Recently in Large ants Category

Hi,

We are the Dolphin Class. Teacher Chelsea is here with Felix, Daniel, Sean, Andrew, Wayne, Evelyn, Kate, Ginny, Ethan and Aaron. We really like ants.

Here are some of our questions:

We want to know, how many different kinds ants are there? Why do ants line up when they walk? Why are ants small? What is the difference between red and black ants? What color of ants are there? Why are ants bugs? Why do ants like to eat what people eat?

From,
The Dolphin Class

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Hi Teacher Chelsea, Felix, Daniel, Sean, Andrew, Wayne, Evelyn, Kate, Ginny, Ethan and Aaron (the Dolphin Class),

According to the AntWeb homepage, one of the most up to date and accurate resources for ant taxonomy, there are currently 14,891 ant species known to science. (We have a previous post on ant species diversity here.) These species have been described in detail by expert ant researchers around the world. However, there are likely several thousand more species that have not yet been found or researched so if you start collecting ants now, you could very well find a species that no one has seen before.

Ants leave scent trails on the ground when they want other members of their colony to be able to follow the same trail. This behavior often results in ants moving in a line down the narrow path laid by ants that have gone before. They lead each other around in order to share the location of high quality food resources, move to a new nest site, or even raid other ant colonies. Take a look at this post for a little more information. And speaking of food resources, ants like the same food that people like because they are rich in nutrients that the ants can use to grow and feed their larvae. The very same reasons that we like them!

Ants come in a wide range of sizes and colors. This post gives some details on the largest and smallest species and explains that the largest ants are 3 cm long! Not very small at all. As for colors, you already know that ants can be pure black or bright red but they can also be anything from brown to yellow. Colors often tell little about the differences between ants as they can be quite variable even within species. As you can see in these pictures taken by Alex Wild, there are even bright, golden and green ants.

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Above: Camponotus seriveiventris. Below: Oecophylla smaragdina. Photos from http://www.alexanderwild.com.

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We are very glad to hear that you like ants so much! Keep thinking about them and ask your teacher as many questions as you can!

Ben Rubin & the AntAsk Team

Hi all,

What is the biggest and the smallest species of ant? And where do they live?

Thanks, Cassio

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Hi Cassio,

The biggest ants in the world are from the genus Dinoponera. The workers are about 3 cm in length (more than one inch). There are currently six valid species in the genus Dinoponera and they occur in Neotropical rainforests. The ant species Paraponera clavata, the giant Neotropical bullet ant, is also extremely large and the workers reach sizes of about an inch. Paraponera clavata also occurs in rainforests of the Neotropics and is distributed from Honduras in the North to Brazil in the South.

There are many very small ant species and the smallest probably belong to the genus Carebara. This genus comprises 160 valid species, which are found almost worldwide.

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Dinoponera australis - one of the largest ants in the world. Photo from http://www.alexanderwild.com/

All the best,
Stefanie Kautz, Arista Tischner & the AntAsk Team

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

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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

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
bigant.JPG
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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

Good Evening!

We were out at the Ortona Burial Mounds near La Belle, Florida this afternoon and we kept coming across these ant colonies! They were in just plain, white sand and seemed quite large in size compared to most ants we see around here. I wish we had something we could have used for scale, granted we were equiped with a camera but not much else other than hands and we all agreed we were not using those! These seem to be the worker ants but there were a few ants with much larger heads almost soldiering about while the others did their work. We were not sure if they were a type of bull ant or a beefed up version of the typical fire ants we see down here. It would be wonderful if you could let us know what they are! We do also have a video of them moving about and if you would like to see it please let me know and I can email that as well!

Thank you!

