Large ants: June 2012 Archives

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