Ask an Ant Expert: May 2012 Archives

Hi,

My buddy and I were walking back into our office today and he noticed a brown spot in the grass. Upon closer examination, we realized that it was a giant pile of ants and could not figure out what they were doing. We just wanted to know why they were all grouped up like that and what they were doing. Please let us know if you have any input - it would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you,

Val

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Hello Val,

These are the common pavement ant, variously known as Tetramorium caespitum or here at Ant Web (pending publication of research on its classification) Tetramorium species E. Originally from Europe, it is now established across the northern half or so of the US and in southern Canada, in urban areas. It has also made it to another outpost of European culture, in South America, south of Buenos Aires, Argentina! This species is famous for its pitched, but rarely lethal, territorial battles among neighboring colonies and you have found a particularly good example of this behavior.

Regards,

James C. Trager of the AntAsk Team

Please help! Do all ants have 6 legs (3x2) and in your opinion is this an ant or spider on this picture?
Thanks a lot.
Toni Mindoljevićspider ant mimic.JPG
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Hi Toni,

All ants do have six legs you are correct. However, the attached picture is NOT an ant. On the original website, it is identified correctly as an Ant-mimic spider, although the title of Eight Legged Ant is rather tongue-in-cheek. You can clearly count the legs to see all eight legs of a typical spider. It does appear though that this little mimic is holding one pair of legs out front to imitate ant antenna. The spider is from the family Salticidae, a jumping spider, and can be easily recognized by the large prominent four eyes in front and two smaller pairs along the side of the cephalothorax. This gives them excellent vision, and some species have even been recorded as even being able to see colors and watch TV.

The subject of ant mimics has been addressed in a previous AntBlog post, so take a peek to learn a more.

Best wishes,
Rebekah Baquiran & the AntAsk Team

Hey guys!

Just got a short question. I and a friend of mine were walking down the street a couple of days ago, when suddenly we saw this big ant walking on the pavement. Could you tell me what kind of ant it is?
Some extra information, we live in The Netherlands, Europe, maybe that could be of any help for you!

Sincerely,
Steffan
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Hi Steffan,

Great find! The picture you sent in is actually not an ant at all, but a beetle from the family Meloidae, likely from the genus Meloe.
Several species do occur throughout Europe, although without a better look at this beauty, I can't say definitively what species this is.
They are also commonly called blister beetles or oil beetles due to their ability to release oily droplets containing a poisonous chemical compound called cantharidin. When this chemical comes in contact with skin, it can cause painful blisters and swelling of the affected area. If ingested, it can prove lethal but will otherwise cause nasty gastrointestinal or renal problems. This is the same compound found in Spanish fly, and the potential for unfortunate side effects or death is the main reason it is banned in many countries.

Best wishes,
Rebekah Baquiran & the AntAsk Team

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