Heather Elwing

ANTS_GO_MARCHING.jpg

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Hi Heather,

Thanks for your interest and observations! Based on the photograph and some of the clues you provided, I'm guessing these are Pogonomyrmex badius, otherwise known as Florida harvester ants. This species is unique in being the only one of 22 harvester ant species in the U.S. that occurs east of the Mississippi River. As you noted, these ants are considerably larger than most other ant species we're used to seeing, and they also display strong worker polymorphism, with major workers having larger bodies and disproportionately larger heads than minors. P. badius colonies nest almost exclusively in dry, sandy conditions in relatively open woodlands or grassy fields, which would explain their preponderance in the sandy clearings around the Ortona Mounds complex.

Thanks again for your curiosity,

Alexandra Westrich & the AntAsk Team



Dear AntAsk,

Last night my brother was stung by something that looked a lot like the Myrmecia piliventris. I didn't take a picture (I was too busy trying to kill it), but I found Alex Wild's photo on the internet, and the thing that bit my brother looked a lot like it.
I read on Wikipedia that these ants are mostly found in Australia, and since we live in Namibia, I was wondering what it could be? Any idea?

Thanks!
Corien


Dear Corien,

Next time, kill the ant more carefully! (or better yet, photograph it alive, like Alex Wild would). Without specific information about which parts of the ant reminded you of Myrmecia, it's hard to say what species it was. One thing I'm fairly certain of is that it is not Myrmecia piliventris. Unless you or one of your neighbors just came back from a trip to Australia, it's pretty unlikely that genus would show up anywhere outside of Australia, or the islands immediately next to it (Myrmecia is also native to New Caledonia). Members that genus have been reported by New Zealand quarantine officers, though, so it's not impossible that commerce will one day introduce a "bulldog" ant to some place beyond the land down under.

I'd say your best bet is to check our Ants of Kenya page. It's still not exactly Namibia, but the genera at least are much more likely to occur in both Kenya and Namibia than Australia and Namibia.

If it was the mouthparts (mandibles) of Myrmecia that reminded you of the ant that stung your brother, then some possibilities that leap to mind are the genera Leptogenys and Plectroctena. Plectroctena can grow quite large (with a headwidth of 4mm). Leptogenys are generally smaller, and look as if they are probably faster. Although they do have pretty noticeable stings, it would have been difficult to see the mandibles on most Leptogenys species I'm aware of without using a microscope, so I doubt it's that one.

Another noteworthy trait that Myrmecia has are their large eyes. In Africa, Asia, and Australia, the ants with some of the largest eyes relative to their head sizes belong to the genus Tetraponera. These ants (and their relatives in the Americas, Pseudomyrmex) have some of the largest eyes in the ant family, and their elongate bodies are similar in shape to the bodies of Myrmecia. While some Tetraponera can grow quite large and be rather aggressive, like the Southeast Asian Tetraponera rufonigra, I can't find evidence that there is a Tetraponera that big in West Africa.

In many parts of the world, especially in the tropics, if a medium-large ant has just painfully stung you, there's a good chance it belongs to the genera Pachycondyla or Odontomachus. These don't bear a specific resemblance to Myrmecia (Odontomachus does have elongate mandibles, but they are attached near the midline of their faces, rather than at the corners as in Myrmecia, Plectroctena, and Leptogenys), but they might be more common in some places than other genera mentioned in this post.

Good luck! Feel free to send us pictures if you see an ant like that again!
best,
Jesse Czekanski-Moir & the AntAsk Team

Hi,

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.

Thanks
Muhammad

ant21.jpg

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 (www.antweb.org) 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


Hi there,

Writing from Caracas Venezuela to ask what huge ant this one might be. I'm guessing it was between 2.5 - 3 cm long (an inch long or slightly larger), but it's hard to say. I will go back and take more pictures of that hydrant's top nut again, with a ruler next to it, to be able to better estimate how long the ant might have been. Will post that pic also in this album on Picasa no later than this weekend:

https://picasaweb.google.com/105698362244197634202/HormigaGigante?authuser=0&feat=directlink


It is easily the largest ant I've ever seen in my life. Friends on Facebook are saying it looks more like a wingless wasp than an ant, and I sort of agree. In any case, it was the size of a wasp, and looked really mean, even though it was moving pretty slowly.

