Can you help ID this insect? (Meredith, Central Massachusetts, USA)

I found a few if these insects in my yard the other day. At first I thought they were red ants, but in trying to identify them in line, I am now wondering if they are some sort of wingless wasp ant mimic. I have look long and hard to try to identify the type if insect I'm dealing with here and am coming up without any answers. Can you please help me ID this interesting insect for me? There is a black carpenter ant in a few of the photos just for comparison. Thacker you VERY much for your help!!!



Dear Meredith:

Thanks for sending your pictures of this interesting ant to the Ant Blog. These are recently flown queens of one of the citronella ants, Lasius latipes. Your difficulty in tracking them down stems from the fact that most ant pictures online are of worker ants, which in this case look very different from the queens. The unusual morphology of these insects is related to their mode of colony foundation. Rather than raising her first brood of workers alone, a queen of this species barges into a colony of a host species, another member of the same ant genus called Lasius neoniger, kills the host queen, and if all goes well, becomes accepted by the remaining workers, who help her raise her first brood. For a short while a colony containing workers of both species ensues, but eventually a pure colony of the well-armored queen and her pale orange-yellow workers results.

Parasitism of this sort is relatively common among ants, including several other species in New England, in the genus Lasius, and also in Formica, Myrmica, Tapinoma and Nylanderia. It used to be though quite rare in the Tropics, but recent exploration of the ant faunas of tropical areas are revealing many variation on this theme in those regions as well.

James C. Trager & the Ask Ant Team

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