

Many thanks
Dai
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Dear Dai,

Thank you for contacting AntBlog! We have asked an expert on Polyrhachis ants, Rudy Kohout, from the Queensland Museum, Australia to help with the identification. Here is what Rudy had to say:

"The photographs do not show all the characters necessary to identify them, but it is clear that the specimen represents a member of the Polyrhachis dives species-group and most likely P. dives itself. This is a very widespread species, ranging from south-east Asia (including Vietnam) south to northern Australia."DSC06148.jpg

Many species of arboreal Polyrhachis use their larvae to weave or sew leaves together to build their nests, much like Oecophylla ants.

Good luck with your spiny ants!
Rudy Kohout (guest expert), Corrie Moreau & the AntAsk Team

Hi,

I live in mid west Indiana I found this ant queen under a rock. I found her in my yard in town under a rock behind my house. There is an old oak tree in my neighbor yard but I examined the tree and found no ants. However, oaks are common in the town. I live in a small town 20 min south of Terre haute Indiana, near the Wabash river so not far from Illinois. Can you tell me what species she belongs to? I think she may be of the genus Camponotus. I have included pictures. She has already started to lay eggs.

Thanks,
Kris

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Camponotus castaneus dealate queen


Hi Kris,

We have deferred your question to James Trager, who has been of invaluable help with ant identifications for this blog. He thinks this is Camponotus castaneus, so you were correct with your assumption that it belongs to the genus Camponotus. James is Antweb's curator for Illinois and Missouri. In his experience, this ant species "is a denizen of upland forests, with a variety of dominant tree species, almost always with lots of oaks." Thanks very much for providing such detailed macrohabitat information.

Thanks for your question,
James Trager (guest expert), Steffi Kautz and the AntAsk Team

Hello,

My name is Jeremy and I live in Saskatchewan. A few weeks back we found an ant, like the one in the picture, throwing sawdust-like material by our backdoor entrance in our kitchen area. I ripped the nearest board up off our outdoor deck (this turned out to be unnecessary), sprayed some kind of powdery anti-ant stuff outside the door and I caulked all possible entries into the house. The powder washed away with rain and the caulking was of little use because the ant just burrowed right through it. Then we called an exterminator. He came out and couldn't identify the ant on sight. The exterminator went back to his office with the ant, called us back and said it isn't a carpenter ant.

I sprayed the powder again and we bleached our floors. Over the next 2 weeks, we saw no sign of ant activity and we breathed a collective sigh of relief.

However, the past 2 days, the ant has returned and he brought his friends. Two nights ago, we found and killed 2 or 3 ants. Yesterday, during the day, about 4 or 5 ants. Then last night, probably about 15-20 ants. I killed 1 or 2 soldiers who were markedly larger than more common guys (the more common guys are in the picture).

In response, we pulled out the appliances, cleaned and bleached behind the floors, bleached the entire floor to hopefully rid any phermone trails, since the caulking was previously useless, I put petroleum jelly in the spots on the base-board and at the door entrance where these ants appeared to be emerging from the wall. I read somewhere that this stuff will dissuade ants.

So my question, is this indeed a Carpenter Ant? I don't want to spend another $75 to have a guy come out and tell me that it's not a carpenter ant.

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Carpenter ant in home.


Hi Jeremy,

Thanks for contacting us! We have contacted ant expert James Trager, who regularly helps us out with ant identifications. Here is what he had to say:

"It is a carpenter ant ... and that exterminator was in error.

Even though the pictures are a bit fuzzy, the structure of the dorsal mesosoma is visible and corresponds perfectly to that of many Camponotus. The red meosoma and the black head and gaster indicate C. novaeboracensis, a common carpenter ant across southern Canada. Another possibility is C. vicinus, but it is far less likely to excavate rotten wood. In Jeremy's case, I suspect he needs a carpenter to replace dry-rotted wood more than he needs an (incompetent) exterminator. Pulling out the infested wood would kill both birds with one stone, if you will."

Here is a bit more info on carpenter ants and for some general advice on how to get rid of ants in your house, check out this post here.

All the best,
James Trager (guest expert), Steffi Kautz & the AntAsk Team

Hi,

We live in the northeast corner of Vermont - close to the 45th parallel. My husband was logging dead trees just inside the woods. He cut down a two-part cottonwood that was large. It was like two cottonwoods had grown together or one had been cut long ago and shoots grew up onto the old tree. But where the V of this tree was, there was soil and that is where the ants lived. When the tree fell, the ants began moving the pupae into the forest floor. Right down under the earth. I did the best I could with the photos and have collected them into a Flickr set. Could you please ID them, if possible? The photos were taken on July 9, 2011.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/meeyauw/sets/72157627234873339/

Thank you very much for any help,
Andree
Barton, VT

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Lasius umbratus with pupae in rotten log.