Searched for "Largest ants" on Google and came across "Bullet ants," which made me worry whether those can be found in the Jardín Botanic of Caracas, and whether I had placed my hands so near such a dangerous little creature. But the photos I saw didn't look that much like a match, specially the jaws. Then found the "trap jaw ants", and those look much more similar, but apparently those are much smaller, not this big. So not sure at all what I came across.

Your help is appreciated. Great website by the way!

All the best,
Raúl

Dear Raúl,

What great pictures! You're absolutely right: this is a "trap jaw ant," which in this case belongs to the genus Odontomachus. The one you saw is a little bigger than average because she is a newly mated queen who has just lost her wings (you can tell by the enlarged thoracic segments where her wings would have attached). She is looking for a place to start a new colony.

As you probably noticed, Paraponera clavata, the "bullet ant" has much differently shaped jaws (or mandibles). Believe it or not, they are also bigger than the ant you saw. They tend to prefer more densely-canopied forests. I would be surprised to see one on a fire hydrant, but you definitely have them in Venezuela, so it's good to stay on the lookout.

Even thought it isn't a real "bullet ant," you should still watch out: all Odontomachus have painful stings.

I can't tell what species of Odontomachus yours is, but the most common one in your area is Odontomachus bauri. Odontomachus chelifer is larger, but less common. There are many other species of Odontomachus in your region, though, and without looking at it under the microscope, though, I can't be sure.

I hope this helps!
Best,
Jesse Czekanski-Moir & the AntAsk Team

Hello,
I have a question about a type of ant we have here in south Texas. Here in Hebbronville we have an ant that sound very much like the Paraponera ant. The ant has a VERY painful sting and it is large and black. The sting is much more painful than that of our native gold scorpions. just wondering what type of ant this may be. They live at the base of older Mesquite trees and my grandparents use to call them "palmoranas" thats a Spanish word for these ants.

Thank you,
Daniel


Dear Daniel,

There are over 140 species of ants known from Texas. You can see a list of the species and images of most of them here.

Without seeing the ant it is hard to be sure what species you are encountering, but I can tell you it is not Paraponera clavata since this ant is not found that far north. You can see a map of the known distribution here.

The ant with the painful sting is likely a species of Pachycondyla if they mostly forage on the ground. These ants are know to be aggressive and have painful stings when disturbed. On the other hand if the ants run up and down the mesquite tree then they could be a species of Pseudomyrmex, which can also have painful stings.

I hope you continue to observe all the diverse and beautiful ants around you!

Corrie Moreau & the AntAsk Team

The ants we want to Identify are about 1/2" in length. We are in central Illinois.  They are living in an old pile of wood planks.  They are black, red, gray  (head, thorax, abdomen). Any help would be great. 
Ed
Jacksonville, Illinois


Ed,

Thanks for your question! Although a picture would help to give you a positive identification, it is likely that you are looking at a member of the genus Camponotus. Members of this genus will typically be among the largest ants encountered in North America and Europe (and many other places; in Southeast Asia they have a truly giant species, see a previous post on giant ants ). These ants often live in rotting wood, including wood that has fallen, and rotten sections in living trees. Some species even live in rotting sections of people's houses! The ants commonly called "Carpenter Ants" belong to this genus, but the species in your area that lives up to this name, Camponotus pennsylvanicus is all black, so it's likely you're looking at a species that prefers the habitat in which you found it.

Based on your location and the description you gave, a likely candidate is Camponotus chromaiodes . But we encourage you to brows the Ants of Illinois page and the Ants of Missouri page to see if you can find a better match!

Hope this helps! You're welcome to send us pictures if you want a more positive identification, or if you have any further questions.

Best,
Jesse Czekanski-Moir & the AntAsk Team

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