Ant identification: September 2011 Archives


I was wondering if you could help in identifying the attached ant image.

The ant was pictured in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania at about 15-20mm of length.



Ant from Tanzania

Dear Muhammad,

Thank you for your question! The picture you provided is great, which helps for identification! Since you are in Tanzania, we have contacted an expert on insects in the area, Peter Hawkes, for help. Here is what he said:

"The photo is of a major worker of a Camponotus species, in the subgenus Tanaemyrmex . The taxonomy of the genus Camponotus in Africa is simply not well enough resolved for me to attempt a more definite identification than this."

The genus Camponotus is very large with about 1,058 extant species ( and the identification to the species level is often challenging. Click here to see all Camponotus on antweb.

All the best,
Peter Hawkes (guest expert), Steffi Kautz & the AntAsk Team

I took pictures of 2 Guardian Ants working Woolly Aphids. I am trying to find the name of the ant species that is acting as guardian to this mass of Woolly Aphids, Prociphilus tessellatus, on a growing Alder shrub next to a lake.

The area this Speckled Alder is growing in is very sparse during the winter with snow and ice licking at its branches. Where would these ants keep these aphids over the winter? Do aphids, and ants have sort of anti-freeze in there system that kicks in during the winter?

Since this was on a lake shore, and at the end of a wooded hill to the lake, do I need to be concerned relative to my plants about 500 feet away? If so what do you suggest?

Thank you,
Richard and Meghan
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Dear Richard and Meghan,

Thank you for contacting AntBlog and send such nice photographs. This certainly helps with identifications. Since you are in New England, we reached out to an expert in the area, Stefan Cover, for help. Here is what he said:

"Those ants are Camponotus noveboracensis. The Camponotus are frequent aphid tenders but we know nothing about the relationship between these ants and that particular aphid. No need to worry about plants 500 feet away, though."

In addition, if you would like to read more about what ants do in the winter, please see our previous post here.

Best regards,
Stefan Cover (guest expert), Corrie Moreau & the AntAsk Team

I don't know where to start with this critter - ant or wasp? Any info would be greatly appreciated. Eastern Washington state elev. 2900' sage biome, about 1/2" long, solitary foraging (frantically) on ground with short bursts of flight, eventually disappeared down a hole. Thank you much!



Hi Jack,

Thanks for reaching out. Although the picture is a bit blurry for complete identification, your description seems to suggest that the insect is a wasp rather than an ant. Most queens and males have wings, but these are usually used strictly during the mating period. Because male ants are drones and don't forage--they just eat, mate, and die--it isn't likely a male ant from your description. Likewise, as most queens shed their wings after nuptial flight, it is unlikely that this is a queen using her wings to forage around the nest. Additionally, considering there wasn't any mention of others in the vicinity, it is more likely that it is a wasp, which live a more solitary lifestyle than most ants.

Although I am not an expert on wasps, the picture you sent looks remarkably close to a red-tailed spider hunter wasp. A pictoral list of Eastern Washington wasps can be found here.

Happy hunting!
Max Winston & the AntAsk Team

Hi, I would like to know if someone can identify the species of the ant colony I found next to my house. I am planning to build a formicarium and I would like to know how big it should be to hold this colony. What kind of food do they eat? I have noticed that some of them were pretty big... are they queens?

Andreas (Brazil)



Hi Andreas,

Thanks for contacting us. It is a bit difficult to tell what these ants are from just pictures but they may be a species in the extremely diverse genus, Pheidole. Pheidole are common and are usually strongly dimorphic as this species appears to be. Dimorphism means that there are two distinct size classes of workers; major (large) and minor (small). Other types of ants can also be dimorphic or have a more continuous range of sizes (polymorphism). The larger workers are often useful for carrying large food items and are sometimes helpful for defending colonies. So the big individuals that you see are the major workers, not queens. We have a great post on how to build ant farms and take care of ants here and several other posts that discuss keeping ants here. There are around 1,000 species of Pheidole and we don't know what most of them eat exactly but these posts provide guidelines for generalized ant diets that should work well.

Good luck!
Ben Rubin & the AntAsk Team

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