Hi Andree,

Thanks for your question. We have deferred to James Trager, an ant expert with a lot of experience in ant identifications and a expert naturalist in general. Here is what he had to say:

"Almost certainly Lasius umbratus. This speices is not arboreal, but lives in soil, logs, stumps, or dead hollows of trees. It lines its nest chambers with a mix of wood pulp and a characteristic black fungus, visible in the pictures. They cultivate large numbers of pale reddish tan aphids on roots, probably including those of the tree in which they lived. In winter, the aphids are gathered up and pass the cold period in a large chamber together with the ants, then in spring are dispersed out among the roots to feed. The aphids provide lots of honey dew and some meat."

So, you not only found ants, but an entire little ecosystem when cutting the wood. Very interesting!

All the best,
James Trager (guest expert), Steffi Kautz & the AntAsk Team

I have a Lasius niger queen and she is mated, have had her for around 2 months now and she has laid several times, but each time the lava go black and never hatch. I think this is because they are not being fed. I have put some small dead bugs in the tank with her but she doesn't leave her little tunnel to ever get to them so I am constantly removing them and adding new ones in hope she will get them to sustain the brood. If I were to collect some ants from my garden (making sure they were also Lasius niger) and put them in with her would they kill her because they were from a different colony?

Please advise.

Best regards,
Tom


Hi Tom,

My suggestion is to interfere as little as possible. It is normal that queens do not take up any food during the initial founding phase. They use the energy from the decomposition of wing muscle tissue to feed the first round of larvae and these will always turn into small workers. Sometimes they lay so-called trophic eggs, which serve to feed the larvae. However, it is quite likely that a queen does not have the strength to make it through the initial founding phase of a colony. For this reason, colonies produce thousands of queen. This increases the likelihood that one will eventually make it. And this would be my advice: try to get several queens and hopefully one or a few will make it.

You are right that workers from different colonies will most likely kill the queen.

Hope this helps!
Steffi Kautz & the AntAsk Team


Hello,
My residence is near Seattle, Washington State, Northwest USA.

We are interested in the Chinese Medicine uses of-
Mountain Ant ( Polyrhachis vicina, Polyrhachis lamellins and other species of nutritional Ant)

Is there a USA variety that might have equivalent nutritional qualities?

Is it possible to buy them, and to raise them?

Thank you,
Michael

Dear Michael,

We're so glad you're interested in ants and the way people use them. I had heard people talking about medicinal uses of ants a few years ago, and the results of one study I was able to find do seem convincing. However, a shortcoming of many studies of traditional medicinals is a lack of replication and long-term, controlled studies.

The genus Polyrhachis does not occur in North or South America. Because the chemicals thought to be responsible for the potentially medicinal properties of Polyrhachis extract are not often studied by ant biologists, it is impossible to say if any ants in North America also possess this quality.

Outside of the US, researchers around the world have been experimenting with medicinal qualities of some of their local ants. For example, researchers in Japan studied another Chinese ant, Formica aquilonia, and published their findings here here. They seem to have found some potential for pharmacological activity, although they didn't study effects in living organisms, just in test tubes.

A group from Saudi Arabia found evidence of anti-inflamitory activity in extracts from the ant Pachycondyla sennaarensis. Both of these studies show promise, and it will be interesting to see what other hymenopterans (the group that includes ants, bees, and wasps) might prove to be medically useful. However, we do not recommend you try any of your own experiments unless you are a professional. Remember: the ants, bees, and wasps also can induce anaphylaxis.

We also strongly discourage you from trying to import and breed any ants (or any type of organism) across national borders. Many of the most damaging invasive species are ants. It would be sad if an innocent attempt to learn more about traditional medicine resulted in unnecessary damage to your local ecosystem. Importing ants from other countries (alive or dead) is illegal without the proper permits.

Sorry that we don't have any more positive recommendations. Polyrhachis are among the most beautiful ants, and they are very common in the forests of Northern Australia, Southeast Asia, and Central Africa. Perhaps you could take a trip to learn more about them and see them in the wild!

Best,
Jesse Czekanski-Moir & the Antask Team

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