Results matching “Lasius”

Gold, flying ants (Ontario, Canada)

Today, my husband and I were walking out of our house in a small town in Ontario, Canada near our capital city, Ottawa.... And suddenly, our entire concrete patio out front was COVERED in these tiny golden colored ants, and many flying ants that weren't yet able to fly it seemed - the bigger flying/winged ones, looked more like black ants with wings. There were what looked like thousands, no exaggeration.... And neither of us had ever seen a single one before this. They were also covering a certain vine like plant on either side of our garden, but primarily, seemed to be on the concrete??

Very strange! Just curious if you may have any idea what these may be, why they'd suddenly be infesting my front patio, if they are a danger of any kind to us or our animals, and finally, how to avoid them!

Thank you very kindly,

Hi Kristin,

We have contacted another expert, James Glasier. James is Antweb's curator for Ants of Alberta. Here is his response to your question:

"Hi Kristin,
From your description it sounds like you saw Lasius ants (sometimes called field or meadow ants, though common names vary) initiating their nuptial flight. Nuptial flights are when winged males and females of a colony fly up into the air, mate, and then found new colonies. Lasius queens are often a lot larger and can be a darker (often black or brown) compared to their worker caste, which are often light brown to amber in colour. Many Lasius species spend most of their time below ground, farming aphids and other insects on the roots of plants; milking them for a sugary substance called honeydew, which the ants eat. Often the only time you see them is when they are mistakenly dug up or are having their nuptial flight, so you were lucky to see and experience this event. Lasius ants present no danger to you or other animals; in fact they are an important food source this time of year for migrating birds and bats. Thank you for you question!
James Glasier, MSc, PhD Candidate UNSW in Invertebrate Ecology"

I hope this helps,
Steffi Kautz & the AntAsk Team

I found a few if these insects in my yard the other day. At first I thought they were red ants, but in trying to identify them in line, I am now wondering if they are some sort of wingless wasp ant mimic. I have look long and hard to try to identify the type if insect I'm dealing with here and am coming up without any answers. Can you please help me ID this interesting insect for me? There is a black carpenter ant in a few of the photos just for comparison. Thacker you VERY much for your help!!!



Dear Meredith:

Thanks for sending your pictures of this interesting ant to the Ant Blog. These are recently flown queens of one of the citronella ants, Lasius latipes. Your difficulty in tracking them down stems from the fact that most ant pictures online are of worker ants, which in this case look very different from the queens. The unusual morphology of these insects is related to their mode of colony foundation. Rather than raising her first brood of workers alone, a queen of this species barges into a colony of a host species, another member of the same ant genus called Lasius neoniger, kills the host queen, and if all goes well, becomes accepted by the remaining workers, who help her raise her first brood. For a short while a colony containing workers of both species ensues, but eventually a pure colony of the well-armored queen and her pale orange-yellow workers results.

Parasitism of this sort is relatively common among ants, including several other species in New England, in the genus Lasius, and also in Formica, Myrmica, Tapinoma and Nylanderia. It used to be though quite rare in the Tropics, but recent exploration of the ant faunas of tropical areas are revealing many variation on this theme in those regions as well.

James C. Trager & the Ask Ant Team

Ectoparasitic mites on ants

Hello AntBlog team,

I have a few questions and I was wondering if you could help me?

I recently acquired a small colony of Camponotus morosus, I housed the colony inside an aerated autoclaved concrete nest, however just after the colony had moved in I was taking photos and noticed what appear to be very large (In ant terms) mites, I have only noticed 2 of the mites in the colony so far, the thing is I cannot manually remove the mites unless the workers come out to forage with them on as the nest is affixed to the inside of a glass tank.

Strangely the mites only seem to attach to the very small minor workers who do not leave the nest to forage, they are mobile and I have seen them moving from one ant to another and they always latch on the underside of the ant, they do seem to bother the worker they latch on to.

I was wondering if you could give me any information on these mites as they are unlike any ant associated mites I have come across before.

How can I get rid of them? Are they parasitic or phoretic? Will they hurt my colony?

And finally if you have any information on C. morosus you could give me I would really appreciate it, I'm afraid I have not been able to find a lot of information out on the internet as of yet!


