Ant biology: April 2011 Archives

What species of ant is this? It's a large species of ant that ive only seen a handful of times where i live in southern california. Theres a berry from a juniper next to the ant which makes it a little easier to understand how big it is.

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Dear Anthony,

Thank you for contacting AntBlog. Since you live in California, we asked Dr. Phil Ward, who is the curator for the AntWeb California Ants page to identify your ant. Here is what he had to say:


"This is an ant in the genus Camponotus, possibly Camponotus sansabeanus or C. semitestaceus (both common species in the drier parts of southern California). This individual is a dealate (or de-winged) queen. It is likely that she recently engaged in a mating flight, after which she dispersed some distance, landed on the ground, and discarded her wings. Unencumbered by wings she would now be searching for a nest site--under a stone or log, or directly in the soil--to start a new colony.

This method of independent colony foundation by a single queen is common in ants (you can read more about this here). In the case of Camponotus the queen sequesters herself in a cavity and begins to lay eggs. When these eggs hatch the queen feeds the larvae with regurgitated liquid food derived from the breakdown of her flight muscles. The larvae develop on this rather meager diet, eventually pupating and finally emerging as tiny adult workers, who open up the nest and begin to forage for food externally. Now the colony starts to acquire food resources from outside the nest cavity and it has the potential to grow rapidly. If it is successful (many incipient colonies fail) then in several years the colony will reach sufficient size to produce new sexual forms (queens and males) and the cycle continues."


You can also read several related posts here, here, and here.

Phil Ward (guest expert), Corrie Moreau, & the AntAsk Team