Ant identification: December 2011 Archives

Dear AntAsk,

I'm in Central Texas in Limestone County and photographed some ants that were behaving like leafcutter ants. But I have never seen ants with such huge spikes on their backs! Will you please tell me exactly what kind of ant these are?

Thanks!

Pamela

AntWithSpikesOnBack.jpg

AntWithSpikesOnBack3.jpg

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Hey Pamela,

You're right! The ants in your photographs are indeed leafcutter ants. This particular species is Atta texana. All species of leafcutter (or fungus-farming) ants display a spiny exterior, as you point out, and in fact the number of these thoracic spines tells you the difference between the two "true" genera of leafcutters, Atta and Acromyrmex. Please see this previous post to learn more about the geographic distribution of leafcutter ants, and the second point of this post for an explanation of their spiny morphology.

Thanks for your interest!

Alexandra Westrich & the AntAsk Team

About a week ago at location Kandy, Sri Lanka round 7 in the evening local time (a little after sunset) I was observer of a fantastic scenery with some rather large insect. They were attracted by the light in the room, and in very short time, there were hundreds flying round the lamps. Suddenly over few minutes, they landed, dropped their four wings and mated, where after the male died and the female disappeared - I didnĀ“t see where, as I was occupied taking photos.
The length of the insect was round 10 mm, and the wingspans round 30-40 mm. A local told me that this happened at few times a year. Somehow it's was like when ants are mating in my country, but I do not find the animals very ant like.

I add a few pictures showing the experience. I'm great full for any informations regarding these insects.

Allan Bergmann Jensen

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2011-11-25 14-14-26 - _ABJ1520.jpg

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Dear Allan,

Thanks for your detailed descriptions and great photography work concerning the termite queens that were mating in your kitchen! You were right, there are some very distinct differences between the termites in your kitchen and the ants you may have seen mating previously in your life.

If you'd like to know more about the differences between ants and termites, here is a good blog previously written on how to distinguish them.

As you can see in your pictures, the insects in question have broad waists, a pair of forewings and hindwings of roughly equal size (and almost double the body size), and beadlike antennae. This makes them termites!

Good luck on your future identification!

-Max Winston & the AntAsk team