Dear Daniel,

Wow! Those mites are really amazing! We contacted a colleague, Kaitlin U. Campbell, who is an expert in mites found on ants to see what she had to say:

"Dear Daniel,

Thanks for sending the great pictures of these exciting mites you found! As you might imagine mites are pretty difficult to identify from images, and the specimens typically must be mounted on microscope slides to get accurate identifications. You are correct about these being very large mites (in terms of ants on mites). There are very few people working on mites associated with South American ants that aren't army ants, and to my knowledge none of them have looked at Camponotus. If this mite is truly associated with Camponotus morosus and not just there by accident, it is likely a new species. The best identification I can give you from these pictures is that it is in the Mesostigmata. Unfortunately this doesn't provide much information in terms of what they are doing. Here is a summary we do know about ant associated mites:

The majority of ant associated mites typically fall into 3 subgroups of mites: Mesostigmata, Heterostigmata, and Astigmata. All of these groups have members that ride on the ants (phoresy). Astigmata and Heterostigmata are typically smaller in size than the Mesostigmata. The Astigmata and Heterostigmata that I have encountered are generally believed to be fungivores or bacterivores taking advantage of the resources inside the ant nests, and possibly cleaning up when they are not riding on the ants. There are only a few genera of Heterostigmata that are known parasites. Because of their mouth parts and what little we know of their ecology, we believe these two groups are the least likely to cause any harm to the ants. In fact the phoretic Astigmata (their Deutonymph stage) do not even have mouths and only get mouths when they develop to the next stage after the disembark from the host!

The Mesostigmata, however, are a different story. Many of these have large enough mouth parts that they could actually cause damage to the hosts. The majority of the "mesostigs" are still thought to just use the host to get around (they are probably predators of other mites, Collembola, and nematodes or scavenging in the nests), but a few are known to pierce the hosts' cuticles or feed on brood. As you can image, mite behavior is difficult to study, so few have actually looked into this in detail. The most well studied Mesostigs are either associates of Army ants (many of which have really unusual body shapes), Macrodinychus species parasitizing developing brood, or Antennophorus species a cleptoparasite (steals food) on Lasius ants. What you have is not any of these! Yours looks most similar to the Antennophorus species, and may be in the same Suborder, but without having the specimen on a slide it's not going to be possible to tell.

Concerning whether they are bad for your colony- As I mentioned before, very few mites are known to actually cause damage to their ant hosts. I am suspicious of your mites, however, because of their orientation on the ants. They seem to be positioned in areas with their heads near soft tissue, and you said they do seem to bother the ants. The ants could just be bothered because the mites are large and cumbersome to be carrying around, though. They could potentially be harming the ants, and you should monitor the mites behavior and the health of your ants. It's very difficult to get rid of mites on the ants without harming the ants with any chemicals. Since you only have a couple it would be best to just remove them individually from the ants if you can ever get the small ants to exit the nest area. If they are seriously harming the colony, your only option may be to open the nest and remove the ants carrying the mites. I would just watch them closely and resort to active removal if they seem to cause a lot of damage.

If you are able to remove the mites and interested in knowing what they are (I sure am!), please preserve them in ethanol and send them to me and/or take individual pictures of the dorsal and ventral sides of the mites.

This is a cool find, and I'll be interested to hear more! I hope this helped!"

Best regards,
Kaitlin U. Campbell (guest expert), Corrie Moreau & the AntAsk Team

Ant-aphid interactions in France

Hi there, having been to France recently on a University field course I noticed that there were many aphid guarding/milking ants on Broom bushes. I have a few pictures, I find this interaction fascinating so I'd really like to know what species it is.
If it helps any I was in the Cevennes region of France. I've got pictures, not terribly clear I'm afraid. Do you know of a good Ant ID key on the internet? Even to get it down to Genus level would be most useful.

French ants (1) (1).JPG
French ants (2) (1).JPG

Hi Lorna,

Thanks for your interest in these interactions. They really are amazing! We contacted an expert on French ants, Christophe Galkowski, to help answer your question. According to him, "ant-aphid interactions are very common in France, many species are concerned, especially in the genus Lasius." He also identified the ants that you found as belonging to the genus Formica and are most likely Formica (Serviformica) fusca. This key may be useful for identifying other ants you collected while in France.

