Ant identification: June 2012 Archives

While hiking in a remote and Primitive forest in Lassen County of northern California I came across one very large ant.

All of the ants I had seen earlier that day were large and black. They were approximately 1/2 inch long and very stout. I hiked several more miles into a truly primitive and rustic area and found a black ant that was at least one inch long. I thought it must be some sort of queen but it was all alone. Any idea what it could be be. Could it be a carpenter ant? The trail is not far from the Pacific Rim trail which starts in San Diego and maybe this ant hitched a ride. I have looked everywhere and it seems that most ants in north America are under 1/2 inch.

I wish I had taken the poor fellow home. If the ant is unique then I will go back this summer and try and locate him and bring him back for research. If there is one, there is likely more ants.

Your advise is greatly appreciated,

Sincerely,
Matt

*****
Matt,

Thank you for contacting AntBlog.

Unfortunately without a photograph it is difficult to say what ant species you observed, but from your description it is not out of the realm of possibilities that you found a queen of the larger ants (likely carpenter ants from the genus Camponotus) you saw earlier on your walk. Queens are often larger than workers and new founding queens can be exploring the local environment to find a suitable new home to start a colony.

You can see a list and photographs of the ants of California here.

Best regards,
Corrie Moreau & the AntAsk Team


hi--this morning we observed a lot of sidewalk ants swarming in our backyard (coming in/out of pavement cracks). there were winged ants (males?) flying up and dropping down periodically. some seemed to be struggling--flying around on their backs before righting themselves. now this evening there is no swarm, but some new piles of debris along some of the pavement cracks that a few ants are tending.

what was going on this morning? any help is appreciated!

tx,
virginia
philadelphia

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Dear Virginia,

Although it is hard to identify the ants without pictures, it is quite possible that they are the common European pavement ant (Tetramorium caespitum), which have become one of the most abundant insects in the Northeastern US. If you want to try to identify them, follow this link to the AntWeb species page for Tetramorium caespitum.

As the winged ants are the reproductive members of the colony, it is possible that the colony you are observing was sending out queens and/or males to reproduce with other nearby colonies. Often, they form mating swarms with queens and males from many different colonies, so if the all the members of the swarm were winged, then it is likely that you were observing a mating swarm.

If there were only a few winged members in the swarm, then it is possible that you were observing a territorial battle between two different colonies of Tetramorium caespitum. These are fairly common on sidewalks and between pavement cracks, and have been documented well by the fantastic photographer Alex Wild. See the picture below for an example of these battles (Photo by Alex Wild).

1018633902_jcYV5-L-1.jpg

I hope this answers your questions!

Best,

Max Winston & the AskAntTeam

Hello,

I've always thought red and black ants were carpenter ants but I cannot find any picture of a carpenter ant that looks like these--and my land is crawling with them. We do have black carpenter ants on our porch (most unfortunately), and these are something else entirely.

Could you identify these for me? Is there anything I need to do to keep them in check within my ecosystem, and what natural controls would be optimal?

Thank you,

Chaya

april 019.jpg

******

Hi Chaya,

Carpenter ant is the common name for ants in the genus Camponotus, but the ants on your land are wood ants in the genus Formica. We have a few previous posts that mention these ants here and here. Wood ants are native to North America and play an integral part in your local ecosystem by clearing away other insects and harvesting fallen pine needles for their nests. They are relatively harmless and do not normally require special control measures unless you find them to be excessively bothersome. They often change the location of their colonies so you may notice their numbers vary over time, even without any outside influence. Many wood ants can also construct large thatch mounds like the one shown here:

FormicaObscuripesNest-M.jpg Photograph courtesy of alexanderwild.com

Thanks for being concerned about your backyard ecosystem!

Ben Rubin, Alexandra Westrich & the AntAsk Team


Antweb,

I just found this little line of some LITTLE ants. The have distinctly black heads and clear-brown bodies. Very strange. I have some sugar ants in another part of the kitchen, but these new ants are smaller and definitely different. They seem to be attracted to water/liquids. They move in uniform lines, but they are wide lines. Help?

Nicholas
Tomball, TX

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Dear Nicholas,

Without a picture, it is hard to say what species you have crawling around your house. However, by your description, it sounds like they could be Tapinoma melanocephalum. Follow the link to the AntWeb species page for Tapinoma melanocephalum to see whether your ants match our guess.

In terms of getting rid of the ants, check out this previous post for some good advice.

Hope this helps!

Best,

Max Winston & the AskAntTeam

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