Thanks for your question,
Christophe Galkowski, Ben Rubin, and the AntAsk Team

Dear AntBlog,

Thanks for your cool site. It's nuptial flight day for the ants that live under our patio (I don't know what species they are, but they seem to be normal for the south of England where I live.) The queens and males are milling around a lot before they take off, opening up their wings and then not being very successful at flying to start with. Whilst they're doing this, there are loads of worker ants rushing around them, and quite often coming up to them and touching them (with their antennae I think, but it's hard to see in detail) often 'face to face' but sometimes on the queens' legs or on the backs of their wings. Why are they doing this? Are they giving them directions? Encouragement? Licking off dirt? My mum thinks they're biting them to make them want to fly away. Hope you can enlighten us.

All the best,

Sarah Weatherhead


Hello Sarah,

Thank you for your very keen observations! Without knowing exactly what species of ants these are or under what precise conditions this event happened to take place (not to mention how the whole thing eventually played out) it's difficult to say with any degree of certainty whether this was in fact a "planned" nuptial flight or a kind of "false start" initiated by impatient alates.
Assuming that the weather and time of day was favorable to the release of the colony's winged reproductives (virgin queens and males), your suppositions are right on the mark. Obsessive grooming of this sort would have served both to motivate the already restless assembly of sexuals as well as to ensure that said sexuals--prospective progenitors of future generations--were free of any dirt and bacteria, and therefore fit to spawn a new colony.
However, in the absence of all the appropriate environmental cues, worker ants will actively interfere to prevent the over-eager alates from taking flight prematurely, in many cases physically grounding them or dragging them back to the nest. This might explain why the workers appeared to be "biting" the queens as you mother observed, but in this scenario it would have been a form of discouragement rather than persuasion.
In theory, the timing of these seasonal nuptial flights is dependent on just the right combination of circumstances--humidity, wind speed, time of day, temperature, probability of rainfall, etc.--and is uniformly observed across different colonies of the same species to maximize the likelihood of interbreeding. When workers perceive that conditions are not entirely auspicious for a successful, synchronized launch, they will forcibly keep the queens and males at bay.
As a UK-based witness of this extraordinary phenomenon, you might be interested in the Society of Biology's "flying ant survey", an initiative that seeks to document appearances of nuptial flights around the country and thus decode the various stimuli that are believed to influence these mysteriously well-timed events. The link featured in the above article will direct you to a page where you can record the date, time and precise location of your sighting, in addition to the type of weather you remember experiencing at the time.
The survey assumes that the ants in question are black garden ants, Lasius niger, but given your remark about the species being fairly common in the region and recalling that you observed the event in late July, I wouldn't be surprised if this was the same species.

Thanks for your interest!

Alexandra Westrich & the AntAsk Team

Fire ants in BC, Canada?!

I was vacuuming my house And when I got to my front entrance a had a swarm of these ants all over front door and walls...... It is quite a large ant approx a 1/4" long. I have heard that fire ant have been invading our area I have small pets and children so this was concerning to me.

I can get a better picture if needed

Michelle from Surrey BC, Canada.

Dear Michelle:

The photo lacks clarity, so we won't post it, but nonetheless I can assure you it is not a fire ant, and apparently is one of your native Formica or Lasius species (which have no sting).

Further, though we have had warming winters in recent years, the essentially tropical fire ants are still not established anywhere in or near Canada. The closest location to you is Orange Co., (far southern) California.

I hope this allays any fears for pets or children.

James C. Trager of the AntAsk Team

Polar ants?

Is there anywhere that ants do not live, such as Iceland, Antarctica, Alaska or Greenland? It is hard to find an answer to these questions on the web.

Jinho Lee

Dear Jinho

Thanks for another interesting question on ants. And thanks for your permission to post this at the antweb blog, as I did with your earlier set of questions.

There are a few ants that live in southern Alaska and neighboring northwestern Canada. One of these, Lasius neoniger, also known as the cornfield ant, is thought to be a relatively recent arrival from the south. It lives in the relatively warm and well-drained habitat of raised road beds, along highways. There are no resident ants in Iceland, Greenland or Antarctica.

It is a bit difficult to find information on your question, because people usually don't put up negative information, i.e., there are no ants in a particular location, so no one mentions ants from there. Here is a link to an article on ants of the Yukon:

It may surprise you to learn that there are also no native ants on the remote tropical islands of Polynesia or Hawaii. However, these all now have numerous "tramp" ant species brought in (accidentally) by human trade and commerce - a synthetic ant fauna, if you will.

James C. Trager of the Askant Team

Salt craving ants (Christina, United Kingdom)

For my specialist study in the UK I am studying the food preference of Lasius niger by feeding them 3 cotton buds soaked in different solutions (sugar+water, salt+water, and just water). So far, I have found that they prefer the salt solution over the suger solution and I am wondering whether this is possible as Lasius niger are knwon to prefer sweet foods over others. I believe the food preference is seasonal and is related to colony needs (althought my colony does not have a queen).

Kind regards,

Dear Christina,

Your ant feeding experiments sound interesting. We contacted an expert on the salt preference of ants, Dr. Michael Kaspari, to help us with this question. Here is what Mike had to say:

It is indeed possible. A diet rich in plant exudates like nectar is typically poor in sodium, the Na in NaCl, or table salt. We have found that ants that are more herbivorous are likely to take advantage of NaCl baits, especially if those baits are presented to ecosystems that are far from an ocean source of sodium. Check out KASPARI, M., YANOVIAK, S. & DUDLEY, R. 2008. On the biogeography of salt limitation: a study of ant communities. Proceedings of the National Academy of Science USA, 105: 17848-17851."

Mike also suggested Googling "ants" and "salt" to find other relevant resources.

Best of luck with your research!
Mike Kaspari (guest expert), Corrie Moreau & the AntAsk Team


We live in the northeast corner of Vermont - close to the 45th parallel. My husband was logging dead trees just inside the woods. He cut down a two-part cottonwood that was large. It was like two cottonwoods had grown together or one had been cut long ago and shoots grew up onto the old tree. But where the V of this tree was, there was soil and that is where the ants lived. When the tree fell, the ants began moving the pupae into the forest floor. Right down under the earth. I did the best I could with the photos and have collected them into a Flickr set. Could you please ID them, if possible? The photos were taken on July 9, 2011.

Thank you very much for any help,
Barton, VT


Lasius umbratus with pupae in rotten log.

Hi Andree,

Thanks for your question. We have deferred to James Trager, an ant expert with a lot of experience in ant identifications and a expert naturalist in general. Here is what he had to say:

"Almost certainly Lasius umbratus. This speices is not arboreal, but lives in soil, logs, stumps, or dead hollows of trees. It lines its nest chambers with a mix of wood pulp and a characteristic black fungus, visible in the pictures. They cultivate large numbers of pale reddish tan aphids on roots, probably including those of the tree in which they lived. In winter, the aphids are gathered up and pass the cold period in a large chamber together with the ants, then in spring are dispersed out among the roots to feed. The aphids provide lots of honey dew and some meat."

So, you not only found ants, but an entire little ecosystem when cutting the wood. Very interesting!

All the best,
James Trager (guest expert), Steffi Kautz & the AntAsk Team

What to do with the queen? (Tom)

I have a Lasius niger queen and she is mated, have had her for around 2 months now and she has laid several times, but each time the lava go black and never hatch. I think this is because they are not being fed. I have put some small dead bugs in the tank with her but she doesn't leave her little tunnel to ever get to them so I am constantly removing them and adding new ones in hope she will get them to sustain the brood. If I were to collect some ants from my garden (making sure they were also Lasius niger) and put them in with her would they kill her because they were from a different colony?

Please advise.

Best regards,

Hi Tom,

My suggestion is to interfere as little as possible. It is normal that queens do not take up any food during the initial founding phase. They use the energy from the decomposition of wing muscle tissue to feed the first round of larvae and these will always turn into small workers. Sometimes they lay so-called trophic eggs, which serve to feed the larvae. However, it is quite likely that a queen does not have the strength to make it through the initial founding phase of a colony. For this reason, colonies produce thousands of queen. This increases the likelihood that one will eventually make it. And this would be my advice: try to get several queens and hopefully one or a few will make it.

You are right that workers from different colonies will most likely kill the queen.

Hope this helps!
Steffi Kautz & the AntAsk Team



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